: How do you know they are Dalit?
: It’s easy sir, they are black and dirty, they are everywhere.
Dalit, meaning “broken/scattered” in Sanskrit and Hindi, is a term mostly used for the ethnic groups in subcontinent that have been kept depressed by subjecting them to untouchability (often termed backward castes). Dalits were excluded from the four-fold varna system of Hinduism and were seen as forming a fifth varna, also known by the name of Panchama. Dalits now profess various religious beliefs, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Christianity.
In 1962, a law was passed making it illegal to discriminate against other castes led all caste to be equally treated by the law. However, the Nepalese caste system is still thriving and discrimination is deeply rooted in the Nepalese society.
Ram Bilash Sada (45), from Sarlahi, used to collect firewood for a living. After Government restricted the forests, he now has no work and lives in extreme poverty with his five children.
Maya,18 years old, is from a village in Jogbudha and lives with her child. As this place in the Far West is the most under-developed in Nepal, it is difficult to find a job here. Thus her husband works in Mumbai in India and she gets to see him for only a week every year.
A women in Jogbudha, husband working in Mumbai in a restaurant. She has not seen him for the last 3 years.
Gita heavily pregnant at the time, does not know if her husband will be there during the birth of their first child. Like many others in the region, he also works in a kitchen in Mumbai in India.
A women lives with her grand daughter in a village in Jogbudha while her daughter lives in Mumbai along with her husband. Having no land of her own, she lives in a makeshift house and takes care of her grand daughter.
A women from Doti. Her husband used to work in India and contracted HIV there, which has been transmitted to her. Now her husband has passed away, but she lives like an outcast in the society because of being HIV positive. Even the village doctors are not willing to provide her any treatment.
This young Dalit lady in Birganj just gave birth to her first child. Her husband, who works in India, has not been in contact with her for long. The future for her is uncertain and now she lives with her parents.
Rekha from Jogbura with HIV sits near the stream. She also received HIV from her husband, who used to work in India and is no more. They have a daughter who has polio but not AIDS. However, the people in the village are of the firm belief that the young girl is also HIV positive. The mother doesn’t know what is going to become of her daughter and how she will get married.
A Dalit girl, posing for the camera. In Gorkha, it is difficult to find eligible Dalit bachelors for Dalit girls and parents often look for opportunities to marry-off their daughters with young men from India.
Promil(13), from Jogbudha, has lost both his parents in an accident in India who had gone there for work. Now he has no land and no one to live with. He collects fallen leaves all day and buys food for himself with the little money that he earns.
A young man from near Birganj demonstrates his muscles. After finishing his studies, he realized that he had to defend himself in a world so adverse to the Dalits. That’s when he decided to build up his body.
Landscape of Doti, the main hub in Far West Nepal