The Dalit Empowerment in Nepal

The Dalit Empowerment in Nepal
Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ

My visit to two dalit institutions during my recent trip to Nepal has been etched in my memory. I had gone to Kathmandu in November 2007 to attend an International Refresher Programme organized by the International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP). During the week-long programme one of the main speakers was a dalit (a member of the oppressed community) leader Mr. Suvas Darnal. He gave us a fair idea of the existential situation of the dalit people in Nepal. Mr. Darnal spoke about the two dalit institutions of the mass media. So I was naturally curious to
visit the two institutions: dalit community Radio Station at Butwal and Jagaran Media Centre at Buddhanagar, Kathmandu.

In our refresher programme the last item was a visit to Lumbini, the birth place of Bhagavan Buddha, some 300 kilo meters from Kathmandu. On our return journey from Lumbini on November 20 we went to Butwal. Butwal is a small town. There we visited the first dalit community FM Radio Jagaran. Presently Radio Jagaran is the only community radio station dedicated to the interest and welfare of the dalit people in Nepal.
The FM Radio Jagaran of the dalit community
made its first experimental broadcasting on
November 6, 2007. From that day Radio Jagaran br
oadcasts every day for limited hours different
kinds of programmes. The Secretary General
of Jagaran Media Cent
re, Mr. Rem Bahadur
Vishwakarma was with us to take round the Radi
o Jagaran station and show
us all the facilities
there. We also met the staff personnel of the FM
Radio Jagaran and enjoyed tea and snacks with
them. Radio Jagaran played for us the new nationa
l anthem, which was broad
cast as the very first
item on the FM radio. We were impressed by th
e quality of the recoded national anthem.
Mr Rem Vishwakarma told us that the dalit Ra
dio Jagaran would functio
n as the voice of the
voiceless. Radio Jagaran is committed to the welf
are of the dalits and al
l the oppressed people of
Nepal. One of the reporters of Radio Jagaran told
us that their plan is to open exemplary FM
radio stations in all the five under-dev
eloped and developing
regions of Nepal.
In our conversation with the staff personnel and the
reporters of Radio Jagara
n I felt that they are
not only well aware of the backwardness and the r
easons for it but they were also committed to
bring changes for social equality and the de
velopment of the whole marginalized and the
minority people. The dalit power is
certainly awakening in Nepal.
I was lucky to stay two more days at Kathmandu
after the UCIP programme. On the first day I
could visit together with UCIP Secretary Gene
ral, Mr. Joseph Chittilappilly and a few other
friends the Jagaran Media Centre. Mr. Rem Vish
wakarma was our guide who took us to Jagaran
Media Centre. There we met the Chairperson Mr
. Suvas Darnal. Mr. Darnal enlightened us on
the various programmes and activities of the
centre. Sharing about the history of dalit
movements in Nepal Mr. Darnal said that four en
thusiastic dalit journalists started Jagaran Media
Centre (JMC) in 2000. One of the main task of
JMC was to concientis
e the people about the
discriminations in the name of caste and launch
a movement for human rights and for a casteless
society.
The dalits who have suffered discriminations in
all their lives now feel
strongly that the time is
overdue to establish social
equality among all people. The f
ounder–journalists of JMC on the
basis of their journalistic experi
ences started to conscientise the
people socially th
rough the print
and broadcast media and create awareness of so
cial evils of caste-based discriminations and
social inequality. JMC has played a significan
t role from the beginni
ng in creating social
awareness in Nepalese society at
national and international level.
JMC is fully committed from the beginning to do aw
ay with all types of social and racial
discriminations on the basis of caste. The leader
s of JMC believe that in spite of democracy
coming to Nepal in the early 1990s, the government
has failed to end the exploitations of the
dalit people and bring ab
out social equality.
During the last 10 years the dalit pe
ople are at the receiving end of
the attacks of the Maoists and
the total neglect of the government. Nepal ha
s 40 lakh dalits among a population of 289 lakh
people. But in a country of
48.6% literacy the number of lite
rate dalit people are very
insignificant. Similarly half of the Nepalese popu
lation is living Below
Poverty Line (BPL) and
the most people under BPL are dalits! The situati
ons of dalit people are pitiable in Nepal. But
now the dalit people are awakeni
ng to their real situation thro
ugh the publications of JMC and
the FM Radio Jagaran.
The dalit leader Mr. Darnal believes that all th
e problems of the dalit people can be solved only
at political level. So the efforts
of JMC are to include
all things which concer
n the dalit people in
the new constitution of Nepal. Mr. Darnal told us
that JMC is working hard to get political
representation and create political
awareness among the Nepalese people.
The web page or the internet magazine of JMC
says that JMC is engaged with remarkable
success in voicing the dalit problem
s not only in local print media
but also in the national print
and broadcast media as well as in international
media. All the same the
dalit leaders are aware
that the national media are not giving adequa
te coverage to dalit issues and problems.
The JMC web magazine has many reports about cas
te-based discriminations and examples of
atrocities against the dalit people. Accordi
ng a report by Prakash Mohera about 300 local dalit
people at Rautahut on October 8, 2007 under the
leadership of Dalit National Liberation Front
and the Maoists entered the local temple of Hanum
an and Siva. The dalit people at the end of a
procession entered the temple e
xpressing their protest against cas
te-based discriminations and
prohibitions. On the other hand the non-dalits or
the so-called upper caste
people are threatening
the dalits for entering their temple and the dalits
live under fear of reprisal. All the same, the
dalits are fighting unitedly in many places against
the caste discriminations and social inequality.
The JMC web pages give many instances of such
protest by dalits agai
nst inequalities and
discriminations in the name of castes.
The dalit power is showing up against rapes of dalit women, separate pipes and taps for water for
dalits from the same water tank, the baring of dal
its from entering certain
hotels and restaurants,
discriminatory behaviour of teach
ers against dalit students, etc.

Today the dalit people are fighting
against all forms of discriminations and inequalities in Nepal
under the Dalit Jagaran Centre. The da
lits know that this fight is not
only of dalit people but it is
the fight of all sensitive people who believe in
the human rights and in th
e equality of all men
and women. So Mr. Darnal told us
that the leaders of JMC believe
s in taking their fight with the
support and collaboration of
all concerned people.
A dalit leader of Nepal actively participated in the UCIP Refresher Programme together with
people of different nationalitie
s, languages and cultures. We
all lived together without any
discrimination but with love and respect for each ot
her. We ate at the same table, shared rooms
with another participants in the hotel accommoda
tion. Like everyone else in the programme the
dalit leader too shared his view
s and opinions with others in “d
iscussions and sharing sessions.
Impressed by the love and respect in
the spirit of equality the dali
t person said that “in Nepal the
so called high caste people never behave with
such love and respect with a person of a dalit
community!” I wish and look forward to the day not
only in Nepal but in the whole world that a
person, as a human being, is loved and resp
ected without any discrimination but upholding
equality, brotherhood/sisterhood a
nd human rights of all people.