OHCHR seeks independent probe into Rukum west incident

Kathmandu, May 30

Expressing concern over two separate incidents — death of five young Dalits and a 13-year-old Dalit girl’s rape and subsequent death — the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for independent investigation.

The OHCHR expressed concern about the Soti incident and murder of a girl in Devdaha of Rupandehi.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said, “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,” in a press statement issued from Geneva.

On May 23, Nawaraj Biswokarma, 21, of Bheri Municipality of Jajarkot District along with his 18 friends had gone to Soti village to escort a girl from the so called ‘higher class’, to marry her. The girl and the boy were in love and had decided to elope.

The group however, was, confronted by the locals in Soti village, including ward Chair Dambar Bahadur Malla and the girl’s family at around 6:30pm that day. The boys were reportedly ‘beaten mercilessly’ and chased towards the Bheri River ‘forcing’ them to jump into it. Of them, the bodies of five youths, including that of Nawaraj, were found on the following days, while authorities are still struggling to recover the body of one missing youth.

A search team deployed by Nepal Police had found the body of Sandip Biswokarma,17, from the river on May 27. The body of Lokendra Sunar,18, was found on May 26. Bodies of Nawaraj and Tikaram Sunar were found the day after the incident while Ganesh Budha’s body was found two days later. Govinda Shahi,17, who had also jumped into the river is still missing. Everyone except Ganesh and Govinda are Dalits.

In another incident that took place in the Tarai region of eastern Nepal in Rupandehi district, 13-year-old Angira Pasi, a Dalit girl, who was allegedly raped on May 22, was found hanging from a tree the next day. Locals had forced the rapist to marry the girl on the day she was raped.

Bachelet in the statement stressed that Nepal was a state party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, one of the core international human rights treaties. “After its last review in May 2018, the Committee tasked with monitoring the treaty observed that despite abolition of untouchability in Nepal, Dalits continued to face deep-rooted discrimination,” read the statement.

The official added that the coronavirus pandemic has made the underprivileged communities more vulnerable.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on May 31, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.