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Workshop on Inclusive Democracy and Dalits

How to do Justice to Dalits in New Constitution Paper by Hira Vishwakarma

Organised by Nepal Dalit Utthan Sangh (NDUS)

22-23 April 2009
Sandhikhaka, Arghakhanchi

Nepal Dalit Utthan Sangh (NDUD) conducted two-day workshop on "Inclusive Democracy and Dalits," at Sandhikharka, Arghakhanchi on 22nd -23rd April, 2009 with the cooperation of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office. The program was inaugurated by Tara Bahadur Karki,(Local Development Officer of Arghakhanchi) as a chief guest and Chaired by Kamal Bishwakarma, Chairperson of NDUS. 95 Dalit activists, representatives of political parties, journalists, governmental officials and NGO's participated the workshop. 25 percent of the participants were women. Maniram Pariyar, local Dalit leader, steered the program with his views on inclusive democracy and participation of Dalits into it.

Most of the participants of the workshop raised concern that despite the constitutional provision to elect 13 percent of representation of Dalits only about 7 percent of them have secured their seats in the Constituent Assembly. They therefore, stressed the need to have more voice of Dalits in the future constitution. Another concern was that good constitution is necessary but not sufficient unless there is a firm commitment of state classes to implement its provisions towards the abolition of untouchability, social and economic reforms and justice to Dalits. Without appropriate policies and structure in place, social justice is unattainable.

The first session started at 11:30 and lasted until 3:00 p.m. Addressing the first session, Tara Bahadur Karki (LDO) made a very critical reflection:" Government for not being serious on drafting policies plans and programs to make the nation free from caste based discrimination has undermined the sense of social equality which is necessary condition for a modern democracy." He added that Dalit movement is a must for the social and economic revolution and improved political participation in the institutions of governance." Similarly, Bhimkanta Sharma (Acting CDO, Arghakahnchi) said that nobody should tolerate any kind of discrimination whether by so-called higher caste people or within Dalit Communities themselves. He added that the provision of compulsory education for Dalits and other excluded groups should be made in the new constitution.

The second day session on 23rd April began with the presentation of a concept paper by Suraj Kumar Bishwokarma entitled "Constitution Making Process and Dalit Reservation" and commented by Gopal Prasad Panthi. Mr Indra Bahadur Chhetri,Vice-President of Nepali Congress said that constitution should also be clear about the strong mechanism to monitor the rights and special arrangements of Dalit. Likewise, the electoral process should be inclusive and quotas should also be ensured under it.

Ramji Prasad Ghimire said, while making education compulsory to the Children, the parents of Dalits should be given incentive by providing employment and other incentives. Ram Bahdur Pariyar (Ex-Army Association, Arghakhanchi) said that Dalits should have active participation in the activities of selected political parties in Dalits issues and they should create pressure on the parties to correct their faulty principles regarding welfare of Dalit Communities.

Inclusion and proportional representation of Dalits in the parties' various structures including decision making is crucial to balance and social and political power and democratize the political culture of parties. Other participants of program Bishnu Kumar Chhetri, Gopal Baraili, Hari Bahadur Khadka etc. expressed that strong literacy program, civic education, income-generating activities, upgrading of the tools of Dalits and recognition of their contribution in society must be made so that historical stigma attached to their status can be easily removed. The plight of Dalits women is worst. They need special program both for their consciousness enhancement, gender equality and equal social opportunity.

Commenting on paper Gopal Prasad Panthi said Dalits should be given priority while distributing land and providing employment opportunities. While creating constitutional provisions for Dalits a policy of prioritization to be mentioned based on the economic and social condition with in Dalits. But, Dalit legislators and their non-Dalit sympathizers must act in a coordinated way to have the impact of their collective action. Similarly, Dalits across the party line must have a collective vision to overcome the difficulties imposed on them.

Most of the participants stressed that he state should adopt the policy of promoting, protecting and modernizing the traditional knowledge and skills of Dalits. They also emphasized the New Constitution insure the 20% reservation in all sector of the nation for Dalits. The civil society, economic institutions and international institutions should play pro-active role to foster social equality which is prerequisite for their participation in the public and political life of the nation and contribute equally to democratize the society and the state. On the occasion Handouts on Democracy was distributed among all the participants.

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