Base is a mass membership centered people’s organization which promotes participation of its members in all activities by nurturing human potential to the optimal extent to ensure full and abundance life for every one in the community.
Creating of an exploitation-free civil society.
- Empowerment of the Kamaiyas, as well as the excluded and deprived communities, collectively by economic and socio-economic development, and environmental presentation.
- Protection of human rights and indigenous culture through information, education, and communication.
- Raise collective voice against prevailing exploitation, and injustice at the community level.
- Institutional capability building.
- To raise economic status of the BASE focus community through income generation programs.
- To maximize mobilization of local resources to the optimal level at community.
- To enhance the indigenous community skills for modification of local traditional technology.
- To raise awareness status through education and health of the people of BASE focus program area.
- To implement advocacy programs for environmental protection, cultural conservation and to ensure human rights.
- To fight for individual rights by organizing people at all level.
- To organize people for social revolution.
- To enhance the institutional management capacity by qualitative and quantitative membership growth.
Increased participatory and gender balanced decision-making at all grass-root levels of BASE committees within the present six working districts of BASE, supported by a financially sustainable, decentralized, institutionally consolidated and organizationally efficient BASE structure.
The five year Partnership Agreement is to contribute to the empowerment through self organization by building up institutional capacity at the grass-root levels of BASE. The support to institutional capacity building will allow the BASE grass-root committees to significantly improve their abilities to manage their own development, and thus ultimately facilitate the BASE decentralization process.
1997 Nepal : The struggle against the Kamaiya system of Bonded Labour. In: enslaved people in the 1990s. A report by the anti-slavery in collaboration with India.
Nepal is a country of immense diversity. This is as true of its geographical make up as of its ethnic composition. It is arranged into three distinct zones, running east to west: the Mountains (Himalaya). Hills (Pahar), and Plains (Terai).
The population of approximately 18.5 million people speaks some 20 different languages. These can be broadly divided into Indo-
Aryan or Tibeto-Burman linguistic groups. At various stages in the country’s past, attempts have been made to incorporate Nepal’s many different ethnic groups into a formalised caste system based on the Hindu model. As a result, the high-caste Brahmin and Chettri have become most powerful groups in Nepal.
Slavery was officially abolished in 1926 but highly exploitative systems of labour continue. In addition to the Kamaiya System of the Mid and Far-Western Terai, other systems of agricultural labour exists which in some cases may be termed debt bondage. These systems are known as the Haliya System in the hills and the Haruwa System in the Terai. In the towns and particularly around Kathmandu, children know to be involved in debt bondage, working in sweat-hops, tea houses or as domestic servants. Bonded child labour is also reported in the carpet industry. Large numbers of women and children are trafficked from Nepal each year to be exploited as prostitutes in India.
The Origin of the Tharu
With a population of 1.19 million (6.5 per cent of the national population), the Tharu are one of the country’s largest ethnic groups. They are indigenous to the Terai region where the vast majority is still spread across 22 districts from east to west. They are particularly numerous in the West and Far-Western Districts of Kanchanpur, Kailali, Bardiya, Banke, and Dang. Government statistics indicate that 79 per cent of Tharu above the age of six have never gone to school.
Within the Tharu community there are some 26 major sub-groups5; these include the four largest groupings, Dangaura Tharu, Rana Tharu, Chitwan Tharu, and Katharia. A rivalry exists between these different Tharu sub-groups, some claiming separate descent. For this reason the exact nature of their origin is the subject of fierce debate. Some date their arrival in the Terai to the destruction of the Indus Valley Civilisation circa 1500 BC. Others declare that the Tharu are the descendants of the Shakya Dynasty who introduced Mahayana Buddhism to Nepal in the second half of the 1st millennium BC6. The Rana Tharu have a strong oral history which claims descent from the Rajput refugees who fled from their native Rajistan during the first Moslem invasions in the 13th century AD.
The fact is that the Tharu themselves did not keep written records and what is known of their early history is derived from passing references in religious texts and etymological evidence. It seems probable that there is not just one origin of the Tharu and that the people arrived in the area from different places at different places at different times. As such there may be truth in all the theories.
The Tharu were feared by outsiders and the land they inhabited was infested with malaria, to which the Tharu have a natural immunity. They were consequently left to develop in comparative isolation for many centuries. It is only in t recent historical period that they have come into direct contact with neighboring civilisations. For the Tharu this contact has had disastrous results.
BASE Central Office
BASE Project Office
Tulsipur Bazar South
The ancient Greeks well understood the importance of the household in working with nature while developing their economy, in one of the most advanced and harmonious civilizations of post-glacial times.
The local and officially registered name for the JPP is the “Grihasthashram Kendra”, or Centre.
So the JPP sees Permaculture, a design system using the application of principles of ecology for creating sustainable human habitats, as a design system for creating a sustainable Grihasthashram.
- To strengthen the local economy through ecological and agricultural security, productivity and diversity, supporting locally produced goods and services.
- To repair damaged lands into productive regions again.
- To protect and improve the natural ecology and resource base of forest, soil and water.
- To intensify production of food and other basic needs in a sustainable manner, as close to the consumer as possible, on the minimum amount of land, with minimum use of external resources.
- Networking to share resources with like-minded organizations and individuals.
- To support human rights for farmers, underprivileged and minority groups.
