How a Dalit woman fell victim to caste-discrimination in Pokhara
Rupa, a 35-year-old single mother who worked jobs at construction sites, was looking for a better job. Her friend told her about a job vacancy as a house help at a household in New Road, Pokhara. Her potential employer, Leela Pradhan, was the owner of a school in the city.
Rupa went to Leela at the latter’s school accompanied by her 12-year-old daughter and the friend who had arranged for the job. “I was hoping for a job that would be less laborious than the one I had at the construction site,” said Rupa. Along with employing Rupa, Leela promised to enroll Rupa’s daughter at a private school free of cost. “I was so relieved. My daughter would get a good education,” says Rupa.
The two agreed on the terms and Rupa was to begin work soon. Then Leela enquired about Rupa’s surname. Rupa told her that her last name was Bishwokarma.
That was when Leela hesitated and took back the job offer she had just made to Rupa. “Don’t take it otherwise bahini (sister). Our gods will get angry and Kuldebata (family deity) does not tolerate Dalits in the house,” she said.
Leela said she could not employ Rupa in her house because the latter would have to prepare meals for the family which wouldn't be allowed. Rupa’s daughter silently witnessed the episode.
“Everything was agreed. And then she refused to employ me as a domestic help when I told her I was a Dalit,” Rupa told the Post. She said that what shocked her was that an educator like Leela would harbour such discrimination against Dalits. “If the school operator who was also a school principal discriminates Dalits in this way, what do you expect uneducated people to do? What do her students learn from her?”
Legal practitioners stated that one cannot discriminate any person on the basis of caste. “Refusing to employ people or remove them from work or discriminate in wages and salaries on the basis of ethnicity, origin, race and occupation is clearly against the legal provisions of the country,” said advocate Shiva Sunar.
According to him, one will be jailed to a three-month to a three-year jail term and fined Rs 50,000 to 200,000 if one is found guilty on caste discrimination charge.
However, despite the legal provisions, people like Rupa fall victim to caste-discrimination at the hands of non-Dalits. “This was just one instance of caste-discrimination I have had to face. Times are changing for everybody but us,” said Rupa.