Nepal: Killing underscores persistent problem of inter-caste discrimination

Recent violence sparked by an inter-caste marriage in a Nepali village shows the government must do more to end caste-based discrimination, advocates say.

Rights groups say the family of a woman from a so-called upper caste attacked and killed Sete Damai, a 50-year-old Dalit man in central Nepal in August.

The violence was sparked after the man’s 20-year-old son, Santa Bahadur Damai, eloped with his girlfriend, 22-year-old Raj Kumari Shahi. The couple had been together for two years.

Witnesses said the union enraged the woman’s family. Eyewitness Pabitra Damai told rights workers 15 people from the woman’s family stormed the home of the man’s family August 13.

“When the boy's father asked them the reason, they said: ‘how did your son dare to get married to an upper-caste girl while being a Dalit?’ They then attacked the boy’s father with a knife and severely beat other member of family,” the witness told a September fact-finding mission led by rights groups and members of the National Dalit Commission, a government body.

Sete Damai died on the way to the hospital.

According to the Nepal National Dalit Social Welfare Organisation (NNDSWO), an advocacy group that aided the victim’s family, members of the fact-finding mission recommended that the man’s alleged killers be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

The case is far from unique in a country still troubled by inter-caste discrimination. In a 2009 incident in the same district, villagers forced a Dalit man to pay a fine of Rs 60,000—about £460—after he wed a woman from a higher caste.

Incidents such as this, as well as August’s violent attack, show that Nepal’s government must make more urgent moves to root out caste-based discrimination toward Dalits, according to NNDSWO.

For example, the government has recently endorsed sweeping anti-discrimination legislation, known as the Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability (Offence and Punishment) Act. The law stipulates heavy punishments for perpetuators of caste discrimination, yet NNDSWO says the law has yet to be implemented effectively.

“Many similar incidents of human rights violations arising from caste-apartheid, deep-rooted in Nepal, are reported every year. However, the Nepali government has failed to prevent these incidents effectively, even though Nepal is a party to most of the international human rights treaties and instruments,” the organisation said in a statement.

Photo: Santa Bahadur Damai, 20, and Raj Kumari Shahi, 22, come from different castes. Rights groups say Shahi's family members killed Damai's father, because they opposed the couple's marriage. (Credit: NNDSWO)

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Date: 26/10/2011





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