Jajarkot Permaculture Programme (JPP)
P.O. Box 10908
Kathmandu 270466 (off.), 272167 (farm)
Nepalganj (081) 22389
Surkhet (083) 29313
Land in Nepal is scarce. And, when it comes to fertile agricultural land, it is far scarcer. Scarcity breeds competition; and competition in turn opens up possibilities for deceit and the use of unfair means. These phenomenon pervade the history of land ownership in Nepal. Scarcity, competition and inequality characterize land distribution in the country today.
The Kamaiya system that was prevalent in the five districts of western Nepal—before being finally banned by the government on July 17, 2000—was one of the unpleasant by-products of Nepal’s checkered history of land ownership. The Tharus are indigenous to the Terai. They were the natural owners of these vast tracts of fertile land. They lived in peace and plenty before the hill settlers—pushed by population pressure in the hills—descended in their territory. The new settlers managed to gradually nibble at the land and gain the legal rights, eventually evicting the Tharus from their own land. Without land and no other alternative forms of subsistence, the Tharus were forced to work for the newly turned landed gentry, many of them as bonded labourers.
After many long hellish years of bondage the Kamaiya freedom movement emerged in the midst of the gloom and frustration pervading the ten-year anniversary of democracy. The movement was supported by a coalition of social and human rights organizations, working together with the bonded labourers themselves, the media and international aid organizations and networks. In a sustained three months of campaigning the movement managed to force the government to cancel generation-deep debts of the Kamaiya.
Even after about two years of legal freedom from bondage, for thousands of Kamaiyas real freedom still remains distant and elusive. Efforts for their rehabilitation by providing them alternative jobs in already saturated market have proven not only insufficient but also increasingly frustrating to a majority of the freed Kamaiya. Without land of their own, thousands of Kamaiya have taken refuge in various public places. Disease, hunger and frustration are taking a heavy toll. The euphoria and expectations generated by the historic Kamaiya movement evaporates with each new day.
The struggle is still far from over. The challenge for the freed Kamaiya now is claiming the social prerogatives they were denied in slavery—reasonable plots of land, voices to speak in public and schooling for their children. “Many Kamaiyas remain to be freed in Bardiya, Kailali and Banke. The next challenge is to free them. The other challenge is effective rehabilitation. This newly acquired freedom is usually only skin deep. It takes a long time for the Kamaiyas to change their mental attitude. If support for rehabilitation is not strong they will fall into the same old vicious trap of bondage again. When the Kamaiyas get land they will also need houses and training in new agricultural techniques,” says BASE president and Kamaiya movement leader Dilli Bahadur Chaudhari.
It is against this backdrop that the “Kamaiya: Slavery and Freedom in Nepal” has been written. This is the first full-color social documentary publication of its kind printed in Nepal using four color printing process, according to publisher Madhab Maharajan of Mandala Book Point. It chronicles the turbulent story of the on-going kamaiya movement in Nepal through the words of the kamaiyas themselves and a narrative sequence of documentary photographs and formal portraits made in their huts on landlord’s properties, refugee camps and on the open road, along with the stories of other protagonists such as landlord and former minister Shiva Raj Pant, and an introduction and afterword in Nepali and English.
In doing so Kamaiya: Slavery and Freedom challenges the usual postcard image of ethnic groups in Nepal and the ease with which issues involving the lives of thousands of underprivileged people so easily slip off the public agenda.
During the tumultuous days after the government abolished the kamaiya system, documentary photographer Peter Lowe came to Nepal with a large format camera and the support of MS Nepal and Backward Society Education (BASE) to document the efforts of the kamaiyas themselves to turn government promises of a better life into reality.
“We should use whatever skills and opportunities we acquire to help create a more just world. The kamaiyas should have adequate land, housing and education, which they are still struggling for almost two years after the government’s historic decision to abolish the kamaiya system. We made this book together. Whether it helps to create a more just world for the kamaiyas or not depends on you,” Peter Lowe says.
Kamaiya: Slavery and Freedom presents the story of the kamaiyas in both Nepali text edited by Vinaya Kasajoo and English. Photographs and book design are by Peter Lowe. Keshav Gautam translated interviews. Tim Whyte who worked as an MS Nepal advisor for BASE in western Nepal penned introduction and afterword. Earlier, he had studied the history of slavery in Nepal under the University of Wisconsin Nepal programme.
The book has been priced at Rs. 750 and is available at:
Mandala Book Point
P.O. Box: 528, Kantipath
The Human Rights Organization of Nepal (HURON) was one of the first human rights organizations in Nepal. From its creation in 1988, HURON played a pioneering role in the movement for the restoration of democracy. A unique feature of HURON stems from its formation, as it grew out of a mass-based people’s movement. HURON’s greatest strength is in its membership, who represent all political persuasions – left, right and center, and they are spread throughout the country in 61 Districts.
From the beginning HURON has played a lead role in the process of democratic change within Nepal, and in the protection of human rights and civil liberties. HURON recognizes the political, economic and social transition that the Nepalese society is currently going through. In response took the dynamic changes raking place in the society HURON is working towards building an organization/movement that will be responsive to the emerging and diverse human rights issues, as well as to support the strengthening of the democratic process in the country at all levels.
HURON is a mass based organization with 25,000 members. The organization has district chapters in 61 districts of Nepal. The organization was registered under the Chief District Office and affiliated with the Social Welfare Council.
