Dalit Dreams of a New Nepal
Posted by enaadoug1982 on August 18, 2011
The following is an interview with Tilak Pariyar, Chairman of the Dalit National Liberation Front of Nepal, an organization associated with the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). We are also attaching the 31 demands of DLF, which were delivered to the interim government in 2007. They give a sennse of the concrete steps that the Maoists plan to take to end the oppression of Dalit people in a New Nepal.
Interviewed by Eric Ribellarsi and Jim Weill
ER: Can you start by explaining what it means to be a Dalit in Nepal?
Dalits are a community within the Hindu religion, based off of the caste system. The caste system was brought here by India, and it has been spread all over the South Asian countries. People have been divided up into castes. The laboring classes have been treated as lower class people.
Laboring people have been called “untouchables.” It means that if you touch a laboring person, you will become impure. This system was adopted by the government , as well, which created all of these laws based off of the caste system. And this has been continuing in our society for about 3000 years. The laboring people are forgotten by this system. For this reason the Dalits have gathered in one party, the Maoist Party, the one party that wants to change the society.
ER: Can you tell us about your program for Dalits in a New Nepal?
There has been a huge gap between Dalits and non-Dalits. For 3000 years, we have been forbidden to have an education, or to excel in any aspect. There are about 10 or 15 medical doctors in Nepal from the Dalit caste, meanwhile there are 5000 or 6000 from the non-Dalits. When the Maoists won the Constituent Assembly, Dalits entered the government. Before that there were none.
We Dalit people want proportional representation in the government. Whatever the percentage of people in society that are Dalits, the same percentage of the government should have to be Dalits. We want to abolish untouchability forever. If someone treats a Dalit as untouchable, then they should be convicted of anti-social crimes. Dalits must be compensated for the harm of 3000 years of oppression. There must be special rights for Dalits. We want all of this to be in a people’s constitution.
The other parties like the UML and the Nepali Congress parties said that these problems were just a social problem, and that they could not be changed except on an individual basis. But when the Maoists started the people’s war, these views were challenged. Even the original Communist Party of Nepal would say that caste could only be dealt with in the future when classes are absolished.
Nowadays, the UML admits that caste is a very big problem in Nepal. But in practice, they do not want to give any special rights to the Dalits in the constitution. For reasons like this, we find that the Dalit people have united around our party, the Maoist party.
We also find that the few Dalit people who are in the Nepali Congress and UML parties struggle against the leadership of those parties. And we find that the Dalits in the Maoist party are struggling against wrong lines in our own party. The sister organizations of the Maoist party are joining to demand a people’s constitution. This requires a combined force.
JW: What is the relationship between the Dalit struggles and other peoples struggles in Nepal?
The Dalit struggle is a very different struggle than other kinds of struggles. Dalit people are treated as second class citizens. In both our party, and the other parties, we have to fight. It is a special kind of liberation we need to get a pro-people Constitution.
The peasant struggle, for example, cannot be successful without confronting the caste system. The caste system is a part of these other struggles.
You can see in sixty-five years of parliamentary democracy in Nepal, in each struggle the Dalit people supported the revolutionary parties. When Nepali Congress started the armed struggle, the Dalits supported them. Then when UML started the armed struggle, the Dalits supported them. [The UML and Nepali Congress, both reactionary parties today, each previously had waged armed struggle against the monarchy before settling into the monarchy’s parliament]. Then the Maoists started the people’s war, and about 90% of the Dalits supported them.
Before there were no Dalits in the government, but now there are 50 in the Constituent Assembly because of the proportional representative system. The UML and Nepali Congress refuse to give special rights, but they are being forced to give these rights. In practice they are still opposing, however. It is very difficult for them to not give rights to Dalits, because if they do not, then even the people inside the UML and Nepali Congress will leave those parties. It is a big opportunity for us.
JW: Is there anything else you would like to add?
The caste system is a form of class system. We are proceeding with a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist strategy, and with this we can defeat this problem in society.
We are hopeful that in ten years we will have abolished the caste system. Among the Maoists there are no difference between Dalit and non-Dalit. Much of the caste system was abolished. Our cadre don’t think about these sort of things.
Until the proletariat has state power, the anti-Maoist parties will continue their reign in the society. We are very hopeful that these parties and this system will be abolished soon.
31 Demands of the Dalit Liberation Front
1. Proclaim a federal democratic republic based on secularism, immediately.
2. Implement proportional representative electoral system in the Constitutional Assembly.
3. Allocate electoral constituencies on the ethnic, regional and population basis.
4. Declaring caste based discrimination and untouchability as social crimes for abolishing discrimination completely, a bill for ending untouchability be enacted and implemented.
5. In compensation of the fact that Dalit Communities have been deliberately pushed backward in all areas, political, economic, social life, by feudal- brahminist state, a Special Rights bill be enacted and implemented to put in place special rights to dalits.
6. National Dalit Commission be made a fully powerful and constitutional body.
7. Stern actions be taken against the royal reactionary elements and criminals declared culprits by Rayamajhi Commission.
8. Amend Election Voters Act and its regulations.
9. Release immediately all political prisoners locked up on false charges.
10. Investigate and make public the whereabouts of disappeared citizens.
11. Abolishing special rights to royal family and the king, their properties be nationalized immediately.
12. Establish full control of peoples over army, police and administration.
13. Stop all sorts of interference by American imperialists in the political peace process currently ongoing in the country.
14. Put an end to imperialists’ infiltration in the name of NGOs/INGOs.
15. Dalits be given special rights and made resourceful at all levels, from central to local agencies of state governance.
16. Make a guarantee for compulsory and free of cost health care available to Dalits.
17. Make guarantee of employment as well as the provision of unemployment allowance until employed for all.
18. Provide land to landless Dalits free of cost, and stop immediately the practice of evacuating them from the places where they live, without making alternative arrangement.
19. Establish equal rights to women on parental properties.
20. Dalits be guaranteed with the provision of free education for them upto higher education (both technical and non-technical).
21. Modernize traditional vocations carried by Dalits, and provide them with loans free of collaterals and interests to start their business.
22. Make a guarantee of 20% employment to the people of Dalit communities in public and private sectors.
23. Abolish completely caste based discrimination, untouchability and social discrimination imposed upon Dalits.
24. Issue citizenship certificates by inheritance to all Dalits, without hindrance, based on either of their father’s or mother’s name.
25. Provide immediately the land and citizenship certificate to Madheshi Dalits.
26. Stop activities of imported Hindu extremists.
27. Make provision for an appropriate management of ‘Samaj Bikas Chhatrabas’, a hostel located at Bijeshwari in Kathmandu, and resided by Dalit students.
28. Establish Dalit women’s hostels.
29. Abolish feudal-brahminist and obsolete culture and traditions to establish a new people oriented (Janabadi) culture in the society.
30. Stop immediately the oppression meted out to Dalits within Newar caste.
31. Put an immediate end to sex exploitation meted out to some Badi women, and provide them with appropriate employment for their respectful living.