. . . . . . "Dalit Solidarity News" is an information project run by the International Dalit Solidarity Network. News stories are extracts from online newsservices. Link to the full story is found at the end of each blog. Visit the International Dalit Solidarity Network at www.idsn.org

<< current

Formed in 2000, the IDSN is a network of international organisations, national solidarity networks and affected country groups, campaigning against caste-based discrimination throughout the world, from the dalits of South Asia to the Osu of Nigeria and the Burakumin of Japan. Visit our website International Dalit Solidarity Network for more information. SUBMIT DALIT NEWS HERE

Monday, July 05, 2004  
OneWorld South Asia
02 July 2004

Nepal Low-castes in Line of Maoist Fire
Keshab Poudel

Impoverished Dalits, considered untouchables in the Hindu caste hierarchy, have become prime targets of increasing Maoist violence in Nepal, with the guerrillas abducting around 700 of them, killing four and smashing the legs of eight in the last month alone.

The attacks have shocked many because the Maoists traditionally proclaim themselves to be the champions of the Dalits, who are often ill treated in this Hindu kingdom because of the position they occupy on the social ladder.

Says a former chairman of the National Dalit Commission, Padma Singh Biswokarma, "Earlier, the Dalits used to be victims of government security forces, but now we are also being targeted by the Maoists. The violence against us is condemnable."

Conflict experts feel the Maoists are attacking Dalits to warn people that anybody who defies them will be punished.

Explains a professor of political science at the Tribhuwan University, "The recent atrocities against Dalits are part of the Maoist strategy to scare every community into believing that anyone who goes against their diktats will be penalized."

He says the attacks also help the Maoists isolate the Dalits from the upper classes and ensure reports of the rebels' growing influence among the community do not leak out.

While the Dalits have not directly rebelled against the Maoists, around 90 percent of them work as agricultural laborers for upper caste landlords who the Maoists oppose. Their employers are now telling the Dalits not to work for them.

A statement issued by the Maoists claims the rebels are only targeting army spies and Dalits who disobey their orders.
Security forces are also accused of brutalizing the poor Dalits.

In a bizarre incident last month, Kancha Damai of the district of Ramechhap, 100 miles east of Kathmandu, was badly beaten in custody, after being accused of working for the rebels.

The attacks came days ahead of the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, on June 26, when the UN appealed to the government here to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to visit the country and assess the situation.

A UN statement asserts, "The number of reports alleging torture and other human rights abuses by Maoists has climbed significantly."

Nepal's National Human Rights Commission has also expressed concern over the rise in atrocities against Dalits.

Emphasizes Commission member Sushil Pyakurel, "We urge all concerned parties to respect basic human rights, particularly of vulnerable and deprived populations like Dalits. The Maoists should stop targeting the backward classes."

Adds Subodh Pyakurel, president of nongovernmental organization (NGO), the Informal Sector Service Center, "Since Dalits are economically backward and culturally discriminated against, they are targeted by security forces and Maoists. These kind of atrocities must not be repeated."

He explains that, "Apart from the physical torture, Dalits are also subjected to psychological trauma."

The government has recognized people from 23 castes as Dalits and oppressed classes but activists from the community put the number at 50. People from these castes include laborers, blacksmiths, tailors, butchers, dancers and washer men. Dalits account for around 14 percent of Nepal's population of 23 million.

According to a research study done by the Dalit Commission in 2002, 23 percent Dalits are landless and 48.7 percent have less than half an acre of land. Their per capita income is US $39.6 a year - compared to the national average of $220.

Agrees Anita Pariyar of the Feminist Dalit Organization, who feels that, "Because of the country's internal political conflict, torture, forced disappearances, extra judicial killings, rapes and discrimination on the basis of caste have greatly increased."

The Maoist insurgency that began in 1996 and claimed around 10,000 lives has intensified in the past year because of political instability and an understaffed armed force.

Read the full story

11:23 AM

This page is powered by Blogger.