1) By restructuring state mechanisms to reflect the country’s diversity.
2) By holding the state to account on its constitutional obligations.
3) By widening activism both in and outside the borders.
Ours is an unjust society. It has been entangled for ages in various forms of discriminations, which are inhumane and against the spirits of human and civil rights. That’s why I want to see Nepal become a discrimination-free country.
To this date, I continue to encounter many forms of discriminations. Yet there were two instances of caste-based discrimination early in my life that would leave a lasting impact.
In the first incident, I was in class seven and I used to take extra classes after school. Every day, even as other tuition-takers sat inside the tuition room, I used to get my instructions from just outside the room, by the door. I never realized that it was a form of discrimination. But one day, while attending the tuition class, it started raining heavily. My books and copybooks were all drenched, and yet no one asked me to come in. I became very angry that day and vowed not to return to the tuition class.
It was also the first time I realized that I was being systematically discriminated against, unlike my other friends.
My second encounter with discrimination came soon after, when a famous CPN-UML leader, Golchhe Sharki, then a member of parliament, had come to our village for a program. After the program, he came to our house to sleep at night; no one else in the village was ready to accommodate him, even though he was an MP. This incident made realize that high-rank people were not immune to caste-based discrimination.
After these two incidents, I started working for the Dalit and underprivileged community who are battling different forms of discriminations.
Nepal is a diverse country in terms of caste, religion, race, and culture. So, each caste, religion, race, and culture must be represented in state mechanisms so that our diverse characters are reflected at the highest levels. Quite often, I feel like this country is mine, but this state isn’t. If we made this state work for everyone, it would be a major step toward making this a discrimination-free country.
The constitution clearly says that the state must be inclusive and proportional. For example, Dalits constitute 13.8 percent of the total population, so they should get 13.8 percent of the positions in state mechanisms. In a Cabinet of 25 ministers, there should be at least four Dalits. But there is only one as of now. Similarly, there are only five Dalit judges. Among the 90,000 civil servants, only two percent are Dalits. So, how many years does it take to go from two to 14 percent? This is the major question.
If the state lived up to its constitutional promises, this problem could be solved to an extent but sadly the government isn’t interested in taking that route.
Since the start of human civilization, each person has evolved differently. Some of us are white, some black, some tall, some short, some differently-abled, and we come with different sexual orientations. So the cycle of discrimination based on differences started early and continues to this day, albeit with new variants.
The so-called upper-caste people apply one kind of moral and social values for themselves and a different set of values for the so-called lower-castes, which is a major cause of discrimination.
We still think literacy can change this situation, but that is not true. There are a lot of educated people who are leading the mobs that perpetuate inhuman behaviors against vulnerable groups.
I am a Dalit, and my story of struggle and survival would be a fantasy story for non-Dalits. The problem of residents of the Himalayan region would be a fairy tale for the people of Tarai. We won’t be able to reduce discrimination unless people from these diverse regions and caste backgrounds start seeing each other as fellow Nepalis and deserving of equal respect.
These days, I am working on the agenda of inclusion of youths in the workforce and leadership, not only in Nepal but around the world. There are almost 26 million Dalits the world-over and yet their issues have not been globally recognized. Racial discrimination is getting global attention; caste-based discrimination is not.
This is why I am in favor of collectively working, both at national and international levels, to end all forms of discrimination.
What would you have been if you were not a Dalit activist?
I guess I would otherwise have been a politician.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
Common people who I meet in my life’s journey inspire me the most.
A quote you live by?
"Be educated. Be organized. Be agitated" - Dr B. R Ambedkar