National Seminar on
Raising Dalit Participation in Governance
Organised by Centre for Economic and Technical
3-4 May 2004, Lalitpur
The seminar began with
Inaugural Session in the morning at 9:00 on May 3, 2004. Professor
Hari Bansh Jha, Executive Director of CETS presided over the
Session. Hon'ble Mr. Ram Prit Paswan, Deputy Chairman of National
Assembly was the Chief Guest on this occasion. Mr. Shailendra
Kumar Upadhya, former Foreign Minister, Mrs. Durga Sob, President,
FEDO and Mr. Dev Raj Dahal, Representative, FES addressed on
While delivering welcome address, Professor
Jha highlighted on the programmes of the seminar. Additionally,
he also gave details about the contributions made by FES in
Nepal for the benefit of women, weak and marginalized sections
of the society, apart from labourers and informal sector workers.
He also mentioned certain activities performed by CETS in cooperation
with FES in the past years.
Ms. Durga Sob in her speech expressed that
the lack of participation of the Dalits, including the Terai
Dalits in the governance is the main reason for the backwardness
of this community.
Mr. Shailendra Kumar Upadhya stated that the
law for removing untouchability and caste discrimination cannot
be effective in the absence of social movement. He also added
that the political parties should present themselves as model
by promoting the interests of the Dalits so that it could have
demonstration effect in the society. He also added that proportional
representation system, instead of Westminster model of democracy,
might address the problems of Dalits, which if applied could
bring at least 20% seats to this community in parliament.
Mr. Dev Raj Dahal pointed out that the state
would have to pay very high price for the exclusion of Dalits
from the national mainstream. He rightly suggested that a genuine
solution to the denial of Dalits from the superstructures of
governance lies in making political power in Nepal proportional
to its representatives of the social diversity and social identities.
In his inaugural address, Hon'ble Mr. Ram
Prit Paswan, Chief Guest on the occasion stated that the Dalits
have been deprived of opportunities by the state through legal
mechanism. Discrimination against the Dalits has been perpetuated
by the state, he added. He said that it was because of the social
movement by the Dalits that King Mahendra introduced Muluki
Ain, which, however, neither made meaningful change in the society
nor did it remove caste-based discrimination. He concluded that
the caste-based discrimination with Dalits cannot be resolved
until such discrimination is eliminated by the Dalits themselves.
At the end of the Inaugural Function, Professor
Hari Bansh Jha hoped that the seminar would help the policy
makers, planners and government to bring desirable change in
the society by increasing Dalit participation in governance.
He also gave vote of thanks to the participants, apart from
the Chief Guest and other distinguished speakers on this occasion.
Immediately after the Inaugural Function,
the first session started in the morning at 11 on May 3, 2004
in which Mr. Tek Tamrakar presented his paper on "Existing
Pro-Dalit Policies and Barriers in Implementation." Mr.
Tamrakar discussed different policies aimed at improving the
quality of life of the Dalits, which included constitutional
promises, welfare legal provisions and more especially the Ninth
Plan and the Tenth Plan. Apart from this, the paper also discussed
in detail about the role of such national bodies as National
Commission for Dalit, Ministry for Women, Children and Social
Welfare, Committee for Deprived/Depressed and Dalit Community,
National Commission for Women, and Human Rights Commission for
addressing the problems of the Dalits. It was found that most
of the policies could not be implemented effectively mainly
because of the ambiguous nature of the Nepalese constitution,
though it is expected to be reflected as mirror of a country.
He said that the Nepalese constitution has just copied American
jurisprudence without Nepalizing it. "The constitution
does not say that untouchability should be eliminated but only
points out that it should be prevented," he added. He strongly
felt the need of affirmative actions and reservation to eliminate
caste based discrimination with the Dalits.