Ex-Kamaiya Driven away: no place to live in
Yesterday, the 9th of January 2002, the Forest Office moved in and
destroyed four more kamaiya settlements in Kailali district. Following the destruction of a settlement in December, the government has once again show a sheer lack of sympathy and a sense of responsibility towards the “freed” bonded labourers.
With a state of emergency in effect the army is active throughout the country. Demonstrations are banned and newspapers are unwilling to write articles that appear critical of the government actions. The kamaiyas are left largely unable to resist the government actions.
The settlements destroyed yesterday were at Baskota, Athariya and Nanital in Kailali and Bangai in Bardiya District. In all cases the kamaiyas had been living there for at least a year now. They had farmed a rice-crop during the monsoon to feed themselves. They had avoided cutting down trees in the area, and stated that they
would resettle if the government provided them land.
The government is claiming that it is resettling the kamaiyas now.
However, many of the kamaiyas whose huts were burned down have still not received ID cards, so they are not recognized by the government. They have nowhere to go. Families who are registered have been directed to settle on land already occupied by other kamaiyas in other settlements.
It is now cold winter in the Tarai. Once more the kamaiyas have been thrown into homelessness by the government.
The life of the lower castes in the western part of Nepal.
by Berit Madsen
“In this hamlet we are all low caste people. The upper caste who live further up the village cannot touch us. If they do so they get polluted”, says Sunga Kami. She is an elder Dalit woman from Ratoli, a small village in Doti district in the far western part of Nepal. “But sometimes a woman from one of the higher castes comes to our house. Her name is Raju Bohara. She likes to sit in our yard. But when she returns home she has to purify herself by sprinkling gold-treated water over her body. That is the custom up here”.
Today Raju Bohara, who belongs to the Chhetri caste, visits Sunga Kami’s household. Her hamlet is only a few minutes away by foot. Raju sits down in the yard. It is a sunny afternoon and all the women in Sunga Kami’s household are busy drying lentils and rice grains on straw mats. A young woman begins to grind the already dried lentils in a stone grinding mill. She is dressed in pink and has a yellow marigold flower behind her ear. Goats and hens are walking around in the yard. It is the children’s job to keep them away from the straw mats with rice and lentils.
There are twelve family members in Sunga Kami’s household. Four of her sons live in India. One of them has just returned to Ratoli to pay his mother a visit. Two daughters are married and they both stay with their husband’s families in neighbouring villages. Sungi Kami’s household belongs to the Kami caste which is one of the many lower castes in Nepal. A common denominator for the lower castes is Dalit. The term originally means people living in the swamps (daldal) or oppressed people, but today it refers to all low caste people in Nepal. The Dalits is the group of people who are considered untouchable by the higher castes. It is believed that the Dalits can pollute higher castes and therefore any kind of close physical contact must be avoided. As Sunga Kami explained above, Raju Bohara has to clean herself ritually after a visit to Sunga Kami’s household. She has namely exposed herself to pollution just by entering a Dalit household.
The untouchability of the Dalits has an immense influence on their daily life. In most parts of Nepal the Dalits are not allowed into Hindu temples; they cannot use the wells, taps or other water sources that are reserved for the higher castes; they cannot enter restaurants and tea-shops, but have to sit outside and eat or drink from plates and cups especially reserved for Dalits; at the grocer’s shop they have to keep a distance while the goods are delivered to them; they cannot enter the homes of upper castes nor settle nearby the upper castes’ hamlets. In many ways these restrictions imply that Dalits live on the margins of the Nepalese society.
The Doti district
We are in the Doti district in the far western part of Nepal. It is a beautiful mountainous area covered with pine trees and small terraces cut into the steep mountain sides. The white, impressive Himalayas follow the northern horizon and to the South one gets a picturesque view down the valleys. The turquoise blue Seti river winds through the deep gorges from the mountains to the low lands. At this time of the year the fields in the valleys are covered with young, green wheat sprout. On the hill sides the fields are still barren and grey. Only a few kitchen gardens light up the landscape. Most of these gardens belong to upper caste people, as do most of the fields surrounding the villages. Only a few households from the lower castes own a piece of land or a kitchen garden.
The Dalits in the Doti district belong to three separate low caste groups – the Kami, the Sarki, and the Damai. Traditionally each group is linked to a specific occupation. The Kami caste works as blacksmiths, the Sarki as shoemakers, and the Damai as tailors – occupations which in Nepal all are considered “dirty” and therefore only should be carried out by Dalits. The three groups are further divided into different subgroups, each with a separate occupation, such as Sunar (goldsmiths), Bhul (leather workers), Lohar (metal workers), Parki (bamboo handicraft workers), and Tamata (copper workers). The upper castes in Doti consist of Brahmins and Chhetris. Traditionally the Brahmins are priests or scholars. The Chhetris are the warrior caste. Today Brahmins still carry out their traditional occupation, but most Chhetris make a living as farmers, landowners, or businessmen.
The Dalits in the Doti district all live in separate hamlets apart from the higher castes. Most Dalit hamlets are densely built-up areas of small houses with mud walls. Some hamlets are placed on hill tops and one wonders when the next strong wind will pull them off the ridge. Round haystacks are kept on wooden pillars in the yards. In the glaring winter sun the hay shines with a warm yellow colour. A few households have livestock such as buffaloes and goats. They keep them in small stables next to the house.
