During my visit to Saptari district this week, I found from the leading local Dalit activists including Shambhu Lal Ram that they have a hearing on an untouchability case on Asar 20th (July 4, 2005) at Saptari District Court. The concerned activists are very excited about the case because the defendants (tea shop owners) are already nervous, and have started requesting them for dismissing or mediating the case. The tea shop owners were reported to offer NRs 5000 for an out of the court settlement, which the activists have rejected straight away.
Concerned lawyers, activists, organisations and social transformers are urged to keep an eye on this case and its result. Local activist Shambhu Lal Ram said that they have requested Biratnagar Branch of Dalit NGO Federation (DNF) for legal support.
How did it start? During a programme organised by a group of Dalit activists in Saptari district headquarter last year, many of the participants had to stay there overnight after the programme concluded. The next morning, around 60 activists including myself went to small tea shops there for the morning tea. As no single shop could logistically provide tea for all of us at the same time, the group was split into smaller groups to visit five different shops. There was no problem with two shops, but in other three entry of the activists to the shops was denied, refusing to serve them tea. Then the protest started straight away, and a case of untouchability was filed later at the court against those discriminators.
Good news is that such a situation is not happening any more so far in the Saptari district headquarter, as the shop keepers already fear the law since then.
For solidarity and support to this case please call, visit or support: Mr. Shambhu Lal Ram, Nepal Dalit Improvement Organisation, Rajbiraj,
Saptari, Nepal, Phone 031-522719.
Report by: Advocate
Santosh Giri, Director, LANCAU Nepal
On tour of Eastern Development Region [June 24, 2005].