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Workshop on Constitutional Making process and Dalit Reservation

Organised by Nepal Dalit Utthan Sangh (NDUS)

20-21 June 2008

Sandhikhaka, Arghakhanchi

Nepal Dalit Utthan Sangh (NDUS) conducted two-days workshop on "Constitution Making Process and Dalit Reservation" at Sandhikharka, Arghakhanchi on 20th -21st June,2008. The Chief Guest of the program was Prof. Man Bahadur Vishwakarma. Kamal Bishwakarma, Chairperson of NDUS, chaired the two-day session. Ninety-nine Dalit activists, representatives of political parties, journalists, governmental officials, civil society members and I/NGO's participated the workshop. Twenty-six of them were women. The moderator of the program was Lokendra B.K, a Dalit activist. Most of the participants of a workshop have stressed on the strong unity among the Dalit communities to fight for their constitutional and human rights in the changed political scenario of the nation. The Constituent Assembly (CA) election brought 49 Dalits in the CA but many of them lack essential knowledge about constitutional questions. Socialization about key issues pertaining to Dalits' welfare is the task of this seminar.

The inaugural session started at 11:30 AM on 20th June, 2008 and closed at 4:00 p.m. Addressing the inaugural session, Prof. Man Bahadur Vishwokarma said that constitution should create a strong mechanism to monitor the rights and special arrangements of Dalits. Likewise, the electoral process should be inclusive and quotas should also be ensured under it so that they will have proportional representation in the institutions of governance. More importantly, separate constituencies should also be outlined for Dalit. About 98 percent of the Dalits demanded for reservation in sectors like political appointment, constitutional appointment, Election, education, health and jobs and social sector dev elopment.

On 21st June 2008 Suraj Kumar Bishwokarma presented a paper on "Constitution Making Process and Dalit Reservation" in the future constitution which was commented by Krishna Prasad Khanal. The discussion continued after the lunch session. Speaking on the occasion Pitamber sharma Bhusal, District President of Nepali Congress said that one cannot be Dalit on one the basis of caste. There are many things for Dalits being made due to outdated attitude of society, illiteracy etc. He also said nobody should tolerate any kind of discrimination whether by so-called higher caste people or within the Dalit communities. They should oppose immediately caste discrimination and even inform organizations of human rights bodies, seek their help to publicize the issue and to seek justice. Likewise, the representatives of CPN-UML, Ramji Prasad Ghimire said formulation of laws alone are not enough unless they are implemented and therefore focus should be on their proper implementation to abolish untouchability that is plaguing the Dalit caste that represents 13 percent of the nation's total population of 27 million.

Nimananda Gaire of Peoples' Front Nepal, focused on equality in economic status. To him, "Education , health and employment should be basic right of the people in the future constitution." This will certainly end the existing forms of discrimination for which people , who are made Dalit, should fight.

Ram Bahadur Pariyar , member of Ex-Army Association of Arghakhanchi said that Dalits should have active participation in the activities of the political parties on Dalit issues and they should create pressure on the parties to correct their faulty principles regarding welfare of Dalit communities. If the community feels that the existing political parties could not became sensitive over the Dalit issues they should also think of forming a separate new party of Dalit communities. Other participants of the program Sher Bahadur KC from Janamorcha- Nepal, Hari Bahadur Khadka from Samudayik Vikas Kendra and other participants expressed their views in the program demanding the abolition of discrimination as per Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Nepali Constitution and laws, provide political entitlements for their empowerment and create social opportunities for their education, health, income and social competence.

Krishna Prasad Khanal defined negative aspects of reservation as it might institutionalize privilege and discriminate the intelligent people from other castes. He though that a system of reservation makes a lazy for all. So, we should find alternatives of reservation for Dalit uplitment, increases their competitive spirit, ensure freedom and condition for social equality.

The second day of the program focused on common issues between Dalits and non-Dalits, stressed on a single national identity than a negative identity of high caste and low castes and demanded support from non-Dalits as to how they can support their social, economic and political upliftment. Most of the participants emphasized that nothing has been done on proportional representation of Dalit communities. Dalit representatives argued, "We are not for separation but equal social integration. We all should go in an integrated way with the parties but we need to have proportional representation on the basis of population."

They also stressed that new constitution should also ensure the 20% reservation for Dalit communities. They also demanded the identification of special Dalit issues, inclusion of those issues in the constitutional debate, lobbying from Dalits for further incorporation into the future constitution and coalition building among Dalits and non-Dalits for progressive social change so that no one is discriminated on the future on the basis of caste, gender and other social distinction. At the end, participants agreed to circulate the message they have learned to village people and motivate both men and women to participate in constitutional discussion.

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