Even in such dire times as in the aftermath of the April 25 and May 12 earthquakes, caste-based discrimination has reared its ugly head.
According to this Nepalese article, Dalits in four districts — including Sindhupalchok where COMMITTED’s project site Thangpalkot is — have been prevented by others from receiving relief materials. This article cites a report which found Dalits “receiving less aid than the dominant castes and being allocated leftovers from castes that rank higher in Nepal’s caste system.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if Dalits have been disproportionately affected by the earthquake for the simple fact that they are, as a group, the poorest.
If my memory serves me right, either 80% of all Dalits in Nepal live under the poverty line, or 80% of all those living under the poverty line are Dalits. (The proportion of Dalits in the country varies from 11 to 25% depending on the source.) Regardless, whichever it is, NO OTHER GROUP COMES EVEN CLOSE on the poverty scale!
However, the calamity, in a way has levelled life’s playing field for millions of Nepalese. Over three million apparently need assistance, assistance from outside the country, assistance from other countries and other people.
So, I have some questions for my fellow Nepalese.
Do you want the rest of the world to respond to the humanitarian crisis we are facing? Do you want the rest of the world to empathize with our suffering? Do you want the rest of world to show compassion towards our pain and suffering because we are also part of humanity?
My fellow Nepalese, do you seek humanity from the rest of humanity?
If so, then we must be willing to display that towards our own. Our own humanity must extend to anyone and everyone, not just our own caste. It must extend, by necessity, especially to those who need it the most, namely the marginalised, the disenfranchised, the most vulnerable, such as Dalits, the untouchables.
If you want the rest of the world to show sympathy and compassion towards us for our suffering, then we must show sympathy and compassion towards our own. No exceptions, no excuses!
Otherwise, following the worst natural disaster to strike our country in modern times, we, ourselves, could end up being a bigger scourge than the calamity itself!
Because, in the days, months and years to come, how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst, will show — to the rest of humanity — our worth as a people.
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References (last updated June 4, 2015):
http://alldalit.blogspot.com/2015/05/blog-post_93.html. This article is in Nepalese.
Nepal must end discrimination in earthquake relief effort. Amnesty International’s report.
Waiting for “Justice in Response.” The Dalit Civil Society Massive Earthquake Victim Support and Coordination Committee’s report. (Report: Dalits short-changed in aid delivery in Nepal summarises the findings.)
Nepal’s poorest getting the least earthquake aid, activists warn. Summary of the preceding two reports.
Equality in Aid. “An important tool for the work in relation to humanitarian aid in Nepal and other caste-affected countries to ensure that all appropriate measures are taken to combat caste discrimination in aid delivery and disaster risk reduction.”