Caste and Nepal. As an Indian-American and a student of Indian Religions, Cultures, and History, it is safe to say that I have a decent grasp on the concept of caste. As the geography bee participant in junior high and (slightly more recently) a traveler and performer in Nepal, I have learned a fair amount about the Hindu kingdom. But until recently, I had never put two and two together and pondered the possibility of a caste hierarchy existing in Nepal. Until this point, I had only thought of caste within an “Indian” context. I had read many essays authored by leaders of the Dalit social movement in India (Ambedkar, Periyar, etc.) and often quoted Eleanor Zelliot’s “From Untouchable to Dalit” in academic papers. But the history and struggles of Dalits (often known as ‘untouchables’) outside of India had never really come up.
Well, it’s never too late to learn… is it? This coming summer I have the chance to work with the Jagaran Media Center – a progressive organization based in Kathmandu whose mission is to eliminate all forms of caste based discrimination. JMC’s approach to combating caste discrimination is definitely effective and somewhat unique. Through comprehensive media coverage of Dalit issues, radio and television programming intended to reform public attitudes about caste, workshops designed to effectively train young journalists, and the information produced and organized at the Dalit Resource Center, JMC takes a well rounded and holistic approach to improving the situation of Dalits while challenging the concept of “untouchability”. This is much easier said than done in a country where caste discrimination has existed for centuries, but JMC’s pioneering work is certainly a solid start.
I hope that my experience at JMC will help me expand on my theoretical and historical knowledge of social movements in South Asia with practical experience. I have many goals which I aspire to accomplish during my tenure as a Peace fellow. Such goals include helping to revive the JMC newsletter/ e-bulletin, finding ways to celebrate the arts and culture of overlooked, lower caste communities, and further strengthening the relationship with JMC with both The Advocacy Project and Nepali Diaspora organizations in the United States. I also hope to make a difference too.
As I prepare to embark on this journey I’d like to thank everyone who is helping to make this incredible learning experience possible. To the staff of the Advocacy Project and all of my friends and family… thank you for your support!
Posted By Ted Samuel
Posted Jul 3rd, 2007