Life on the Fringe of a Caste Society

Dalits are still regarded as “untouchables”. The Nepalese caste system, much like that of India’s, is highly complex and continues the traditional system of social stratification of the country

Caste system is not an exclusive system of India. In Nepal, which borders on northern India, caste system can determine individual and group access to job opportunities, education and social resources. One born into a Janajatis’ or Dalits’ family in Nepalis, to a very large extent, destined to face various unfair treatments throughout the entire life.

In 1854, the Rana regime explicitly declared the Dalits untouchable. This imposed strict regulations on where the Dalit were allowed to live (they could not enter temples or use the same tap water as higher castes), forbad them from education and from participating in community festivals. Although the caste-based discrimination was abolished in 1963, the government has been weak in enforcing the ban.

In Terai, for example, where the majority of Dalit live, discriminatory labour practices are still very common. During annual harvest seasons (March-May and September-November), high-caste landlords reportedly continue to use debt bondage to secure unpaid labour from Dalit labourers. In the Terai, many Dalits are landless and live on less than US$1 a day. In addition to a literacy rate of less than 33.5 percent above grade six and high rates of school dropout, improving the social conditions of Dalit communities is a challenge.

CEDAR will organize an exposure trip to Nepal in the end of April. We will visit the mountain villages in central district to understand the hardships of ethnic communities, such as Chepangs, Tamangs, Kumals and Dalits groups (they belong to either Janajatis or Dalits caste), and how local Christian partners are helping them to improve their living. Please click here for details and registration.

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