Nepal | April 23, 2019

Question of empowerment: Caste or class?

Atindra Dahal

Unless we start tackling issues of class over caste, empowerment of the people who have lagged behind in society will take too much time. Therefore, there is a need for a change of focus

Equality is the most measured issue of democracy and baseline reflection of freedom. It positions top among all principles of human rights.

Thus every state across the globe tries assuring that people are equally treated. Besides government, NGOs and INGOs too claim to work for the very notion. So is the case in Nepal. Still many people are discriminated, left devoid of freedom and sacked away from equality.

Few prejudiced scholars vent large aggression over race, group and gender as the tool to breed discrimination and exercise inequalities.

The Bhramins, Chhetris and Newar groups, till now comparatively dominant in Nepalese society, are accused of discriminating and marginalizing others.

Those scholars have coined a phrase ‘CHHE group’ to oppose them and have been blindfolding the rest of the society through academic and media practicing. The fact inference confusion cum fallacy they have made to point to caste as the cause of discrimination is greatly misleading the nation and dividing society.

A misfortune is that since we have stressed the gap in caste instead of class, the problem has not been solved so far and inequalities do not seem to be removed. A misjudgment of caste as the root of domination in society has fueled bickering, delayed the anticipated sequel and intensified the hatred.

The discrimination practiced by one group to another and one race to next has already been a thing of the past. Though we keep on unwisely recriminating, caste discrimination is only a subject of footnotes in history books now.

Communal discrimination is no longer rife though it was an ugly trend in past. Mode of discrimination has largely shifted and by one to another on the basis of class in common.

The advent of capitalism following demolition of feudalism means that if economic status is upgraded, no one will suffer from discrimination in society. Provided education and economic status are improved, other rights are automatically commanded.

Only the points where people feel strength and judge themselves are education and economic proliferation. So balancing class than objecting to caste, which is neither a choice of people nor is it a tool of minimizing discrepancies, is a must.

The real development is economic and education. People feel changes only if economic standard is improved. That makes people count freedom and equality. Caste, religion and other sorts of differences slowly fade away from society.

Modernization, busy schedule and extended awareness drive people to a point that they no longer tolerate such man-made parochial parameters of subjection. Even now, high caste people are not robust enough to follow the codes their forefathers made.

It has simply been an inheritance that can’t be erased as a result of choice. Behaviorally, there is profound hobnobbing of all sorts of castes ever defined.

Besides awareness, often people feel ashamed and awkward to continue believing in such myopically built unscientific and inhumane principles of discrimination. An assimilation of being socially outcast governs them. Thus practicing discrimination on caste is neither excusable nor even being exercised.

Either on self-assimilation or outer pressure, the praxis of discrimination has almost elapsed. Interracial marriages are frequent. Social hobnobbing is fine. But class remains everywhere. Now is the time, the identity of people have shifted to class.

People feel honored to have differences in class and struggle a lot for the very status. And often inequalities are tolerated or transacted on the same basis.

If any foreigner visits us, we normally extend great respect. But the honour of very spirit is never reciprocated in case any Nepali even with higher status visits other countries.

The first dollar billionaire of Nepal, Binod Chaudhary, has encapsulated the experience, which is documented in his memoirs as well.

So was it to be accepted, though not respected, on the ground that the majority of outsiders have developed a negative assumption about Nepal as we are economically weak and often rely on others’ aid cum donations.

The identity and strength of either individual in society or nation in international area is economic, which we should think for powerful empowerment, in nature and culture both.

Even in our society, a rich woman is never accused of being a witch. Neither is any rich Dalit banned in social gatherings nor is any economically sound Janajati treated with low respect.

Without having an economic sufficiency, even an Aryan cannot enjoy privilege or domination in society as is blatantly accused by caste-based activists. Nor is a female isolated in an educated family during her menstruation.

The country has the national anthem written by a Rai and its music has been given by a Gurung. All three branches of government have female heads. Irrespective of caste, each one is rightly credited and concerned if s/he has capacity.

Instead of paying too much attention to caste, priority is to be given to class.

If the gaps between the classes are narrowed and people in the lower classes are empowered, development in other areas will take place automatically and the freedoms will be enjoyed by all the people.

Unless we start tackling issues of class over caste, gaining the real empowerment of the underprivileged people will take a considerably longer time than expected.

Therefore, there is a need for a change of focus for the empowerment of the people.


A version of this article appears in print on December 16, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.


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