June 25, Kathmandu-
On June 20, Saraswati Pradhan, resident in Babarmahal of Kathmandu, was arrested on the charge of refusing to let journalist Rupa Sunar rent a flat of her house due to her caste. Sunar, a TV journalist, had filed a complaint against her at the Metropolitan Police Circle, Singhadarbar.
The news went like a conflagration in a scorched forest! The social media went hot and heated, as people took sides for the landlady and the tenancy-seeking young lady.
After 3 days of arrest, Pradhan was released from custody. But her release was made even more controversial by the presence of incubent minister for Education, Krishna Gopal Shrestha. Newa media persons even went so far as to demand prosecution against the complainant.
Many took to making poetic sarcasm like: ‘Dallits either choose quota, or kotha (room)- you can’t have it both way!”
Sadly, this all exposed the veneer of tolerant, latitudinarian, modern outlook of the new generation and the educated, informed elites and Kathmanduites, not least of the Newar community at large.
We need to look the issue dispassionately, objectively, and accept that casteist mentality is deeply ongrained in Nepali society. It will casue some pain and sense of loss to the privileged class and communities who have been profiiting from the structural benefits. We have to reckon woth this bitter reality before accusing some unproven western/foreign agenda activism and/or funded activists, etc.
It was a matter of much concetn to us, and many who had hoped that the young generation, in touch with the wider world and abreast the latest technology and theorectical conceptualization, has really become much accommodating compared to their predecessors. But obscurantism seems still reigning, and even more deeply rooted in quite a few quarters.
Finally, the National Dalit Commission has called for an impartial investigation into the case. In a press statement, dated Thursday and signed by its chair Dev Raj Bishwakarma, the commission called on the office of the government attorney, and the Kathmandu and Metropolitan Police offices, to find the truth behind the incident and take action against the accused keeping in mind the provisions of the constitution, the existing laws and the sensitivity of the issue of caste-based discrimination and make the findings of the investigation public.
The commission has also questioned the role of Education Minister Krishna Gopal Shrestha for his involvement in securing the release of the house owner.
It is a good start, belated though it is.
The time for repentance and recompensation has finally arrived, later than sooner, but better than never!