From a few Damai households the sound of an old iron Laxmi sewing machine crystallises in the air. One or two Kamis spend the winter repairing ploughs and other farming tools. But today most Dalits in the Doti district do not practice their traditional caste occupation. In lack of skills and modern technologies their products cannot any longer compete with high quality products made in the cities. Instead the majority of Dalits make a living as day labourers on the higher castes’ land or by taking on different manual work such as cutting stones, selling firewood from the mountain sides, or working on road construction. The higher castes rarely pay in cash for the different kinds of work the Dalits perform for them. Instead they pay with lentils and rice grains around harvest time – a system known as Bali Ghare Pratha. The younger generation is not particularly interested in continuing their parents’ professions as these jobs are considered “dirty” and are looked down upon from the rest of the society.
Winter time is low season for day labour work. Men, therefore, hang around, waiting for spring to come where the seasonal agricultural work begins. Women are, on the other hand, always busy with the daily house work, such as cooking rice (dhal), lentils (bhat), and flat, barley bread (chapati), fetching firewood and water, feeding the buffalo or goats, etc.
Winter time is, however, a good time for weddings according to the Nepalese calendar. If a couple is married in January or February their life together will be endowed with prosperity and fortune. One morning a Kami visits the local Brahmin astrologer. He wants the astrologer to find the most suitable date for his daughter’s wedding. The Kami brings a steel plate with uncooked rice, an orange flower, and a five rupees-note as payment for the astrologer’s prediction. While the astrologer figure out the time for the marriage to take place, the Kami has to sit outside in the courtyard and wait for the answer. If he here by mistake touches the earth – since he is a Dalit – it has to be ritually purified with cow dunk. “It is our custom and we have to protect out culture”, the astrologer explains, while the Kami is leaving with the most suitable date for his daughter’s marriage: the 30th of January at 5.00 am. “This is how we have done it for generations. And how can we, the higher castes, change caste behaviour when the Dalits also differentiate among themselves? A Kami thinks that he is superior to a Damai and treats him accordingly. Also, if I meet a Dalit person on the path he will automatically step aside in order not to touch me. So he is just as well keeping up the tradition, isn’t he?”.
The Nepalese caste system
Nepal is the only Hindu kingdom in the world. The caste system is closely related to Hinduism. The Vedas – the 2500 years old sacred Sanskrit texts which Hinduism is based upon – separate the population into four groups: Brahman, Kshetriya, Vaishya, and Sudra. The four groups are hierarchically ordered with the Brahmins in the top and the Sudras in the bottom. According to the Veda’s creation myth, God created Brahman from his mouth, Kshetriya from his arm, Vaishya from his thigh, and Sudra from his feet. The Dalits or untouchables belong to the Sudra, those created from the feet and thereby the lowest of these categories. 20 % of Nepal’s population (22.6 millions in 1997 figures) are Dalits. More than 4 million people in Nepal are therefore considered untouchable.
In 1990 the practice of caste based discrimination and untouchability was declared illegal and punishable by law in Nepal. A person who is found guilty in caste discrimination can now be sentenced up to one year in prison or be fined to pay 3000 rupees (1 US $ is 74 Nepalese rupees). The law is, however, seldom taken into practice and numerous cases of discrimination against the Dalits are still taking place. As such the caste system still forms an essential part of the cultural landscape in Nepal.
Many Dalits explain their low status and untouchability as determined by the Gods. As Mohan Baral Kami, a Dalit goldsmith says, “God created the caste system and we have to accept our low caste status if not to make the Gods angry with us”. However, many high caste people also consider the Dalits to be impure because “they are dirty”, “they don’t keep their houses clean”, “they eat animals dead from accident or disease” – an explanation to the “impurity” which also are heard among Dalit themselves.
From a socio-economic perspective poverty is an important marker of the untouchables. Dalits are not only culturally inferior but also economically deprived. Since most Dalits in the hill regions own no land and only receive a small amount of grain as payment for their work, they are forced to take loans from higher caste people to buy food and other daily necessities. They hereby become a kind of “bounded labourers”, as they are obliged to work on the upper castes’ land to pay off the interest without much chance of ever being able to repay the loan. Most adult Dalits in the hills are illiterate, especially the women. Today some Dalits attend school, but rarely beyond second class for the girls and forth or fifth grade for the boys; quite a large number of Dalit girls do not attend school at all.
Migration and new strategies
Today almost every Dalit household have one or two male family members who work in India, either seasonally or for a longer period such as 5-10 years at a time. In India they find jobs as watchmen in hotels, dish washers, drivers, and other kind of casual work. Hill-Dalits have also begun to migrate to the Terai, the low land in the southernmost part of Nepal. In the Terai they hope to buy a piece of land or find new kinds of job opportunities.
The migration to the Terai also provide the Dalit families with new strategies to improve their social status. It is quite common among hill-Dalits to change their surname or leave out the caste indicator in the name – e.g. Kami, Damai, and Sarki – when they move to the low lands. By doing this they hope to get different and better possibilities within the caste system which they hope especially will be profitable for their children. Recently it has become popular among Dalits to convert to Christianity as a way of avoiding the caste system. Up till now about 10 % of the Dalits have taken on this new religious belief.
