2 June 2020, Kathmandu
Human Rights Watch has said that two recent incidents in which six people were killed show the Nepali government has systematically failed to confront entrenched caste – or descent – based discrimination against Dalits. The government should ensure prompt and rigorous investigations by the police, free from political interference, it said.
It should be noted that a group of youths including Nabaraj BK was going towards Soti to the house of Sushma Malla, who is Nabaraj’s girlfriend for marriage.
Malla belongs to a so-called high caste while BK is considered a so-called low caste.
Locals of Chaurjahari and members from the girl’s family attacked the group when the youths were on their way to the girl’s house.
Some of the group of 19 youths, including Nabaraj were attacked and reportedly thrown into the Bheri river.
Bodies of Nabaraj BK, 21, Sanju BK and Ganesh BK of Bheri municipality, Jajarkot; Lokendra Sunar of Bheri municipality-11 and Tikaram Sunar of Chaurjahari, Rukum were retrieved from different locations of the Bheri River while Govinda Shahi of Bheri municipality-11 is still missing since the incident took place on May 23.
The incident had occurred at Chaurjahari-8 in neighbuoring district Rukum (West) over the issue of inter-caste marriage.
“Nepal has laws against caste-based crimes, but they are rarely applied, and often the police refuse to even register cases – such as rape – when the victim is a Dalit,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “The alleged role of local politicians in these cases can lead to obstruction of justice, which means that an independent investigation is essential.”
Nepal Monitor, a Nepali human rights organization, has recorded 27 incidents of caste-based discrimination or violence this year, although Dalit activists say that the vast majority of cases go unreported, and very few results in official action.
The killings in Rukum occurred after a group of young men accompanied Nabaraj Bishwokarma to the village of Soti, the home of the young woman he hoped to marry. Villagers allegedly chased and beat the young men, then threw some of them in the Bheri river. Four of the five who were killed, including Bishwokarma, were Dalits.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has called for an independent investigation into both the Rupandehi and Rukum cases. “Despite constitutional guarantees, impunity for caste-based discrimination and violence remains high in Nepal,” she said.
She noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has made Dalits more vulnerable, and that since the start of Nepal’s lockdown in March there have been reports of rape, assault, denial of funeral rites, and discrimination at quarantine sites.
“The Nepali government frequently cites ‘preserving communal harmony’ as a justification for assuming draconian new powers, but it doesn’t use the laws it already has to address caste discrimination,” Ganguly said. “These horrific crimes continue because the government has failed for too long to protect its most vulnerable citizens.”
(with inputs from Agencies)