Dalits refers to “group of people who are religiously, culturally, socially and economically oppressed by the elite groups”. According to the census 2011, Dalit population comprises 13.6 percent of total population of Nepal. Majority of Dalits live in Terai and Hilly region of Nepal. Muluki Ain (Civil Code) 1854 established Nepal as “Hindu state” and divided people on the basis of caste based hierarchy . With this societal structural difference, Dalits movement started with the objective of social reform in Nepal.
The pioneer of Dalit movement, Sarbajeet Bishwakarma started the movement against the meaning of untouchables on the Hindu scriptures which does not discriminate people as either ‘touchable’ or ‘untouchable. However, it was being politicized with the struggle of democracy. Post democracy further entrenched the movement with establishment of several Dalit organizations with a view to abolish the caste-based discrimination and envisioned social reformation. Samaj Sudhar Sangh (1952) launched the program called “Pashupati Temple Entry Program,” a famous Hindu temple located at the heart of Kathmandu. Similarly, Nepal Rastriya Pariganit Parishad in 1957 followed same campaign to end the caste biasness. Likewise Nimna Samaj Sudhar Sangh-1951, Jaat Tod Mandal- 1951, Pariganit Nari Sangh -1955, Rastriya Achhut Mukti Parishad -1958 were some Dalit organizations who actively adopted social reformations as a core element for Dalits to be liberated from their suffrage.
Later, Nepal Rastriya Dalit Jana Bikaash Parishad -1967 launched the campaign for “Reservation for the Dalit in the state mechanism” in 1972. Consequently, in post multiparty system, Civil Service Act 1992 ensured the inclusion of Dalits in civil service. Similarly, Nepal has ratified the UN- “Convention on Elimination of All forms of Racial Discriminations” in 30 January, 1971. National Dalit Commission in 1997, National Human Rights Commission in 2000 and National Women Commission in 2002, were governing structure established to promote the status and dignity of Dalits community. Further, Government initiated the Ninth Plan (1997-2002), periodic policies with separate chapter that outlined the objectives, policies, strategies and programs for Dalits and other disadvantaged groups. Eventually, Dalits received an opportunity to foster more cultural pluralism and representation in the national level. Moreover, it promoted the Dalit as discourse, increased wider dissemination and provoked concern for Dalits in the government.
On contrary, Dalits community couldn’t get an opportunity to be recognized at the national level due to graded hierarchy and patriarchal orientation. They were still excluded from the forefront of politics, states ‘service and decision making process. Their agendas were basically oriented towards the veiled system of governance in which class of people became the ‘service-class’ for rest of the society.Among them, especially women were central victims of domination, domestic violence and discrimination within and outside the community. Scholars suggested that politicians and their aspirations driven politics directly provoked the social forces to struggle for their liberty, equality and identity beyond the state structures. Dalits people hoped that only the Marxist regime would resolve their issues through radical change. Thus, they supported the People’s Liberation army, joined armed conflict and then April Uprising 2006 that ended with comprehensive peace accord.
At present context, Constitution of Nepal 2015 completely abolished the caste- based discriminations and gender inequality along with five percent reservations. Though they get an opportunity to explore themselves at socio-cultural, economic and political aspect and access to occupation still they are excluded by implications at grass root level. Further, the Dalits leaders are divided among the interest groups and mainstream politics, decreasing the effectiveness of their organizations. Remote areas marginalized Dalits are still away from access of information about their rights and privileges. Even still caste system is prevalent between inter and intra community which is creating the communal violence in the name of caste hierarchy. Sexual violence issues are still pertaining issues on Dalit community.
To sum up, Dalits movements are continuing their objectives to guarantee the equity in terms of identity, representation and treatment at institutional level. Considering its aim, the movements needs to work on inter-sectional collaboration to resolve their issues at grass root level. Lastly, the activist should not be diverted towards own interest rather he/she should devote for community’s welfare service, aware about access to services and dignified integration within the society.