Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Riot police charged a group of opposition lawmakers yesterday as they were peacfully protesting to demand protection for the rights of the Dalits in the new Constitution. An estimated 50 caste-less politicians (so-called "untouchables") were involved, at least 26 of whom were taken to hospital, some seriously injured.
The protesters belong to different parties, but they are united in the Joint Dalit Political Committee against new measures contained in the draft charter set to be approved. According to Man Bahadur Biswakarma, representing Dalit Constitutional Assembly on behalf of the Nepali Congress, "the draft of the new Constitution is a step backwards into the past because it does not guarantee the rights of minorities, which have been inscribed in the interim constitution."
"In the past – the politican continues – we were deprived of the most important rights as the Hindu religion labeles us as 'untouchables' and as the lower caste. We only seek equality and targeted measures to empower the Dalits. We want proportional representation just as there is in the rest of the world, but the government irying to forcibly suppress”.
Jeetu Gautam, who suffered a strong blow to the head during the clashes, said: "In the past we were forced to an inhuman life. People could not touch us and we were punished if we touched water taps or the waters of a river. We were ven prohoibited from touching food or visiting a temple. "
The aggressive reaction of the police has triggered protests by activists: "The government has become violent against minorities and peaceful protesters - says Saru Sunuwar - and the police violence must be punished."
Interior Minister Bam Dev Gautam justified the actions of the police saying that the protest was getting out of control and accused the protesters of becoming violent.
After the proclamation of a secular state in 2006, the Maoist government outlawed caste discrimination typical of Hindu society. However, in many districts of the country, the measure is not respected. Dalits are still forbidden to participate in Hindu religious festivals, enter homes and eat with a member of a higher caste.