Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ambedkar’s ideology is the only way for Dalit liberation in Nepal: Om Prakash Gahatraj

In conversation with Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Om Prakash Gahatraj is an encyclopedia of Ambedkarite movement in Nepal. I mentioned Ambedkarite movement particularly as he was associated with a vetran leader Mohan Lal Kapali who took Baba Saheb Ambedkar to various Dalit basties in Kathmandu when he visited there to attend the World Buddhist Conference in 1956.  He worked in different capacities with the government of Nepal to help them on various issues related to Dalits and their uplift.
          He is now engaged in Dalit movement of Nepal. He is also the Chief editor of “Pratinidhi” tri-monthly literary Dalit Magazine published in 80s. Writer of the Biography of Mr. Mohan Lal Kapali (Senior Leader of Dalit Movement) published by DNF/ESP. Published many articles in leading newspapers, journals etc. He spoke to Vidya Bhushan Rawat on various issues concerning the Ambedkarite Dalit movement in Nepal.

VB : You mentioned yesterday about the visit of Dr Ambedkar in 1956. It is interesting to see how the Nepali Dalit community welcomed Baba Saheb on his visit. I would like to listen from you a little more about this visit and who were the people who hosted him and which places did he visit. What did he advise to the people.

OM :   The Govt. of Nepal and Buddhist Group hosted Dr. Ambedkar. He visited Dalits areas (dwellings) specially Deopatan (Pasupati Temple Area), Sahagal (Lalitpur), Dhalku-Chettrapati( Kathmandu) and Bhaktapur. After looking the worst conditions of Dalits, he advised Dalits to go in struggle in large scale for emancipation from this condition.

VB : Where did he stay ? Who were the people who invited him ? 

OM:  The Govt. of Nepal and Buddhist Group invited Dr. Ambedkar  to play vital role to make success of Buddist Conference in Kathmandu on 1956. He stayed in Sital Nivas (Govt. Guest House- Presently President House).

VB: Baba Saheb redefined Buddhism in India. He felt it was the only way out for the emancipation of the untouchables. Did Buddhism play same emancipatory role in Nepal for untouchables or they have been culturally religiously remained Hindus. Is there any movement to carry this message of Baba Saheb in Nepal?

OM: As far I know no Buddhist did campaign in Nepal to emancipate Dalits from this caste based discrimination. They are remained religiously limited and very rarely they speak for equality in their religious speech. We social workers do movement to carry messages of Baba Saheb in Nepal. 

VB: According to your narratives of life of Mohan Lal Kapaliji, Baba Saheb also visited Pashupatinath temple. Are you sure of it? Is there any photograph available? What was his reaction to visit there?  Did he express his desire or it was the local community leaders who wanted him to go there.

OM:  The major area of Dalits was in Deopatan which is the area of Pasupati Temple. Formerly it was called Deopatan Area and now it is called Pasupati Area.  Dr. Ambedkar visited that area to see the condition of Dalits not to worship Pasupati Temple. On the way he saw Pasupati Temple being in the same locality of Dalits but did not worship. Even today there are thousands of Dalits living there. Neither the Dalit leaders wanted him to go there nor was his desire, it was on the way so he saw it.

VB: I can understand the pain Baba Saheb Ambedkar felt deeply disturbed on seeing the conditions of Dalits in Nepal. What was his initial reactions and what advise did he give to the people here. 

OM:  Dr. Ambedkar was angered with the behavior of Nepal Government towards Dalits of Nepal and said he was betrayed by the leaders of Nepal while talking in Delhi about Dalits of Nepal. After returning from the visit the leader of the team of Dalit leaders Mr. Saharsanath Kapali (Eldest brother of Mr. Mohan Lal Kapali) gave tea reception in honor of Baba Sahib at the Sital Nivas.  At the reception Baba Sahib called on Dalits of Nepal to go on struggle for rights.  