The caste system and its many manifestations has a strong impact on the every day life of Dalits in Nepal. But the caste system seen as a social system also opens up for individual strategies or multiple ways of choosing to navigate in this cultural landscape. As the local Chhetri healer, the Dhami Jhankri, in Doti tells: “Up here in my village I will never accept food from a Dalit’s hand. But if I travel to the capital Kathmandu I will eat food from everywhere, since in Kathmandu I don’t know the people so how am I to know who have cooked it?”.
Conflicts and Coexistence in Nepal by Vinaya Kasajoo
Every day and every year has its own importance and makes history of its own kind but the year 2001 holds special significance for the reason that Nepal is conducting its census, held every ten years. Conducting the census is arduous but this time it is going to be more difficult because people have understood the importance of census and different communities and ethno-lingual groups are determined to ensure that the census maintains their religion, language, profession and other vital statistics that oblige the policy makers to consider the socio-economic status of various groups while drafting policies and making decisions.
Age old discriminations against women, Dalits and the disadvantaged people are such in plenty in Nepal that they amply state why the country has remained undeveloped for so long and why the democratic culture still remains a wish for the people. The excess of the feudal practices is the reason why the Kamaiya or bonded labour system existed for so long even after the reinstatement of democracy in the country.
So different is Nepal’s geographical setting and its multi-faceted diversity that it stands “unique” in many respects. The diversity of the country is not only visible in the faces of people but in flora and fauna. Stretched only 150 kms north-south, the land ranges from 60 meters above sea level to the tallest 8852 meter Everest peak. Nowhere in the planet Earth is so much of divergence in the climate and culture and costumes within such a small area of land. As a result, Nepal is another name of diversities and for this reason, it is unthinkable that Nepal could or should ever be homogenous.
The varied geographical settings and the wide ethnic, linguistic and religious differences have been the bedrock to the development of the civilization and cultural set up of the country. Religion and culture have been so much part of the people that even those who call themselves ‘revolutionary’ dare not trespass the religious and cultural boundries, otherwise the consequences would be beyond control. Just like water diluting sugar and salt, the people of Nepal have diluted the varied diversity. Harmony and coexistence are not only the country’s specialities but a compulsion as well.
Relating to this backdrop, it is also surmised by some that violence could erupt when different communities, striving for their identity, wage a movement against all the existing inequalities. Some people have even held the view that on the basis of racial groups and linguistic backgrounds Nepal could one day break up as a nation into federal states. But with countries opting to be globalised under the World Trade Organisation, it is not only irrelevant but also fatal to think of breaking the country on the ground of racial and linguistic differences. The sovereignty of the country has to be defended, but by solving the existing disparities and inequalities. Despite equal provision for all in the constitution of Nepal, disparities between different communities are still pervasive.
Realising the gravity of conflicts and the reality of coexistence, efforts should be made at the earliest to narrow down the differences in the sharing of resources and state services and solve the conflicts in the way that the way conflicts are solved don’t trigger more conflicts.
Kirat Yakthung Chumlung is a non-political, non-profit making, Limbu indigenous peoples’ organization established in 1989. It was duly registered with the government in 1990 and affiliated with the social Welfare Council in 1994. Since its inception, it is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the Limbu Language and culture; the upliftment of the socioeconomic and educational condition of the Limbus; the consolidation communal harmony among the various communities; and the protection and promotion of human rights and indigenous peoples rights. Its activities are mainly concentrated in nine districts of Eastern part of Nepal as well as in Kathmandu and Lalitpur districts.
Paying glowing tribute to Kirat, a well-known historian, Mr. Brian Hodgson has opined Kirats, on account of their distinctly traceable antiquity as a nation and the peculiar structure of their langrage, are perhaps the most interesting of all the Himalayan races. Existing chronicles show that 33 generations of Kirat rulers reigned over central Nepal in the past. Bu, with the succeeding dynasties and their influences ultimately led to the disappearance of Kirat’s sociocultural heritage thereafter. The Limbus, a section of Kirat, are indigenous people of Eastern Nepal with distinct cultural identity of their own, which are at the verge of being wiped out in future, if not preserved now.
1. To undertake various activities for the upliftment of the Limbus, their language include Kirat Sirijonga script, literature. religion and culture.
2. To conduct research on subjects related to the Limbus and promote awareness among them.
3. To organize various activities of economic development in Limbuwan to improve the living standard of local people.
4. To make the Limbus, as well as other ethnic groups of Limbuwan, aware of the constitution of Nepal, their constitutional rights and the prevalent laws of Nepal.
5. To conduct effective programmes to curb the destruction of environment and ecosystem.
6. To develop and promote friendly relationship with other ethnic groups and communities, and hence work for the consolidation of democracy, national unity and preservation of the culture of the community.
7. To conduct awareness programmes against drug abuse and provide treatment and rehabilitation facilities for drug addicts.
8. To plan and carry out appropriate programmes in order to wipe out superstition and ignorance of people about health problems in rural areas. Also, to encourage them to make best use of available and possible means and measures in the field of (for) the primary health care.
9. To increase mass awareness among the people to stay away from AIDS and other fatal diseases. Also, to make them aware of safety measures and precautions against such diseases.
