Khadga K.C, Bishwa Kalyan Parajuli and Dhruba K.C
The untouchables in
Caste system is undoubtedly an obstacle for the economic prosperity of Dalits. Even though untouchability is fading from the urban milieu and among the educated, the principle of heredity in occupation has been segregating them from the socio-economic mainstream of the country. There is not yet full and free access to Dalits to have an alien profession beyond their heredity occupation. This sort of psychological restriction is not conducive for the upliftment of the backward people. Hence, the needs to provide them free mobility in every field and walk of life and allow them to improve their standard of living just like others.
The roots of the caste system are so deep that, apart from its symbolic value, it does have functional importance in the society. There may have been changes in inter-caste or intra-caste relationships, but in its functioning, caste is an important factor as ever in maintaining social distance as well as social solidarity. Hence no date can be predicted for a comprehensive eradication of caste disparities, but due to the growing sociopolitical awareness among the educated Dalits and non-Dalits, the distance between them does need to be narrowed down to a desirable extent. The situation in this country also not has been worse than it was before with traditional caste discrimination prevailing in public places like teashops, groceries and so on disappearing. Except in his or her native area the people of Dalit are solemnly identified and treated accordingly. Disclosure of caste identity is no longer demanded in public places and in educated circles.
Awakening and consciousness among Dalits:
Political changes, following the 1950 revolution, have been catalytic to bringing about social changes in
The declaration of the Constitution regarding caste discrimination, like 'untouchability' as illegal and punishable by law, has been a jolt to caste-ism. But, it is one thing to legislate and another to implement such legislation. It is true that one cannot now legally discriminate against Dalits in employment and other public dealings. But it is at the same time a stern reality that they live for the most part as they have traditionally lived carrying out the dirtiest and the most menial form of jobs since the evil is intricately woven into the social fabric itself.
Social political awareness, however, is growing among the educated members of the Dalit groups. They have launched a sustained movement to liberate themselves from the centuries of suppression. Nevertheless, their constraints are naturally great. The centuries of caste practice and concomitant discrimination in the socio-political and economic life of the people is so deeply rooted in the society that it is not a matter that will wither away through mere legal provisions.
However, the local units of different political parties and a few international organizations are playing an important role in bringing the people of different castes together.
The first and foremost requirements for Dalits to come out of their plight are self-consciousness and self-realization of their own backwardness. Most of them still believe that the oppressed condition of their life is the consequence of their common lot, i.e. something destined by the unknown fate. Until they come out of the superstitions, their upliftment is not achievable. It requires education of all the Dalit children to enable them to exist and survive on an equal footing with all in a competitive society. The question of socio-political and economic equality is not always a mere thing to be demanded but it should be seized and commanded by themselves patiently through sound knowledge. It is obvious that the caste system is gradually declining from its ritualistic and traditional functions as the regulator of social behavior. A Brahmin today does not necessarily perform any of the traditional priesthood functions but rather adopts the westernized way of living. Hence, the previous caste rigid society has converted into a more flexible and expansive one, even though, there are many instances of Dalits being insulted, humiliated and boycotted by upper caste people.
Dalits are being much more aware of their social status. In order to achieve some tangible power and position in the society they have now aligned themselves with modern integrative forces-political parties and organizations. In this process, caste has even achieved new strength. They are also frequently holding seminars, workshops, talk programs, interactions and even agitation' to make themselves and others understand and realize the irreparable loss to the society and nation due to caste disparities. They are even demanding separate legislation for their separate identity and upliftment. They have understood that unless they have access to power the 'caste disease' can never be completely cured.
Upliftment of Dalits:
If non-discrimination between castes is to be achieved, it is only possible by pulling up different caste members together. But constitutional provision alone cannot bring any behavioral changes in the society nor strong speeches by political leaders. Some action oriented plans and programs are urgently required to suit the demand of the new millennium.
The foremost and important measure, among many, would be to develop self-sustaining capacity of the Dalits themselves. For this their children need to be admitted in schools. Hindrances in the process of fulfillment of these obligations by the Dalits need to be removed and if opposition to their emancipation comes it should be harshly dealt with through legal actions.
No society can be forcefully changed overnight. Social and political mobilization needs to be executed to transform the transitional society scrupulously into the modern one. In the course of transformation, sufficient opportunities or privileges and protection should be provided to these oppressed people by every sector of the society and by the State itself.
The Sudras of a Hindu society are the Dalits or oppressed, as we understand today. These are marginalized not only in the religious sphere, but in terms of political representation, economic participation or social exclusion, these people find themselves to be the most disadvantaged groups in Nepalese society. In other words, they are economically deprived, politically backward. And socio-culturally hatred by the Hindu upper caste groups. The development process is demolishing their infrastructure forcing them out of their home, depriving them of their traditional way of life and work.
Constitutionally, however, every citizen is equal and deserves equal rights in the society. However, the letter and the spirit of the constitution of
[This article was first printed in the Telegraph weekly in 28 February 2001]