I remember last year speaking to a Dalit rights group in the Bara district where we were told that caste-based discrimination begins with food. They were working on a program that brought school children from different castes into one circle to eat together. I was reminded of this story when Shiva, JMC’s social media coordinator, was relating a story of when he was around 7-8 years old in school. His friends had food to share, but the teacher explained to Shiva that he couldn’t even eat with his friends, much less share food, because of the difference in caste. It stands out to me that whether or not caste-based discrimination begins with food, it starts very early.
Shiva remembers a gentleman that did some work for his parents who was served food in a manner that would allow his family and this man to avoid contact with each other due to the untouchability social norms. The gentleman who was doing the work for Shiva’s parents was the father of Rem, JMC’s president and Shiva’s current employer.
As a teenager Shiva listened to Radio Katwal, one of JMC’s radio programs, and in high school he started a listener’s club for the radio program. He remembers the discrimination that he experienced as an upper caste Nepali when he engaged with Nepalis of lower castes; although he is now told that the work he does is good. Later in life, Shiva began a career as a journalist, and today works for Jagaran Media Center, the organization that inspired him to work against caste-based discrimination that he witnessed firsthand.
Shiva told me that JMC “created a revolution in Nepali media” with regards to coverage of caste-based discrimination and highlighting the situation of Nepali Dalits, and said that newspapers devoting editorials to Dalit issues is largely in part to JMC’s advocacy. 12 mainstream media outlets covered the Rautahat incident earlier this summer, and 45 stories related to the issue were run.
In no small part, JMC has had a significant effect on the way that the media responds to Dalit issues. Through their radio programs and listener-run clubs like the one Shiva started they have proven that even though caste-based discrimination is learned early in life, young Nepalis do not necessarily accept it as a social norm.
Posted By Raymond Aycock
Posted Aug 6th, 2013