Practice of Untouchability in Nepal

By now, every one of you has been familiar about the term “untouchables”. The autobiography, Growing Up Untouchable in India by Vasant Moon has provided us with the image of the condition of Mahar’s in the village called Nagpur. As I was reading the book, I reminisced about the situation of the lower caste people in Nepal who were known as the dalits. Till I read the first chapter of the book, I didn’t know that dalit was the term chosen by the group themselves. Even though I was familiar with the word from my childhood, I never knew its meaning.

In our school, we had to study about the different ethnic groups in our country and dalits were also one of them. When I first encountered with the word, I was in grade 4. I remember, we were told that the dalits were the untouchables. As I was naïve to know about the prejudice that existed in my society, I imaged that the dalits were like aliens as everyone pictured them not be touched. Later, as I became more familiar about the term, I watched some episodes of Nepali television serial which was telecasted in order to aware the people’s superstitious beliefs towards the dalits. In that serial it was clearly shown how the dalits were deprived of their rights. I still remember the scenes of that episode. In rural areas of Nepal, the dalits were considered to be the untouchables. It was said that those who would touch them were regarded as filthy, so they were discarded from the society and were not allowed to fetch water from the taps of the community. In addition, the dalit students were not allowed to sit on benches in the school. They were discriminated for being the low caste and therefore were forced to sit on the floor. Similarly, if they had meal in the restaurants, they had to wash their dishes by themselves.

Furthermore, when I was growing older, I came to know about the situation of the dalits in my country more. There was news which talked about the young dalit girls who had been kidnapped and raped. It was said that the police didn’t make any inquires to find the lost girls as they belong to the lower caste groups. Similarly, even after the repetition of such crimes, the government didn’t show any necessity to amend the laws and provide the deserved rights for the dalits. However, after the long struggle of the movement of dalits in search of human rights, they have been successful to get the equal rights as the other groups. In today’s context, the government has amended laws to eradicate untouchability from Nepal. However, there exist many villages in Nepal where the practice is still prevailed till today.

Doom Para (neighborhood)

  When I was reading Vasant Moon’s autobiography Growing Up Untouchable in India, I was reminiscing about an untouchable community beside my own neighborhood. The name of my neighborhood is “Moulovi Para.” There are another four neighborhoods around my own neighborhood, and in the west side of my neighborhood, there is a neighborhood of the untouchable people which is called “Doom Para.” The people of this community are known as “Doom.” Who are these dooms? Let me clarify.

From my childhood, I have been noticing that people of my community and other two communities hate the dooms. What’s their mistake? Their one and only mistake is that they were born in a caste called “Shudro.”  According to Hinduism, there are four castes of people, and “Shudro” is the lowest caste. There is a superstition followed by people years after years is that those people who are born in this lowest community might be  worst sinners in their previous lives, so in this rebirth, God has sent them in the lowest caste. As a result, they are considered as the impure people who are untouchable for the other people. If other Hindus touch them, it is believed that their caste will be impure, and their prayer will not be granted to the God (What a biased God!). However, I am not sure whether this superstition is true or false, but I heard about Hinduism from my family and neighbors.

Now, I want to share some of my own experiences with these people. The Doom Para is on the way of our school, and there is a shortcut road to the school through this neighborhood. It is needless to say that it was forbidden for us to go through the Doom Para, because they were untouchable. I can remember, when any man from Doom Para came to our neighborhood, naughty children used to irritate them saying slung languages. I can reminisce about the laundryman. Every time when he came to our house, he couldn’t enter. If any doom unfortunately entered into the house, my mother and my aunt used to sweep the floor of the whole house. There is a big pond in Doom para. One day my elder sisters and cousins went to swim there. One man from our neighborhood saw them, and he informed my uncle, who is very radical. As a result, my uncle punished my sisters and cousins ruthlessly. Can you imagine how much people hate the dooms?

Finally, I want to share one interesting thing. Most of these people maintain their livelihood as fishermen (Jailla as an inferior name), barbers, or laundrymen. Although people hate them, and don’t touch them, they eat fish caught by dooms, and go to the barbers and laundrymen as well. Isn’t it ridiculous????