Dr. Sumitra Manandhar Gurung made comment
on the Mr. Tek Tamrakar's paper. She mentioned that as many
as 14 interventions were made during the multi-party system
after the political change of 1990 to address the problems of
the Dalits. However, she concluded that most of these interventions
do not bear fruit for the simple reason that the government
does not want to implement the policies. In his comments on
the paper, Mr. Yam Bahadur Kisan, Lawyer maintained that the
paper ought to have mentioned the groups whose interests are
served through these policies.
Mr. Desh Bahadur Sarki, former member National
Dalit Commission said that priority should be given to education
for the upliftment of the Dalits, who constitute one-fourth
of the country's population. He added that the approach for
implementing reservation policy should be `bottom to top' rather
than `top to `bottom.'
Mr. Suman Kharel, Mr. Nepali Sah, Mr. Lal
Babu Yadav, Mr. Mohan Singh, Mr. Kiran Kharel, Mr. Baburam Vishwokarma,
Ms. Pabitra Sunuwar, Mr. Pramod Chalise, Ms. Rupa Jha and other
persons from the floor also raised pertinent questions, which
the author answered satisfactorily.
In his chairman's remarks, Dr. Mohan Man Sainju
said that the caste-based discrimination with the Dalits is
associated with social structure and as such the solution also
be sought there.
The Second Session of the seminar was chaired
by Mr. Nepali Sah of Save the Children Japan. Mr. Padmalal Vishwokarma
presented his paper on "Situation Analysis of Dalit Women
of Nepal." In his paper, Mr. Vishwokarma presented population
of Dalit women. Apart from violence against Dalit women, he
also discussed several measures adopted in the past for their
improvement. At the end of the paper, he has given useful recommendations
for the upliftment of socio-economic conditions of these women.
In her comments on the paper, Ms. Anita Shrestha
of FEDO stated that such aspect as rape and trafficking of the
Dalit girls and women should also have been covered in the paper.
She concluded that without participation of women in national
politics, their condition is not going to be improved.
From the floor, Mr. Sharad Pathak stated that
the paper highly exaggerated the caste based discrimination
with the Dalits in Hindu religion. Dr. Basant Vishwokarma, Mr.
Tek Tamrakar, Mr. Suman Kharel, Mr. Kiran Ghimire, Mrs. Ranju
Thakur and Ms. Pabitra Sunar expressed their views for empowering
Dalit women. Mr. Padmalal Vishwokarma answered many of the questions
raised from the floor. Mr. Nepali Sah, Chairman of the session
said that the paper should incorporate situation of Dalit women
of Terai. He also added that gender discrimination is less pertinent
among Dalits than the non-Dalits, which is a positive aspect
and need to be give due focus by media and the stakeholders
so that it could have demonstration effect in the society.
Next day on May 4, 2004, the Third Session
opened at 9:00. Noted Dalit activist and Chairperson of FEDO,
Ms. Durga Sob presented her paper on "Dalit Women and Reservation
Policy." Mr. Tek Tamrakar, Lawyer chaired the session.
Mr. Meen B. Vishwokarma was commentator on the occasion.
In her paper, Ms. Durga Sob stated that the
government ignored the problems of the Dalit women. She also
said that the protective actions in favour of Dalit women could
not be properly implemented. She expressed surprise as to how
the Dalit population declined by 3% in the 2001 census. She
concluded that since the Dalit women are triple victims from
society, males and economic and social conditions, they should
be given due participation at different levels through reservation.
While commenting on the paper of Ms. Durga
Sob, Mr. Meen Bahadur Vishwokarma said that there should be
reservation within reservation and in this process the most
disadvantaged even among the Dalits should be given priority.
Such a system, if developed, could benefit Dalit women most.
The problems, however, of the Dalits cannot be addressed until
there is cooperation between Dalits and non-Dalits, he said.
