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Dalits - lowest Hindu caste
Who are the Dalits?

Since Dalits perform menial tasks, traditional societies consider them "unclean." Higher castes are thus required to avoid close contact with Dalits, leading to a generations old segregation of society. The Dalit caste has further been divided into different groupings in accordance with the type of work the groups are limited to. For example, communities engaged in tailoring, or playing musical instruments, or communities involved in washing clothes, or in making clay pots, or working with metal will be given different family names in accordance to the type of work they do. Dalits are often referred to as the occupational or artisan caste.

The ongoing discrimination of Dalits in Nepali society proves a major obstacle to the overall human development in the country. Deep rooted beliefs about the impurity of Dalits have been difficult to transform. Recurring incidents of discrimination at public water taps, restaurants, milk co-operatives (milk supplied by Dalits is refused). and temples are daily occurrences. For example in one incident, a three-year-old girl from Sindhupalchowk District was beaten to death by a high-caste Brahmin woman when the girl touched a high-caste water-well. In another incident in Silgadhi Municipality, in Doti District a group of Dalit women tried to enter the famous Saileshwori Temple. They were refused entry although Dalits are also Hindus, they are excluded from worship at temples. Such incidents continue to be common for many Dalits.

Due to their poor economic and educational status, Nepalese dalits have been exploited since ages. Especially after the restoration of democracy in 1990 they have fallen victim to rice-Christianity and Maoist movement. Since early childhood, from playgroup to school and college they were ostracised. Even the teachers discriminated them. Even in the most developed cities like Katmandu Dalits have to hide their identities to get a rented appartment.

Caste discrimination in public places is theoretically illegal in Nepal since 1963. Nepal has signed all international treaties and conventions against racial discriminations. The democratic Constitution of Nepal 1990 clearly states the Right to Equality and Non-Discrimination. Despite these laws and rules, discrimination is still practiced in Nepalese society.

The Hindu religion has categorized Shudras (Dalit or untouchables) as the serving class and in some scriptures they have been denied even the human status. From centuries, they have been barred from sharing public amenities; water taps, wells, schools, temples and tea stalls with the uppercaste. The Manusmriti is so harsh against Shudras that it bars them from acquiring property and treats them as pariahs. In ancient times, their life was worse than that of animals. In the 14th century, King Jayasthiti Malla, a King of Kathmandu formalised this system. He caterogised castes based on their work; touchables and untouchables. And in 1853, Prime Minister Janga Bahadur Rana further reinforced the discrimination by bringing a Civil Code.

The number of Dalits in the Maoist movement is high. According to estimates of a US about 30 percent of the People's Liberation Army are dalits. According to the National Census 2001, Dalit population hovers around 4.5 million, which is over 20 per cent of the population of Nepal.


Facts about Dalit
Dalits make up 20% of the total population
80% of the Dalit population lives below the poverty line
Per capita income= US $ 39.6
Literacy rate: 10% (19.64%, SCF source)
Female Literacy rate: 3.2% (9.65%, SCF source)
Share of Dalits in cultivable land:1%
70% of Dalits are malnourished
Life expectancy: 42
Source: National Dalit Preparatory Committee Nepal for WCAR
more information
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Women, Dalit and Ethnic Groups
Hindu Religion Dalit Liberation Front of Nepal (Unified)


Externe Links
MS Nepal Danish Association for International Cooperation
MS Nepal Dalits
International Dalit Solidarity Network
Dalit NGO Federation
Empower Dalit Women of Nepal, Boston, USA
Nepal Dalit Information