This weekend marked an incredibly important occasion for civil rights in Nepal. The Jagaran Media Center (JMC) in conjunction with 19 other civil society organizations, assembled over 2000 Dalits from every corner of Nepal. The purpose of this historic assembly was the creating of a unified agenda for inclusion in the New Nepal.
It was amazing. So many different people from all walks of life converged on the lawn of a small school campus, each and every one full of so much hope and pride. A Dalit Badi woman stood on the stage before everyone and passionately explained before central government figures what its like for women to be relegated to prostitution by their sub-caste. This was quite harrowing, and no-doubt powerful to the politicians unfamiliar with some of the limitations that can be imposed by caste.
There was also a great celebration of Dalit people by the music played throughout the asesmbly by the Gandharba (sub-caste of artists) musicians. Their frequent song provided complete testament of just how integral Dalits are to traditional Nepali culture.
I had the wonderful opportunity to interview scores of people, from the organizers to youth just happy to be involved. Each expressed individual reasons for being part of the historical event, but one sentiment was unanimous. They were there because they knew they had to be. They know better than anyone that if there’s a change to be made, they must be the driving force. – and at a time when the political parties frantically seek their own representation in the new government, that’s exactly what they’re doing.
It was an exhilarating day. I felt like I’d observed a glimpse of what it means to be Dalit in Nepal through the speaches I’d heard and the people I met. But one of the best parts was when Suvash (the Director of the Assembly) told me that he’d been asked by numerous people throughout the day whether Ted and I (being only two of three foreigners at the assembly), were foreign Dalit. After a day of witnessing the great Dalit pride and solidarity, it felt happy to be included.
Posted By Devin Greenleaf
Posted Jun 22nd, 2007