Casteism in Nepal


The Himalayan country Nepal has about 20% of her 27 million population still suffering from age-old socio-economic and political oppressions due to discrimination based on hierarchical Hindu caste system. The forms of these oppressions are manifold; “untouchability” is the most outrageous one, which is a grave crime against humanity. It is only recently that hardships and atrocities meted out to depressed people in the country have started to surface out. Due to the struggle put forward by marginalized people movement of Nepal more effectively from the beginning the 21st century, a little attention has been apparently paid to the contemporary issues of depressed class people. However, these people, as they still are excluded from the socio-economic and political mainstream in the country, are an entity very little known to the outside world.

Depressed class people in Nepal

Depressed class people commemorate this international event of racism in various forms voicing for eradication of caste-based discrimination and untouchability rampant in Nepal. The original inhabitant movement has been pressurizing the government for complete abolition of caste-based discrimination from the society. Nepal being an officially declared untouchability-free country for four years now, all people must stop discriminatory behaviors and practices from their heart and mind.

Still, depressed class people are deprived of exercising their basic human rights, and their life standard is extremely deplorable and painful. Depressed class people are not provided opportunities to participate in social and political affairs on an equal footing. Additionally, they are considered to be of less significance and lower in status in all spheres of the country due to caste-based discrimination deep rooted in the society. Even in these days of soaring achievements of mankind in science and technology, depressed people are treated inhumanly as an untouchable by the so-called higher caste people. These people are excluded from full participation in political life, the debate around public policy and enjoyment of basic human rights, public amenities and benefits of the society. Thus, marginalised communities in Nepal still have to struggle against caste-based discrimination and untouchability. It is happening due to the lack of necessary state mechanism for a legal and social environment that disapprove the instincts that are unacceptable to human dignity.

Denouncing caste-based discrimination and untouchability, marginalised class people movement of Nepal is putting a demand for rightful representation and participation of marginalised communities in all political institutions, processes and civil life. The Nepal’s government from past to present has not heard enough this loud and clear voice so far. In terms of providing an equal opportunity to depressed class people for their meaningful participation and leadership and ensuring social justice, there has been very scant efforts made by the political actors.

International communities are coming forth to advise Nepal’s civil society and government to review existing statutes and laws towards putting a ban to untouchability and enforce accountability to those who breach human rights. Their commitment of highest priority is to eliminate the caste-based discrimination in Nepal. Discrimination is one of the major causes of conflict in the society. In a democratic and just society, the excluded groups including women and marginalised should essentially enjoy changes in their lives with an immediate access to justice when their human rights are violated.

There is an urgent need of institutionalizing the Nepal’s declaration of untouchability-free country for positively impacting on all the state affairs and establishing a just society in Nepal. A state system free from untouchability and caste-based discriminations can provide greater rooms for social reforms. In the process of developing and promulgating a new constitution, this issue has much significance. If our political and government actors are truly working for constructing a peaceful and just new Nepal free from untouchability, they must address fundamental human rights issues such as this that are at the roots of conflict.

Commitment against caste discrimination

As we all know, many depressed class people have sacrificed their lives to make Nepal a democratic republic. No one can forget these people who offered their lives during the Maoist conflict and People’s Movements. These sacrifices illustrate that marginalised people provided a great contribution to bring our country in the current stage of social and political transformation. Yet, Depressed are yet to experience any solid commitment from the government to give value to the sacrifices made by thousands of depressed class people by way going against feudal system and caste-based discrimination.

Marginalised people have been highly hopeful for significant improvement in their lives from the declaration of a nation as free from untouchability and caste-based discrimination after the Janandolan II. It is natural to expect a change for something new and different in their social milieu so as to be able to live a dignified life. Marginalised community expects a commitment from the government of Nepal to penalize the guilty for committing caste-based discrimination, creating an environment where depressed people live a respectful life as an equal citizen.

All over the world, legislations have been passed to outlaw racial/caste discrimination. We have to remain intensely aware that the struggle to end caste-based discrimination is far from over. The solid commitment must be forthcoming from the government and political forces to punish those who commit caste discrimination and practice untouchability. For this, the Government of Nepal and political actors must put in place specific legal instruments and social mechanisms for enforcing the punishment against untouchability and caste-based discrimination. Nepali people are very eager to hear an announcement from the government to fulfill its most recent obligation against caste discrimination following the declaration of an untouchability free country.

For providing justice to marginalised communities, more effective statutory provisions must be put in place against untouchability in the new constitution so that depressed class people can enjoy their full rights in the society. Everyone has a role to play in ending caste discrimination. It is only through constant attention, involvement and intervention; we can hope to achieve the end of such discrimination. International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March 2010) alerts Nepal Government to remember its obligations, and the people to adhere to their individual and collective responsibilities in their determination to fight against caste discrimination. The day should be observed nationwide, with the state’s call to remind people about the negative consequences of caste-based discrimination in the country.

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