Back and forth

  • Even with societal advancements, multiple forms of discrimination still thrive in Nepal
- Prayash Raj Koirala
Back and forth

Jul 13, 2015-

Despite poor developmental progress, the revival of globalisation has been the cause of a lot of changes in this country. Cities and even villages are leaping forward in many ways. Villages with wooden houses and shades are turning into concrete buildings, dhikis have been replaced by electric grinders, people who once owned bicycles now ride motorbikes and tractors have eased the tremendous task of ploughing. The internet is turning into a necessity rather than a luxury, and Facebook is something that even non-internet users know about. Life has become much easier over the years.

Yet, on the other hand, despite all this progression, it is somewhat aggravating to see people and their views remain stagnant and unprogressive. More specifically, ethnic and racial discriminative practices and feelings remain deeply rooted in the mindset of the people. I happened to be a witness of this discrimination during my recent trip to various parts of the country.

Witnessing discrimination

A few other people and I were in a meeting at a community school in Sankhuwasabha where we were talking about the upgradation of the school building. For almost a decade now, the school has been run in a rented building. One of the members of the school committee told us about the problem of their landlord who often gets drunk and screeches, ordering them to clear the building. However, the way in which he—whom I suppose is from the so-called Brahmin or Chhetri caste—described the problem was surprising. “Every now-and-then, that Sherpa man comes drunk and orders us to vacate the school building. Had it been anyone else (any other ethnic race) I would not feel so bad but...” he complained to us. I do not understand the difference between being thrashed by a Sherpa guy and a person from any other tribe. Does caste serve any significance in this case?

The second incident happened while my friend and I were on a local bus travelling to Biratnagar from Dharan. Both of us were frustrated because the helper of the bus, supposedly from a ‘Mongolian’ race, had his rude voice turned on with ‘taa’ or ‘timi’ being used to address the passengers who were Madhesis, whereas a polite ‘tapai’ was being used for others.

The third incident is one I heard about from a relative. My aunt had been talking about someone who eloped with a guy a few months back. The girl ran away because her Brahmin parents did not allow her to marry her Chhettri boyfriend. I was surprised to hear my relative’s comment on her, blaming the girl for making the mistake. But aren’t the parents responsible for this incident? Had they easily accepted their daughter’s choice, the story would be a happy one. Yet her parents’ stubbornness made her take an other path and unfortunately, she herself is being blamed and ignored. I have also heard of parents disapproving a guy or girl of other caste for their child just because they have this ‘what will the society say?’ fear despite they themselves being supportive of their kid’s choices. I agree, to a certain extent, that society’s view should be considered; yet, if the view itself is wrong, we should try to change society, not ourselves.

Federalism, again

Against the backdrop on the ongoing discourse of ensuring inclusion and rights to marginalised groups through federalism, clearly, the lawmakers have a lot of work to do. Despite widespread discrimination based along the lines of caste, ethniciy and gender, pushing for ethnic-identity federalism could widen the gap between the different castes and ethnic groups. So politicians should instead urgently work on advocating understand the importance of respecting people regardless of their gender, class, caste, among other things.

I also see the role of a good education system in bringing about the change. Education, awareness and an effective implementation of existing policies can play a significant role in this scenario. Similarly, the younger generation should not be lectured on the false stereotypes of people based on caste and ethicity.

In this case, ignorance is bliss.

Koirala is a student of business management

Published: 14-07-2015 07:48

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