(This is a Guest Post by Subash Yadav, see photo above. His family lives in Malangwa, Sarlahi district.)
Monday, September 21, 2015
My emotions are still fresh as I sit down to write this. It is hard to forget the Monday morning of September 21st, 2015. My feelings bounced from anger to frustration, and sadness to helplessness. As part of my routine, as I was getting ready for work, I skimmed through one of the popular Nepali national news websites this morning. The name of my hometown, Malangwa, Sarlahi, caught my eye. Then it continued, ‘Three people were shot during peaceful protest today’ and I saw my brother’s name, ‘Bikram Yadav’. My jaw dropped but the name was misspelled, so I was momentarily hopeful that perhaps it was not him. But the report was followed by, ‘One of the victims was a son of Rameshwar Ray Yadav’. I felt numb and then emotions and thoughts started running through my head not knowing the uncertainty. I called my father and got no answer which only made things worse. My younger brother, Manish answered his phone and I got the details from him. ‘He got shot in his neck’, he said. The police fired guns apparently to scare the crowd away but I wonder how shooting my brother in the neck along with shooting two others qualifies as “scaring them off”! The national and international laws dictate that security forces should fire in the air to scare protesters. And if they have to fire live bullets at all, it should be done below the knee. My brother Bikram remains in an Intensive Care Unit and it is unknown whether he will be able to use his right arm ever again. There is no doubt that my brother became a victim of police brutality while he was part of a peaceful protest.
The protests are of course over the details in the new Constitution. I have been following celebrations on social media about this document. Many parts of this document are progressive such as: non resident Nepalese can get dual citizenship to enjoy more economic and cultural freedom, LGBT issues are addressed, religious freedom is guaranteed, and so on. I am glad we are celebrating it and sharing it on social media. And tweeting about it from all over the world and being congratulated by citizens of other countries. But I wonder how the poor, and underprivileged groups are sharing their grief about the impartiality of the new constitution, about how their constitution has rendered them unequal in their own country. Oh yes, why do they not write about it, or post something about it or tweet about it at least or perhaps making a youtube video about it? I wish they did that so that the whole world would hear about them and maybe take collective action to address and hopefully fix their issues. Sadly, these group of minorities that are suffering the most are the ones who have no means to voice their thoughts and they are the ones who never get heard. My brother was standing up for these people and calling attention to their status now.
Some of these groups are Madhesi, Tharu, Dalits and many others (20 groups actually). For those of you who do not know, it can be quite complicated to explain who Madhesis are. In general, people from the Madhesh or Terai, which is the southern plains of Nepal are Madhesi and who live in Pahad (the hilly region) are Pahadi. But people from different regions have migrated all over Nepal. So, there are people in Terai who migrated from the hills but now live in Terai. Some of the hill migrants consider themselves Madhesis while others do not. Similarly, some of the native Madhesis consider hill migrants as Madhesis while others do not. Madhesi is an identity, not an ethnicity but it is not well defined. I grew up in Kathmandu, with all the privileges of a Kathmanduite, including having attended a boarding school. I have been fortunate to have friends from all castes, colors, religions and backgrounds. I thought the prevalent discrimination was a thing of the past. But that was until now, when I started noticing the minority groups, and might I say, the dark skinned minority groups, being deprived of their rights and opportunities. They have been ignored and worse still, brutally suppressed by the state.
No one hears the minority groups like Madhesis and Tharus in Nepal. They are stuck in their life and unable to transcend social or economic class. Within these groups, the fortunate ones are well off while the remaining have emigrated to foreign countries in the Middle East to work tirelessly and support their families back home. The ones left at home are mainly the women, Dalits, Adivasi-Janajatis, Madhesis, and minority religious groups who are basically screwed! And the new constitution makes this worse in many ways, one of which is the way the new districts are drawn.
We have to get together as Nepalese. I know we can do it, I saw it during the earthquake! None of us cared whether we were Muslim or Hindu, Madhesi or Pahadi, a holy priest or an untouchable. We were all Nepalese at that time. As devastating as it was, I was really proud to see the unity and how we all took initiative to help our country bounce back. At this moment, why are we just idle and not talking about the impartiality towards the subaltern, underprivileged groups of people? We are all pillars that hold up one great nation. We need to acknowledge this issue, talk about it publicly and change it. Unless, you are just content with your privileged self, do something to bring that change. I hope my brother gets lucky and survives this gunshot, but many others were not so lucky. More than 40 people have been killed during the protests including eight hardworking policemen who lost their lives trying to maintain peace. They were all Nepalese and each of their lives matters equally. Ignoring the problems or taking sides will not eliminate the problem. We must talk about it and do something about it. I do not want those lives to be a part of the statistics – every life matters and were ultimately sacrificed without a purpose.