‘I’m shocked it happened to me’. Record-breaking athlete comes to grips with caste-based discriminationChandra Kala Lamgade, who has represented Nepal in two South Asian Games and an Asian Championship, is seven months pregnant and was allegedly attacked for standing up against discrimination.
She holds two national records in athletics, works for Nepal Police, and is seven months pregnant. But all these things didn’t matter to her neighbours who beat her up, even putting her unborn child at risk.
“I never thought someone would take the liberty of assaulting me and think he would get away with it because I am a Dalit,” Chandra Kala Lamgade, 27, who holds the national record (women’s) for javelin throw and shot put told the Post from her bed in B&C Hospital, Birtamod.
“I am shocked it happened to me,” said the policewoman who is now on deputation to the Area Police Office, Dhulabari, Jhapa.
It all started on Monday, when Lamgade confronted her neighbour and former Nepal Army personnel Durga Shrestha, along with his wife Bishnu, who attacked Rajan Darji, a local Dalit man, at around 8 pm allegedly for visiting their eatery.
Darji had fled to Lamgade and her husband seeking help after the incident. “When we confronted the Shresthas, he [Durga] attacked me and my wife and verbally abused us. Rajan had come to us because the Shrestha couple attacked him for being a Dalit,” Chandrakala's husband Suman told the Post. “The husband beat me up with his belt and the wife attacked Chandrakala.”
The national athlete, who has represented Nepal in two South Asian Games and an Asian Championship, is seven months pregnant, and is worried about her foetus.
Lamgade was immediately rushed to Manakamana Hospital following the incident and was referred to B&C Hospital on Tuesday morning. Dr Sunita Roy, gynaecologist involved in her treatment at the hospital said, “The foetus may have sustained injuries. We are looking into the case.”
According to locals, Nima Sherpa came to Jhapa three months ago and was in contact with Darji. The two, who had already spent 15 days in quarantine, were having lunch at an eatery run by the Shresthas on Monday. That was when the couple allegedly started abusing Darji.
“You should not have come to my house. Are you here to spread coronavirus?” the couple told Darji, according to Nirmala Pariyar, executive committee member of Mechinagar Municipality. “Shrestha misbehaved with Darji and verbally abused him because of his caste,” she said.
Lamgade’s husband, Suman registered a complaint against the Shresthas at the Area Police Office in Dhulabari on Tuesday. Acting on the complaint, security personnel have detained the couple. "An investigation is going on after the district court remanded them in custody," said Inspector Kailash Chaudhary.
“This is not an isolated incident of caste-based discrimination in the district,” said a police source. Dalits are often discriminated against in society and are pushed to the periphery in almost every sphere of life, activists say. "Such social crimes have been overshadowed mainly due to the indifference shown by law enforcement agencies. Incidents of caste-based violence are aplenty in Jhapa, but perpetrators go unpunished," said Tikaram Mangranti, a Jhapa-based rights activist.
Incidents like these take place despite the enshrining of the right against untouchability and discrimination in the Constitution and provisions of punishment in the criminal code, activists say.
A group of Jhapa-based rights activists met officials on Wednesday and demanded a fair investigation into the case. Activist Hukum Singh Nepali said, "The victims should get justice." They have demanded that the Shresthas be punished as per the Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability (Offence and Punishment) Act 2011.
Meanwhile, at her hospital bed, Lamgade is coming to grips with the situation and contemplating her achievements. “I thought I had finally passed the caste barrier prevalent in Nepali society. But the recent incident came as a rude reminder that despite my achievements, the society will always look at me as a Dalit, unshielded and exposed to caste-based violence everyday,” she told the Post.