10. To work for human rights, indigenous rights and woman and child rights.
1. Kirat- Sirijonga award:
Sirijonga who died for the cause of promotion and preservation of Limbu language and script, ad award has been instituted in the memory of him for those who contribute for the promotion of Limbu language, literature and research studies on Limbu history, religion and culture.
2. Imansing Chemjong Award:
In the memory of Kiratologist and historian late Imansing Chemjong, this award is instituted to encourage the dedicated writers on Limbu literature.
3. Udaya Art Award:
Instituted to encourage the contributors in Limbu song, music and art.
All the above awards are presented in every third year.
Kirat Yakthung Chumlung organizes ‘Mundhum Swarnim Sanjh’ every year and other similar cultural programmes. Another highlight of Kirat Yakthung Chumlung is the presentation of drama in the Limbu langrage.
Talk Programme, Seminar and Workshop
Kirat Yakthung Chumlung organizes talk programme, seminar and workshop to highlight on different issues related to the objectives of the organization.
It is the supreme body of the organization and is held every three years. It adopts policies, evaluates past activities and programmes. forms the central executive committee of the organization and works out the direction of the organization.
The meeting of National Council is held every year. It monitors the programmes executed by central executive committee and also provides the guidelines to them.
Central Advisory Board:
Function of CAB is to advise in various issues to the Central Executive Committee.
Central Executive Committee:
It is the main implementing committee of the organization.
District Branch Committees:
These are the intermediary implementing committees of the organization. They are responsible for coordinating the activities of the village and municipality branch committees.
Village/Municipality Branch Committees:
these are the grass – root level implementing committees of the organization. The sole responsibility of implementation programmes of the organization to the grass-root level lies on these committees.
There are five types of members.
1. General Member
2. Life Member
3. Patron Member
4. Distinguished Patron Member
5. Honorary Member
A person from the Limbu ethnic group who complies with the provisions of the statute of Kirat Yakthung Chumlung can become a general member. Honorary memberships is given to a non- Limbu who has made contributions in promoting the Limbu culture, language, script, and religion. There are five honorary members of the organization.
1. Dr. Byod Michailovsky (USA currently working at LACITO/CNRRS, Paris, France)
2. Dr. Gerge van Driem (Netherland, currently working at Rijks University Leiden, Nethreland)
3. Pro. Shiv Kumar Shrestha (Dhankuta Multiple Campus, TU, Dhankuta)
5. Late A. Widart (Germany)
Personal or group contribution
Grant from donor agencies
Kirat Yakthung Chumlung
P.O. Box 4548
Kathmandu, NEPAL Tel: 977(1)520349
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
How can Dalit women be uplifted? by Pabitra Sunar
The so-called untouchable castes in our country are known as Dalits. It is only because they are born into the Dalit castes that society does not accept water touched by them, they are not allowed inside the house, and they cannot intermarry with other castes. This is inhumane treatment of man by fellow man. There is no greater or more inhumane discrimination in the world. One fourth of the national population is Dalit and nearly half of the Dalits are women. But in many areas of national life they have lagged far behind.
Whenever the problem of Dalits is mentioned, people generally understand it to mean caste untouchability. The problem of Dalit women is lumped together with the general problem of gender faced by other women. But the problem of Dalit women is separate from and more fraught than the problems of other women and Dalit men. The problem faced by Dalit men is the social one of untouchability, insult and economic poverty. Dalit women face these problems as well as the additional ones of total economic dependency on others and gender oppression within the family and in society. While there is no reckoning of the daily oppression around the house, at the kitchen, while shopping or fetching water, or when going to the temple, it is again Dalit women rather than their men folk who bear the brunt of communal violence at public places and torture. Apart from this, Dalit women are also at the receiving end when it comes to being beaten up, forced to eat feces or subjected to other forms of utterly inhumane treatment on accusations of practicing witchcraft. Furthermore, it is commonplace for upper caste males to entice Dalit women into sexual relations with allurements of love and marriage, and then leave them in the lurch. When they go in search of justice, justice is not to be found. The reason behind this is the economic indigence of the Dalits and their lack of access to the judicial and administrative machinery.
Dalits who have land have only enough of it for the produce to last them five or six months of the year. When such is the economic condition of the Dalit community as a whole, it can easily be imagined what the economic life of Dalit women must be like. Economic wellbeing has a big role in improving life standards. Once the economic level improves, education, health and awareness levels also follow. The extremely poor life standards of Dalit women can be put down to economic poverty. More than 70 percent of Dalit women are dependent on agriculture as a vocation. And most of those who are in this calling work not on their own land but on land belonging to others as agricultural laborers. While the overall Dalit literacy rate is 33.9 percent the literacy rate for Dalit women is only l2 percent. According to an Action Aid report, 90 percent of Dalit women suffer from prolapsed uterus. This can be attributed to the hard labor that Dalit women are forced to do to make a living. The life expectancy of other women is 58.9 years, but for Dalit women it is only 48.3 years. Out of the 200,000 agricultural laborers in the country 75 percent are Dalits. As agriculture labor and traditional caste based callings constitute the vocation of the Dalits, these are also life lines for Dalit women. Such economic conditions have made the situation of Dalit women extremely hard.