VB: You mentioned that Baba Saheb wanted to meet the prime minister but when the PM came to know about Dr Ambedkar's wish to meet him. He himself came to Sheetla Bhavan. Could you elaborate of that meeting? Did the PM give any particular assurance to Dr Ambedkar.

OM: I never mentioned that Baba Saheb wanted to meet the prime minister. When Baba Saheb visited Dalit Basti (Area) and saw the worst condition of Dalits, he became angered against the attitude of Nepal Govt. towards Dalits of Nepal. Seeing the anger mood of Baba Sahib, the liaison officer who was associated on behalf of Govt. in the visit reported the anger of Baba Saheb to the Prime Minister of Nepal (Mr. Tanka Prasad Acharya). After the return of Baba Saheb to the Guest House (Sital Nivas), Then Prime Minister Hon. Acharya invited Baba Saheb to his residence to talk about this matter. When Baba Saheb showed his reluctance to go in his residence, Hon Acharya himself came to the Sital Nivas and assured to Baba Saheb to give due attention to the development of Dalits.

VB: Where is Ambedkarite movement in Nepal ? What have been their achievements ? Could you share with us the role of Mohan Lal Kapali ji in promoting Ambedkarism and strengthening the Dalit movement in Nepal.

OM:  Ambedkarite movement is run by most of Dalit leaders not by non Dalits till now
in Nepal. Late Mr. Mohan Lal Kapali run Ambedkarite movement throughout his life in Nepal. We were also educated and informed about Baba Saheb from him. Now most of Dalit leaders in Nepal are convinced that Dr. Baba Saheb’s philosophy is only the way to get rid of caste based discrimination.

VB: What has the the civil society role in Nepal to eliminate discrimination against Dalit. Is there solidarity among various movements in Nepal with the cause of Dalit rights?

OM:  There is a little role of the civil society in Nepal to eliminate discrimination against Dalit. There is solidarity among various movements in Nepal with the cause of Dalit rights.  But most of the civil society organizations are led by Bramins so there is some problems to be done the work by heart.

VB: What is the status of Dalits in Nepal? Is there affirmative action on part of government for the Dalits in Nepal ?

OM:  No one Dalit is in the council of Ministers even today whereas Dalit’s population according to Govt. statistics is more than 13.2 %. Only one Dalit is Chief District Officer out of 75. Out of 601 Constituent Assembly members, only 41 Members are from Dalit community. There is less than one % Dalit recruitment in the Govt. civil service. There is very little affirmative action in the laws that too very poor implementation because all the top leaders of major political parties are Brahmins. They do not like to lose the existing opportunities of their families.

VB: Nepal has outlawed untouchability but discrimination against Dalits and practice of untouchability is prevalent. How does the government handle them? What is the role of NHRC and National Dalit Commission in all this. Do they have power to summon and dismiss the officials who are found violating the law of the land?

OM:  NHRC only can recommend to Govt to implement the laws. National Dalit Commission is not constitutional body so it has no power. It can only request to the concerned agency to provide justice. But the stakeholders so far are showing a deaf ear. The Govt. has assigned the job of over-throughing this problem to Dalits itself through National Dalit Commission and Dalit Development Committee. Non Dalits are not interested in this job.

VB:  How strong is the role of left organisations or parties in strengthening the Dalit movement in Nepal? Are they considered to be friend or allies? How do Ambedkarite organization, if there are any, consider them. What do you think has been the role of the Maoists in fighting for the rights of the Dalits in your country?

OM:  All they are using Dalits for their own and throw them into the garbage after use. This is reality. Most of the leaders of left parties also are Brahmins so it is easy to understand the reality.

 VB:  Are political parties ready to give fair representations in their structure or they still want to continue with patronizing attitude?

OM: They are giving very less representation to Dalits but not in decision making level in their parties to show inclusion to donors.

VB: What is the way out to eliminate caste discrimination and untouchability?

OM:  The only way out to eliminate caste based discrimination and untouchability is to follow Dr. Ambedkar’s philosophy “Be educated, Be organized and Do struggle”.

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