Most recently, on May 24, two Dalit men were found dead on the banks of Bheri River in Jajarkot. The bodies were identified as Nawaraj BK of Ward No. 4 and Tikaram Sunar of Chaurajahari Municipality.
Three other bodies of Ganesh Budha, Sandip BK, and Lokendra Sunar were found later and another youngster, Govinda Shahi is still missing. According to the police, it was an inter-caste marriage case that led to this chaos.
According to police, 21-year-old Nawaraj, along with 18 of his friends, had gone to Soti in Chaurjahari Municipality of Rukum (West) to bring a 17-year-old girl as his bride when the locals allegedly attacked them and chased them towards the Bheri River. In an attempt to save themselves, some of them jumped into the nearby river and managed to escape, but Nawaraj and five of his friends didn’t survive the fall.
“Nawaraj was badly beaten up by the crowd. All his body parts, including his head, were seriously injured. He wasn’t able to move and he was thrown into the river, he was not in a condition to even swim so he could survive” a survivor reported to the media.
After this incident, various human rights organizations and Dalit leaders have been on the roads pressuring the government to take immediate action on the case. Even amidst the lockdown, people have been gathering in Maitighar Mandala to protest against the inhuman crime done by the villagers.
People have been active in twitter and #dalitlivesmatter has been trending in Nepal for over a week.
“Rukum’s incident is a heinous crime. It is heartbreaking to hear the statements of two friends who ran away with Nawaraj BK, who escaped from the crowd [in order] to save their own lives. After listening to his friends, it will not be difficult to understand that Nawaraj was killed because he was a Dalit. The lives of Nawaraj and his friends will not be returned by any logic/gossip”. Rabi Lamichhane wrote on Twitter.
Despite laws against discrimination, Dalits continue to face social prejudice and violence. Though people are educated and all, they have been unable to apply their knowledge practically. They are denied access to land and are forced to work in degrading conditions besides being routinely abused at the hands of the police and upper-caste community members.
On May 23, 2020, one day after a 12-year-old Dalit girl from the western Rupandehi district was forced to marry her upper-caste rapist, she was found hanging from a tree. Preliminary police investigations suggest that she had been raped and murdered.
According to Article 18 of Nepal’s constitution, caste-based discrimination is criminalized but the act has not been enforced. Most cases are swept under the carpet like those high profile rape cases and the decision making of the government has been poor when it comes to cases like these. Dalits are still not allowed to use public taps, temples, or shops in rural areas and urban areas, in some cases.
We say we live in the 21st century and that all people must be treated equally but when will we actually bring this to practice? Is it just supposed to be a theory? Protests through social media is a good start but will it really make a change?