Even after adopting a democratic system of governance and universal spirit of human rights and free society, Nepal still possesses and practices some outdated social and cultural practices, which are not compatible with the modern concept of human rights and human dignity. The so-called tradition and culture have been creating division and discrimination in our society. These outdated practices, which are prevalent in our society in the name of tradition, are nothing other than distortion and perversion. In the name of tradition and culture, certain sections of the society, who are mostly poor, are being discriminated and exploited.
Dalits are an example of this exploitative and discriminatory social system. The forms of discrimination and exploitation against Dalits (oppressed) are manifold. They are not allowed to participate in certain religious, cultural and social functions simply because they belong to the Dalit community. In some places, Dalits are not allowed even to collect water from the same source that people from the other communities use. Such incidents are taking place in various parts of the country, and those who try to break this system often face obstacles from the people belonging to the so-called upper class.
Discrimination on the ground of caste, sex and religion and colour is a violation of fundamental human rights and the basic laws of the land. The interim constitution has clearly stated that all citizens irrespective of their caste, sex, colour and religion are equal before the law and has prohibited any kind of discrimination. However, these constitutional provisions are flouted when it comes to practice mostly in the rural areas. Dalits are not only exploited and discriminated socially and culturally, they are also alienated from the economic activities and development.
A report has it that more than 90 per cent of Dalits survive by working on others’ farms and houses in the villages. In most cases, they are not adequately compensated and denied equal opportunities. Majority of the Dalit people are uneducated, socially alienated and economically dependant. More than 95 per cent of Dalits live in absolute poverty. Although the government has already announced some progressive measures to uplift the social and economic condition of the Dalits, these programmes, however, have not been able to fully address the issues and problems they face.
Against this background, there must be massive educational programmes in order to raise the awareness level of the Dalit population. Similarly, efforts to make the Dalits economically independent are also of paramount importance given the poor condition of the Dalit population across the country. On top of that, a change of attitude of the society towards the Dalits is more important than anything else to bring the Dalits into the national mainstream and create an equitable and just society.