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Why non-Dalits’ silence is also violence against Dalits

File: A participant of a demonstration that demands justice for Dalits

Often I faced one common question from my friends, seniors, and juniors: why I always write on caste-based discrimination, why not on other issues. They accuse me of being a casteist who always talks or writes about the caste issue. According to them, there is no such scenario as I wrote.

But, unfortunately, the media coverage of caste-based discrimination and its consequences speaks a lot. Generally, within a month, the national media publish around two to three news items about the issue. On the other side, there are many such incidents that are unheard of and unaddressed. More than that, the local leaders and police administration force survivors to stay silent and not to take legal action. Even they threaten the survivors of grave consequences if they initiate the legal process.

In this context, I think not only me but every conscious citizen, non-Dalits even more, should speak against violence against Dalits. If they fail to do that, they could also amount to violence against the Dalits.

The recurring disease

Once again, this old disease of caste discrimination came to society with the Rupa Sunar-Saraswati Pradhan controversy. Reportedly, it began with a casual conversation as Sunar asked if Pradhan could give her a plat at her house. At one point, Pradhan was very positive to give the flat to Sunar. But, when Sunar revealed her caste as a Kami, everything changed. The house owner refused to give her room because of her caste.

File image: A Dalit settlement in Terai

After that, Sunar decided to seek the help of the law. Hence, she filed an FIR against Pradhan and the police even arrested the house owner. But, it later divided society as some supported Pradhan and some others Sunar. The contents posted on social media were very pathetic. A large mob of non-Dalit attacked  Sunar with worse comments just because of her caste and the community to which she belongs. Even government officials, scholars, journalists, and artists stood on the side of the caste system and discrimination. Their arguments and activities reflect the social psychology of the people regarding the issue.

Some news reports and people’s comments on social media on caste-based discrimination tells everything about the social structure of our society. The incident divided the people and reflected ethnocentric thoughts of people who yet are supportive of caste discrimination. They openly advocate for discrimination and say, “We will follow caste discrimination until and unless Dalits are denied reservation facilities.”

But, in fact, Dalits are not alone to get the reservation. Dalits get only nine per cent of the reservation seats whereas women, ethnic tribes, the disabled, people from remote areas also get reservations. Sadly, the non-Dalits only see the reservation for Dalit, which is very less as compared to the oppression of these so-called non-Dalits.

In Nepal, Dalits are attacked, killed and tortured by non-Dalits because of caste. There are many tragic accidents like the Rukum massacre, and the murders of Ajit Mizar, Sete Damai, and Angira Pasi because of their caste. There are many Rupa Sunars, Deepa Nepalis, and Karuna BKs, who were asked to leave the rented rooms because of the caste. There are many discrimination cases happening in the country, but very few were addressed.

Silence is violence

Usually, in caste-based discrimination cases, the survivors get tortured by non-Dalits. They also discourage the survivors from taking legal action against the accused. Non-Dalits behave as if the survivors commit a crime by filing a case. Right now, we can see people’s comments about Rupa Sunar’s legal fight for justice. Peoples’ comments are extreme and against humanity and law. 

A majority of non-Dalits do not like to talk about caste-based discrimination. Even the youth and student unions do not like to participate in Dalits’ protests. Remember, they are the ones who go for a strike on price hikes in fuels. These are the youth who protest on animal rights but remain silent in caste discrimination incidents and Dalit murders.

Photo: Pixabay

Similarly, top leaders of political parties, union leaders remain silent. It shows that we have very ethnocentric and narrow thoughts on such vulnerable issues. Non-Dalits’ absence in the Dalit movement proves it. Media, civil society and progressive groups actively raise voices against caste-based discrimination, but that is not enough unless non-Dalits actively support the cause. They should understand caste-based discrimination is not only the problem of the Dalit community. It is the common problem for all Nepalis if we analyse it minutely.

When a black man named George Floyd was killed in the USA, the white community actively took part in the protests by holding big placards and banners on the streets. They joined hands with the black community for justice, equality and humanity. One slogan, “Silence of a White is violence” held people’s attention very effectively. Even police personnel said sorry and asked for an apology to the black community.

But, in our context non-Dalits make alliances to fight against the Dalits when they make efforts to get justice for example by filing a case against any act of discrimination. They accuse Dalits of trying to attack social norms and values and corrupting society. The is an understanding of social crime in our society.

Mainly, the hypocrisy of non-Dalit is one of the major factors to perpetuate caste discrimination in our society. Their silence adds to the casteist attitude in our society. But, remember, caste discrimination is a virus of society. It will destroy the mutual harmony among the people. It will erase the unity of people. Therefore, people should think twice before doing anything about it.

They should stand for humanity. Moreover, the entire nation should fight against inhuman activities that differentiate people on the basis of castes. People should unite together for self-esteem, social freedom and equality. Otherwise, society will face a worse situation in the future. 

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Pariyar is a Kathmandu-based writer interested in human rights, caste-based discrimination and emancipation.

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