Kathmandu: On October 14, Bhim Bahadur Bishwakarma, a 58-years-old resident of Durgachowk, in Bharatpur Metropolitan City-4, a city in the central-southern part of Nepal, was brutally killed for reportedly ‘wanting to enter a temple’. It was the day of Navami, the ninth day of the Hindu festival of Dashain—the day when animals are sacrificed in temples to please goddess Durga. Access to the temple is permitted to all but Dalits.
At around 9:30 in the morning, Bishwakarma reached the temple premises and argued against that provision. A local called Sitaram Basnetresponded with “pipes on his body and punches on his face”, according to eyewitnesses. Bishwakarma fell down and ended up in a local pharmacy where he was assaulted once again, for reasons yet to become clear. He was taken to the hospital but it was too late. Bishwakarma was no more.
Caste-based discrimination is an every day reality for Nepal’s Dalits, who make up an estimated 13 percent of the total population. The discrimination often takes violent turns, with the victims raped and killed. The tragic recent incident issues a clarion call to take up the baton against caste-based discrimination, say rights activists.
Deputy Superintendent of Chitwan Police Narahari Adhikari said that the police have been investigating the incident and have taken two alleged perpetrators in custody. “We have not come to a particular conclusion yet, the investigation is still in motion,” Adhikari told Nepal Live Today. Although Nepal Police has yet to come to a conclusion, many locals, witnesses, and rights activists have said that the caste-based discrimination was what led to the incident.
Even though the law declares caste-based discrimination and untouchability as punishable, incidents of violence against Dalits continue to recur in Nepal. According to data from Nepal Police, the number of incidents that have occurred due to caste-based discrimination is on the rise. In the current fiscal year so far, a total of 62 such incidents have been reported to the police, up from 39 last year and 45 in the previous year. Still, many cases go unreported due to fear of isolation from society, say activists.
Pradip Pariyar, the executive chair of Samata Foundation, an organization that works for social justice, said that one of the reasons behind this increase in the number of incidents is that people from the Dalit community are becoming more resistant and aware regarding their rights, which ultimately leads them to stand up for themselves and the community.
According to data from Nepal Police, the number of incidents that have occurred due to caste-based discrimination is on the rise. In the current fiscal year so far, a total of 62 such incidents have been reported to the police, up from 39 last year and 45 in the previous year.
“Although there are many cases that get the needed attention from the media and the authorities, there are several other incidents that still go hidden and unreported,” Pariyar said, adding that even among the reported incidents, not all the victims and survivors get justice, which discourages people from reporting the incidents.
“To assure that these incidents will decrease in the future, responsible authorities like Nepal Police, and other human rights organizations must make sure that the victims are getting the justice they deserve, and that proper law is being followed,” said Pariyar.
Ranendra Barali, a member of the Nepal Dalit Mukti Morcha, and an eye-witness of the Bharatpur incident, said that the incident holds the mirror up to the society on where we collectively stand. “This [Bharapur incident] is the worst example of caste-based discrimination that has been prevailing in our society,” he said.
Mahabir Biswakarma, secretary of the Dalit rights organization Front for the Eradication of Caste System, Nepal, condemned the incident, issuing a press statement.
“To bring perpetrators to book and justice to the victim, we urge all political parties, their sister wings, human rights organizations, Dalit rights activists, journalists and every justice lover to make an effort and to resist,” the statement said. “We invite those who stand up for justice to organize and fight, to build a society free of these kinds of incidents, by converting grief into strength.”