Samata Foundation demands justice for Rukum (West) victims

Samata Foundation, an independent think tank that studies caste-based discrimination and marginalisation, has called on the government to launch an impartial investigation into the Rukum (West) incident.

Nabaraj BK of Ward No. 4 in Bheri Municipality and Tikaram Sunar of Chaurjahari Municipality were found dead on the banks of Bheri River in Bheri Municipality, Jajarkot, on Sunday.

According to police, 21-year-old Nabaraj, along with 18 of his friends, had gone to Soti in Chaurjahari Municipality of Rukum (West) to bring a 17-year-old girl as his bride when the locals allegedly attacked them and chased them towards the Bheri River. Nabaraj and his friends had jumped into the river to save themselves.

Police on Monday recovered the body of one more person from the Bheri river in Rukum (West).

Twelve of the men were injured in Saturday’s incident, while three are still missing. Search for the missing persons is underway, police said on Monday.

"We condemn the inhuman act that occurred in Rukum (West) on May 23,” reads the statement released by the foundation on Tuesday. "We demand that the concerned authorities launch an impartial investigation into the incident and call on civil society, media and citizens for their participation and cooperation to end every kind of violence and discrimination against Dalits."

Samata Foundation said that the incident was the result of an attempt by a young Dalit man to solidify an inter-caste love, which shows how caste discrimination is still so prevalent in the country despite the constitution guaranteeing that no citizen should be discriminated against based on anyone’s caste.

When the constitution itself has declared Nepal as a country free from caste-based discrimination, the murder of youths from Dalit community becuuse of their caste is against the rule of law, the statement reads. “The incident proves that Dalits are still facing such inhuman behaviour.”

"We demand formation of a high-level investigation committee to investigate the incident, punishment to those involved in killing BK and Sunar and search and rescue of the youths who are still missing in the Bheri River." added the statement.

“We also demand protection of the life and property of the family members and relatives of the victims.”

On Tuesday, people including Dalit rights activists staged a protest at Maitighar Mandala in Kathmandu demanding justice for the victims.

“The dead should be declared martyrs,” said Manjit Tamrakar, a former member of Dalit Commission, who was one of the patricapants in the protest. “The family should be compensated and the perpetrators should be punished.”

Meanwhile, the Nepali Congress, the main opposition party, too issued a statement on Tuesday demanding an impartial investigation into the incident.

“We take it as violence against the Dalit Community,” the statement reads.

Meanwhile, a group of citizens has also issued a statement saying that they are deeply concerned by the incident in which three youths have died and three have disappeared.

“Nepal was declared free of caste-based discrimination and untouchability after it became a republic state,”the statement reads, “We want to draw the attention of the concerned authority in this matter.”

The statement is undersigned by Daman Nath Dhungana, Arjun Dhakal, Arjun Karki, Bhojraj Pokharel, Bipin Adhikari, Birendra Mishra, Chandani Joshi. Similarly, Charan Prasain, Ganesh Mandal, Kanak Mani Dixit, Kapil Shrestha, Kedar Bhakta Mathema, Lili Thapa,Rajendra Dahal have also signed the statement followed by Rameshwor Khanal, Rem Biswakarma, Renu Adhikari, Rita Thapa, Shyam Shrestha, Sushil Pyakurel and Tika Dhaka and appealed to the government for the proper investigation of the incident and to guarantee such incidents won’t happen in the coming days.

The government has formed a five-member probe team to investigate the incident.