What the above mentioned facts show is that Dalit women are an extremely deprived lot. Life for this class is hardscrabble. There are in a ditch from which there is no getting out. With the advent of democracy the cause of the Dalit community has been taken up by government/non government organizations. But in practical terms neither has the state implemented the relevant laws nor have non-government organizations been able to make any big impact on society. And while it is the Dalit women who face the biggest problem, their problem has been sidelined. That is why there appears a clear need to bring the Dalit women into the mainstream of development. For this the Dalit women have first to be placed within the target communities. Joint evaluation and monitoring committees and pressure groups should be formed to see whether or not the things that governmental and non government organizations are supposed to do for Dalit women are actually done. Government and non-government organizations should come up with a concrete program calculated to improve the economic and educational conditions of Dalit women and implement these programs. Such a program should include compulsory free education, scholarships for Dalit women, a free medical service fund, employment-oriented skill training, land distribution for landless settlers, equal pay for equal work and a lot of other measures of economic reform. Such a program may be a stride in economic reform in favor of Dalit women, but a different kind of program has to be implemented for removing the social practice of caste untouchability. For this there should first of all be implementation of the law from the government level. With society deeply wrought in traditional ways, awareness should be aroused in the community through door to door campaigns, awareness-oriented training programs and radio and television programming with the focus on the rural community. Radio programming should contain material that is capable of changing the mindset of both Dalit and non-Dalit communities. This should make a positive impact against communal discrimination. Public awareness-oriented media programming can play some role in doing away with the oppression against women within the family. But the main approach to encouraging women in education calls for special initiatives by government along with the instituting of equal rights to parental property. The leadership class in society and the intelligentsia should sit down to eat together with Dalits and participate with them in entering homes. Special security arrangements should be initiated from the local level to cope with incidents of social boycott that confront inter-caste married couples. Yet, if Dalit women are to be rendered capable it is they themselves who should rise up. All these programs hold promise for the upliftment of Dalit women and utmost reform in their favor.
Padmalal Bishwakarma is a name in Nepal’s Dalit movement which needs no introduction. Born in Assam, India in 2007 Bikram Era, Bishwakarma has had formal education upto M.A. and M. Ed.. Although his permanent address is Shantipur, Ilam, he has of late been living in Kirtipur. A lecturer in English at Tribhuvan University’s Kirtipur Campus, he has been actively involved in the Nepali Dalit movement since a long time back. His thinking is that whatever one’s political belief, the Dalit movement should be advanced independently, and effectively. At present he is active as central chairman of the Nepal Oppressed Dalit Caste Liberation Society, an independent, effective Dalit organization and the country’s oldest. What follows is a synopsis of a conversation that Rem Bishwakarma had with him, focusing on topical issues in the Nepali Dalit movement.
1.Who are the Dalits and what is the Dalit problem?
-The Dalit problem is the joint manifestation of the problems of class and caste. In the hoary past cast divisions came about in the course of the division of labor. Society’s laborers and artisans became consigned to the sudra caste. With the intention of lording it over them and exploiting them for all times, steps were taken to reduce them to sudra slavery. In the course of time, the feudal practice of looking down on labor and on laborers and artisans resulted in the lowliest sudras being relegated to the status of outcastes and mistreated as untouchables. The community which consequently bore the brunt of caste discrimination and the oppression of untouchability are the Dalits of today. Starting out as a problem of class, the Dalit question subsequently assumed the shape of two special humanitarian problems. The Dalit question is not just a class problem but has become a distinct humanitarian problem also. The biggest problem of the Dalits now is inhumane caste discrimination and untouchability.
2. How do you look upon the present state of the Nepali Dalit movement?
-The Nepali Dalit movement finds itself at present in a state of crisis, uncertainty and transition. This movement which took its first steps in an organized form in 2004 Bikram Era had become well organized, integrated and capable by 2049. The historic entry into the Gorkha temple, the struggle for drawing water at Sipapokhari, Sindhupalchowk, the milk movements in Syangja and Nawalparasi, the Katunje water drawing episode in Kavre, picketing and fast at Singha Durbar and the like undertaken by an integrated organization under the name of the Nepal Oppressed Dalit Caste Liberation Society have to be accepted as milestones in the Dalit liberation movement. But this movement had to cope with various kinds of opportunism and schisms before it could complete 50 years. Following the restoration of multiparty democracy, Nepali Dalits became divided under various political parties or took up with project-oriented or sponsored NGO’s. Most of the political parties used the Dalit donor organizations as a tool for party expansion, but never came around to taking up the problems of the Dalits as a political cause. At the same time the innumerable NGOs which have sprung up like a cottage industry have turned the Dalit issue into a means of livelihood, and used the political parties as a bug bear to pull the Dalit movement away from the party movement and help blunt its revolutionary thinking. The political parties opened many fraternal organizations. In the process of running projects for the donor organizations these ended up becoming of the same ilk.
Following the launching of the people’s war by the CPN-Maoists in 205l and its starting a Dalit fraternal organization in 2055, a part of the Dalit movement took to armed revolution. As a result, the role of the fraternal organizations of other parties, independent Dalit bodies and sponsored NGOs became eclipsed, and the state of emergency, the Destructive Activities Control Act and the mobilization of the army, which were resorted to in the name of suppressing the people’s war, rendered the Dalit liberation movement inactive.
