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Book Highlighting the Woes of Dalits

Dalit and Dalit Women of Terai (Terai ka Dalit ewam Dalit mahila)

Edited by: Dr. Haribansha Jha Ph. D
Published Date: December 2003
Published by: Center for Economic and Technical Studies (CETS) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

Price: Not mentioned, Pages: 107

ISBN No: 99933-837-0-8


DALITS that constitute 13.8 per cent of total population are among the most neglected community of Nepal. And dalits of Terai live in wretched conditions compared to the dalits of the hills.

The dalits in Terai represent the Chamar, (Harijan) Musahar, Dusadh, Paswan, Tatam, Khatbe,Dhobi, Dum and Ghagad communities amond others.

In addition to facing social deprivation, these castes have been facing a lot of harships to eke out their living. Ironically, these communities are the backbone for agriculture and other social systems in Terai, but they are being treated as 'untouchables', perhaps a big stigma on the face of humanity.

The country witnessed various social and political movements in the last five decades but these marginalised people have failed to realise any significant changes in their lives. Neither there have been enough academic efforts to bring out facts about them.

With the advent of multiparty democracy, political parties and civil society began to look into their woes but this was only a lip service. However, the democratic set up offered many forums to raise their voices.

Of lately, the then government formed the Neglected, Oppressed and Dalit Uplift Develoment Committee in 1997 but it received 0.01 per cent of budget that is just a drop in the ocean.

Dalit and Dalit Women in Terai makes a humble attemt to depict a true picture of Terai dalits. As the title suggests, the book concentrates on two aspects -dalits and dalit women. It has been divided into three parts. The first part presents the overall scenario of the dalits-their social, economic, political and cultural status in the society and efforts to improve their miserable situation. It deals with the individual dalit communities. The second and the third section describes dalit women, their contribution in the economy, their health, empowement and discrination.

The book is the collection of working papers presented in two separate seminars on 'The Strategy for the Uplift of Terais' Dalits' and 'Strategy to Improve the Status of Women from Terai's Dalit' held in Janakpur in 2001 and 2002 with the funding of FES.

Most of the contributors of the book are not from the top academic circle. One of the important features of the book is to unfold the miseries of dalits by non other than the authors from the dalit communities.

In 'Development of 'Madhesi dalit,' Dr. Haribansa Jha writes, 'Madhesi dalits have fallen into the vicious circle of poverty largely due to illiteracy, ignorance, discrimination, social negligence, low income, diseases, low savings and little land." He also scrutinises the election manifestos of the major political parties to reveal their commitment to uplift these backward communities but finds their failure to live up to their promises. He prescribe 'class reconciliation' not 'class struggle' to resolve their problems.

"Dalits and non-dalits must join hands to break their vicious circle of poverty." mentioned the word dalit. There was no discrimination of human beings in terms of caste and color. The social hierarchy that despised this community came to the fore in the later years. Although the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal guarantees equal rights among the citizens, the dalits of Terai have been unable to enjoy the freedom guaranteed by the law of the land.

Most of the remaining chapters of the first section talks particular about caste discriminations and identifies their particular problems. For example, Yuktilal Marik, who himself is a dalit lists a number of reasons behind the poverty of the Dom communities- laziness, big family, drinking, illiteracy, unemployment, landlessness and high interest of loans.

Asarphi Sada traces the origin of the Mushahar communities back to five hundred years when they spent their lives as sages in the forests. Mushahar, who belong to the Dravid caste are also known as the architect of soil but they have been compelled to lead the life of second grade citizens in the society. Their population has sharply declined due to poverty, hunger and disease.

In 'Discrimination and Untouchability of Dalit Women," Ram Hriday Mandal and Bindu Chaudhari say the condition of dalit women is worse than that of their male counterpart because of the deep- rooted superstitions, untochability,domestic violence, economic, mental and physical exploitation.

The book sheds light on the various problems of the dalit communities and offers their solution too. It can be extremely useful to sensitise the planners, social scientists and political parties on the issue of dalits who are gradually swamping in the asbyss of history due to utter neglect of the state.

Source: The Rising Nepal (23 April 2004)

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