UN condemns Dalit killings in Rukum (West) and calls for independent probeDespite constitutional guarantees, impunity for caste-based discrimination and violence remains high in Nepal, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says.
The United Nations has condemned the killing of five Dalit men in Rukum (West) and other incidents of caste-based discirmination and violence in Nepal and called for independent investigation.
Issuing a statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed shock in the Soti incident and other incidents of caste-based discrimination and violence that have taken place during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is distressing that caste-based prejudices remain deeply entrenched in our world in the 21st century, and I am filled with sadness for these two young people who held high hopes of building a life together despite the obstacles presented by their accident of birth,” said Bachelet.
“Caste-based discrimination remains widespread, not only in Nepal but other countries, and often leads to serious harm and, as in this case, even loss of life. Ending caste-based discrimination is fundamental to the sustainable development vision of leaving no one behind.”
On May 23, locals from Soti village in Chaurjahari Municipality, Rukum (West), had chased away Nabaraj BK of Jajarkot and 18 of his friends who had accompanied Nabaraj to the village to help him elope with a girl from the so-called upper caste. A day later, the bodies of Nabaraj and his friend Tikaram Sunar, both of them Dalits, were found on the banks of the Bheri river.
The bodies of Ganesh Budha, Lokendra Sunar and Ganesh Budha, who went missing in the river, were recovered from the river that borders the districts of Jajarkot and Rukum (West) in Karnali Province. Meanwhile, search is underway for Gobinda Shahi of Bheri Municipality-11.
“Despite constitutional guarantees, impunity for caste-based discrimination and violence remains high in Nepal,” said the UN human rights chief. “Nepal has taken big strides to address this scourge, but so much more can and must be done to eradicate this blight on society. This is especially the case when the Covid-19 pandemic has increased their vulnerability.”
Bachelet has also drawn the authorities’ attention to the suspicious death of a 13-year-old girl after an alleged rape in Rupandehi district. The girl was allegedly raped by a 25-year old man who was asked to take the victim as his wife.
Two days later, on May 24, the victim’s body was found hanging from a tree near a stream. It has been reported that the man's family had rejected the girl saying that she did not belong to their caste.
Bachelet called for an independent investigation into both incidents. In the statement, she stressed that the victims and their families have the right to justice, truth and reparation.
The UN rights body said since the start of the lockdown, several cases of caste-based discrimination, incidents of rape, assault, denial of funeral rites and discrimination at quarantine sites have been reported.
It said Dalits continue to face discrimination at every level of their daily lives, limiting their employment and educational opportunities, the places where they can collect water or worship, and their choice of who to marry.
The National Human Rights Commission too had issued a statement and directed the government to conduct an in-depth and impartial investigation into the incident and take action against the guilty.
Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa had told the National Assembly that the government had formed a five-member team to investigate the Soti incident.
Twelve people, including the 17-year-old girl, her parents and Dambar Bahadur Malla, the ward 8 chairman in Soti, were arrested on Tuesday for investigation. Police are searching for eight others involved in the incident.