3. What has been the role of political party fraternal organizations and Dalit NGOs?
-Whether one should take to a revolutionary party which is on the right political path or form the Dalit people’s class organization of such a party is a question which is not out of place. But the intention of many political parties which start Dalit fraternal organizations solely for the purpose of using Dalits as a vote bank instead of treating Dalit liberation as a political question is yet to be made clear. The Dalit fraternal organizations of such parties have been corrupting the Dalit movement. The Dalit fraternal organizations of the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, RPP, Sadbhavana and other parties belong to this category. Some so-called Dalit leaders of these organizations have managed to grab political appointments, but there has been indifference to the question of securing the rights of the Dalit masses.
And Dalit NGOs are of two kinds – independent and family type. Some Dalit NGOs have been worked as a business. If only the project-oriented organizations carried out their work honestly, be it within the parameters indicated by the donors, it would be a stride towards creating a favorable environment for Dalit upliftment.
4. It is said that a personality-oriented approach reigns in the Dalit movement.
- There is bound to be the odd personality-oriented instance in all movements. Rather than going into whether or not such an orientation reigns, the important question is should such a tendency be allowed to develop within organizations or in the movement itself. A personality-orientation develops when a system of collective leadership is not fostered or there is arbitrary leadership and the activists and workers start currying favor with it, doing its every bidding. Personality-orientation can be discouraged by making an organization’s internal system more effective. I do not feel that this is something that cannot be tackled.
5. What should be the role of the Dalits in the context of the government-Maoists talks
-The forthcoming talks are meant to turn the problem created by seven years of civil war into lasting peace. Ending caste discrimination and untouchability is part of the cause espoused by the Maoist people’s war. It is definitely true that the ruling side has to date been knowingly ignoring this problem. At present when the country is about to transform itself politically, the Dalit community which has suffered the most from discrimination in Nepali society, should be able to turn this into an opportunity to secure its own rights. Organizations which came into being to work for the rights and interests of Dalits will loose their raison d’etre if they do not now go about securing for them due respect and their just rights. All the Dalit organizations should close ranks and work out a common agenda of these rights, make sure that this agenda reaches the talks table, and bring pressure to bear for the proportionate and just representation of their community from the talks process to the round table conference, interim government and election to a constituency assembly. The Dalit community is certain to lag behind for ever if the battle is not joined for time bound reservations in all areas by way of compensation for their oppression to this day through caste untouchability.
The Dalit community should wake up and exert pressure if the impending talks are not to remain confined to the division of the spoils of office among the government, the Maoist party and the other parliamentary political parties. We Dalits have to play a role in order to make these talks result-oriented in terms of being forward looking and the good of the Dalits. Abstract peace is not what we need. Caste discrimination and conflict will not end until circumstances are created that will bring the Dalits freedom, equality and justice in the real sense.
In this context it may be noted that efforts are continuing on the part of the “Dalit pressure group for talks” constituted by 16 non-governmental Dalit organizations under the convenorship of Nepal Oppressed Dalit Caste Liberation Society Chairman Padmalal Bishwakarma with Jagaran Media Center Chairman Subhas Kumar Darnal as member-secretary. This group is pressing ahead with its role in the context of the talks and, in the process, roping in other organizations as well.
6. How should the Dalit movement advance now?
- It is an undisputed fact that without a correct sense of political direction the Dalit movement will naturally and ultimately die a sad death. It is urgent for the Dalit movement to pull together with the caste liberation movement and push ahead on that basis. Marxism is the main philosophy of Dalit liberation also. The Dalit problem in our context is a triangular problem of class, caste and untouchability (CCU). Compounded by caste discrimination and untouchability, the Dalit problem has become a vexed one indeed. That is why this problem cannot be rooted out easily through a resolution of the problem of class alone. For this, additional efforts are mandatory. Additional efforts mean adopting a policy of positive discrimination and reservations until the Dalits are on a par with the high castes and classes. The movement should also forge solidarity with project-oriented NGOs, other human rights organizations and organizations working for the ethnic communities, women and the Madhesis. In sum, the Dalit liberation movement should become an integral part of the national liberation movement.
Nepal is known the world over as a “Shangri-la”, a peaceful and beautiful mountain kingdom. It is becoming increasingly apparent, however, that the snow-clad peaks cover a deeply divided and conflict-ridden society. Sharp divisions between the high-caste elite and the many ethnic groups and “untouchable” low castes prevail throughout the country. Ten years of multi-party democracy has not been able to address these conflicts. Instead, new divisions have been developed between the urban elite, who have become part of the global middle class, and their desperately poor rural countrymen. The conflicts have deepened. The main actors to step forward to use them have been the Maoist rebels. A violent insurgency, now in its sixth year, has spread throughout the country.
MS has chosen ” Peace, Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation” as the theme for Global Action for 2001 and 2002. This theme is of particular relevance for Nepal in the present context. There is a clear need to explore peaceful and constructive uses of conflicts to build a more equitable and just society.
As part of its Global Action activities MS-Nepal has cooperated with Aarohan, a Nepali theater group, to create a village theatre about conflicts as they are seen from the point of view of the oppressed. The long-term aim of the project is to build the capacity of our grass-roots partners to work creatively with conflict management. The project is aimed especially at partner organizations representing indigenous and ethnic groups and “untouchable” castes — groups who feel especially discriminated against in Nepali society. Through interactive theater in their own communities, the participants will develop their capacity to work constructively with local conflicts. The project will also form the base of an ongoing network between MS minority partner organizations working on conflict resolution.