BAJHANG, Feb 25: Working hard for years and seeking loans from others, Kailash Bahadur Okheda of Kotdeval in Bjahang had opened Kotdeval Meat Shop in his locality. Okheda, however, was forced to shut the shop and bear a loss of more than Rs 300,000 "for being a Dalit."
These days, he feels being a Dalit has been nothing more than a sin for people like him. "Politicians make lofty promises to us during their speeches but in reality we are treated like animals," said Okheda, adding, "Despite all the campaigns and awareness programs, nothing has changed over the years."
In the beginning, he was doing a good business but as soon as the people knew about his caste, they stopped coming to his meat shop. There were times when people returned the meat bought from his shop after finding about his caste.
There were three more butcher shops near his shop, which were run by the so-called upper caste people. As all of his customers switched to other meat shops, he had to bear a great loss. He could not stand the discrimination and hence decided to close his shop.
However, life has to go on, so he started earning his living by selling vegetables and repairing cycles in Shanti Marg of he district headquarters Chainpur. "Every time we hear leaders speaking for the rights of the Dalits and the underprivileged, we hope for a change but nothing changes at the end," said Madan BK, the owner of Diyo Fresh House.He laments, people of his community are not even allowed to run their businesses with their own money despite their will. He had hired two non-Dalit workers for his shop but they left their jobs refusing to work under a Dalit. After bearing enough loss, he too was obliged to shut down his shop.
Though the government has announced to slap three-year jail term and Rs 30,000 fine against those discriminating or ill-treating people for their caste or race, untouchability is still deep-rooted in the rural parts of the country.
Many meat shops in the district headquarters Chainpur operated by Dalits like Damai Masu Pasal, Alok Masu Pasal, Diyo Fresh House and Kotdeval Meat Shop were closed as a result of caste-based discrimination.According to Shankar Rasaili, Secretary of Bajhang Chambers of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), records show that Dalits had opened more than 12 meat shops between Daulek and Talkot but all of them have been closed now. He says Dalits are compelled to change their profession as the so-called high caste people refuse to buy meat from them.
Surprisingly, Chief District Officer (CDO) Prem Singh Kunwar says not even a single complaint of caste-based discrimination was registered in the last one year. "I understand, it is widely prevalent but most of such cases are registered in the district court also may be we don't have the officials to look after such cases," said CDO Kunwar.
Caption: Kailash Bahadur Okhed, owner of Kotdeval Meat Shop.