Besides, he dwelt on various factors that led to the decline
of Dalit population in the last census. He said that a man if
falls into the well needs the support of somebody from outside
to pull him out. In the same way, the cooperation between Dalits
and non-Dalits is essential for the emancipation of Dalits,
he added. He wanted that more of focus should have been given
in the paper for the political and economic empowerment of Dalit
women. Showing disagreement with the sentiment of the paper,
he said that Hindu religion has not discriminated Dalits but
it is Hindu culture that has made such discrimination. He said
that Buddhists or even Christians have not treated Dalits as
equals in taking food and in other matters. So Hindu religion
as such cannot be held responsible for such discrimination with
Dalits or Dalit women.
From the floor, Mrs. Ranju Thakur commented
that the Terai women need to be given as much reservation as
the other women at the grass roots level, apart from the Dalit
women. Mr. Ashok Upreti pointed out that the paper by Ms. Durga
Sob does not deal with exploitation of Dalit women by Dalit
women, though it discusses exploitation of the Dalit women by
higher castes' people. Mr. Shambhu Hazara Paswan, former member
of National Dalit Commission said that there is room for comparison
between Dalit male of Terai with Dalit women of the hills in
various socio-economic indicators. Professor Tribhuvan Nath
Jaiswal of Tribhuvan University felt the need of feminist movement
rather than gender movement and wanted that such a seminar should
be organized at the grass roots level so that the policy makers
are influenced to increase Dalit participation in governance.
He also wanted that separate political constituencies should
be developed for the Dalits in which none other than Dalits
could contest elections. Besides, Mr. Suman Kharel, Mr. Pramod
Chalise, Ms. Sarla Sigdel, Mr. Suresh Mijar, Mr. Lakshman Paudyal,
Ms. Pabitra Sunar and Mr. Toya Laudari suggested various measures
for implementing reservation policy. Ms. Durga Sob answered
all the queries raised from the floor. Finally, Mr. Tek Tamrakar
in his concluding remarks highlighted the role and importance
of reservation for the upliftment of women and said that the
objective of reservation is not to give employment but to develop
confidence among the target groups for participation in politics,
administrative, judiciary and different other fields.
The Fourth session started in the afternoon.
Mr. Desh Bahadur Sarki, Former Member, National Dalit Commission
chaired the session and Professor Hari Bansh Jha presented his
paper on "Dalits and their Participation in National and
Local Governance." Mr. Motilal Nepali, Chairperson, Dalit
Welfare Association and Mr. Om Prakash B.K., Dalit Specialist,
Reservation Management Recommendation Committee commented on
In his paper, Professor Hari Bansh Jha presented
historical perspective of caste discrimination and found that
there was no such discrimination in the initial Vedic period.
It was very sad that this mental disease crept up in the Hindu
society during certain period of time, he added.
Professor Jha compared certain key socio-economic
indicators of Dalits with non-Dalits in different sectors, including
in economic opportunities, political and administrative structure.
Since the Dalits are not homogenous communities and there are
different worlds even among the Dalits, priority should be given
to each Dalit community as per their needs - be it in education,
health, political or administrative bodies, he said. In this
context, he discussed some of the cases of upward mobility developing
among the Dalit communities. He also talked that because of
certain change in the Nepalese society these people have gone
out for seasonal migration and now they have been able to improve
their economic conditions to such an extent that they need not
rely on the traditional landlords or money lenders for their
survival. At least, this is truer of Terai Dalits. Because of
some of this development, there is silent revolution in the
society and the economy is benefiting a lot from the Dalits.
While commenting on the paper of Professor Jha, Mr. Motilal
Nepali laid emphasis on joint struggle against caste discrimination.
He clearly spelt out that the centuries old discrimination against
the Dalits cannot come to an end unless these disadvantaged
communities are brought in the national mainstream by giving
them due share in political, administrative and other social
Commenting on the paper of Professor Jha,
Mr. Om Prakash B.K. said that the paper should have clearly
mentioned Terai perspective wherever it is necessary. He suggested
that the paper should come out with conclusion as per its spirit
that the nation cannot progress until the Dalits are brought
in the national mainstream through reservation and they are
given due share in political, administrative and social sectors.
When the floor was opened for discussion,
Mrs. Ranju Thakur stated that Dalit's participation in various
layers of administration is pre-requisite of good governance.
Mr. Basant Kumar Vishwokarma from Tribhuvan University pointed
out that the paper should have gone deeper in its bid to trace
out the origin of caste based discrimination. Mr. Ashok Upreti,
Mr. Kamal Bahadur Chand and Mr. Suresh Mijar also expressed
views for the improvement of the paper. Speaking from the chair,
Mr. Desh Bahadur Sarki made useful suggestions for the improvement
of the paper and also for the empowerment of the Dalit community.
In this context, he concluded that unless the policy of `one
man one post' is effectively implemented in various political
appointments at the national levels like in Dalit Development
Committee and National Dalit Commission, the least disadvantaged
among the Dalits such as Damai, Sarki, Badi in the hills and
Musahar, Chamar, Tatma, Khatwe, Dusadh, Dom, etc. in the Terai
cannot be benefited and the exploitation of comparatively weaker
Dalits by the stronger ones would continue to exist.
The fifth and the final session of the Seminar
was chaired by Mr. Motilal Nepali, Chairperson, Dalit Welfare
Association. Mr. Hira Vishwakarma was the paper writer, while
Mr. Dharma Swornkar was the commentator. In his paper on "The
Scenario of International Development Aid in Nepalese Dalit
Movement," Mr. Hira Vishwakarma dealt with various multilateral
and bilateral agencies that supported Dalit movement in Nepal.
In this context, he categorically mentioned European Union,
ILO, UNDP and UNICEF among major multilateral institutions which
extended support to various programmes aimed at improving the
quality of life of the Dalits. Of the major bilateral agencies,
the USAID, CCO and now DFID have been supporting various programmes
for the upliftment of Dalits. Among the INGOs, the Save the
Children US, ActionAid Nepal, The Asia Foundation, Lutheran
World Federation, CARE Nepal and OXFAM have also extended support
to Dalit related programmes. Besides, a number of Dalit organizations,
including DWO and FEDO, have been working for the welfare of
the Dalits. All these agencies - multilateral, bilateral, INGOs
or NGOs - have been playing important role for the overall empowerment
of the Dalits. He added that the national and international
agencies should give priority to the Dalits in various employment
opportunities with a view to assimilating them in the national
mainstream. Finally, he observed that unless the problems of
Dalits are addressed poverty in Nepal will continue to exist
for ever and, therefore, all international communities should
prioritize Dalit issues in their policies, programmes and budget.
Commenting on the paper of Mr. Hira Vishwakarma,
Mr. Dharma Swornkar mentioned that foreign aid includes grant,
loan and direct foreign investment; while the paper's focus
is confined to grant aspect of aid alone. He also suggested
that it would have been better if the paper could have mentioned
sectoral allocations of foreign aid.
While speaking from the floor, Ms. Lynn
Benette of the World Bank observed that in the changed context
an analysis is needed about the impact of Nepal's accession
to the WTO on the life of the Dalits. Mr. Desh Bahadur Sarki
suggested that there should be transparency in aid that comes
for the Dalit community. Mrs. Ranju Thakur felt the need for
assessing the impact of the aid that has come for the sake of
the Dalits. Mr. Ram Bhattarai said that the paper is silent
about the main output of the foreign aid in regard to Dalit
upliftment. Mr. Bishnu Vishwokarma, Mr. Ashok Upreti, Mr. Pramod
Chalise, Mr. Lakshman Paudyal, Mr. S. R. Khadka and Mr. Basant
Kumar Vishwokarma raised various useful questions, which the
commentators and paper writer answered satisfactorily. Mr. Bal
Krishna Jha presented rapporteur's report, which was appreciated
by the participants. Mr. Motilal Nepali speaking from the chair
suggested some measures for making foreign aid more effective
for Dalits. At the end, Professor Hari Bansh Jha gave vote of
thanks to the participants, FES, resource persons, guests and
all those who extended support for the success of the seminar.