Sunday, July 5, 2009

NEPAL - Oh, Shit!

I remember when I was a kid, a favourite curse was, "Eat shit and die!" We, of course, were just being kids, not really serious. It seems some Nepalese take our childish "fun" seriously.

I add to this that the fact that the victim is a Dalit (Untouchable) is central to her being attacked and tortured. Otherwise, I have nothing to add. Nothing at all!

Letter Campaign Urges Justice for Dalit Woman Accused of Witchcraft

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from Jagaran Media Center (JMC), a human rights organisation in Nepal concerning the case of a Dalit woman who was assaulted, publically humiliated and forced to eat her own excreta by the villagers. It is reported that Mrs. Kalli Kumari was accused of practising witchcraft by the villagers, who confined Kumari in a room for two days, tortured and forced her to confess that she practiced witchcraft.


Kalli Kumari B.K is aged 45 years and is a Dalit woman. On March 20, Kumari was accused of practicing witchcraft by the villagers, and was mercilessly beaten up and forced to eat her own excreta in public. Kumari is the resident of Pyutar-07, Thangsingtole, Lalitpur district of Nepal, a neighbouring district of Kathmandu, about 40 kilometres away from the capital city. Ms. Bimala Lama, a member of the indigenous community in the village and the Headmistress of the Gadhibhanjyang Primary School, thrashed and force-fed Kumari her own excreta in the presence of the villagers.

Kumari was kicked, punched and hit with a stone by Bimala Lama, her sister and others who shouted, "a witch should be killed like this." Kumari sustained severe injuries in the incident, particularly on her nose, mouth and forehead. Kumari was accused of practicing witchcraft on Bimala, her daughter and other villagers. Bimala also received support from the local Shaman, Sunwar Lama. The villagers also threatened Kumari's husband that if he spoke in support of his wife, he would also face the same treatment.

Prior to the incident, Kumari and her husband were confined in a room in one of Bimala's relatives for two days. There, they tortured Kumari and forced her to accept that she was a witch.

"I accepted that I am a witch when they threatened to chop my breasts using blades," said Kumari after she was rescued by the staff members of the JMC. When JMC rescued Kumari, they found that her inner and outside garments have been cut using blades by the mob. Kumari was made to agree that some animals in the village died because she practiced witchcraft upon them. Kumari also informed JMC that she had to sign an agreement, taking responsibility for the death of the animals that may die in the village in the future.

Kumari filed a case at the Area Police Office - Ashrang on March 23, but the police have failed to arrest the victims. In spite of the pressure generated by the Dalit organisations and civil society groups, the Chief District Officer (CDO) and Superintendent of Police (SP) of Lalitpur district claim that they are searching for the culprits and their efforts to arrest the accused were foiled by the protesting villagers.

Coming to know about the incident the JMC along with the representatives from different human rights organisations and the media, went to Pyutar on March 25 accompanied by the representatives from the National Dalit Commission, National Women's Commission and a Dalit member of the Constitutional Assembly. The team, after seeing the hostile environment posed by the villagers rescued Kumari, her husband Chet Bahadur, and her 17-year-old daughter. The villagers tried to attack them with stones and sticks. Kumari and her family are sheltered in Maiti Nepal, a NGO working for the rights of women, in Kathmandu.

A meeting was organised in the premises of the National Women's Commission where the representatives of Dalit civil society and other organisations were present. The meeting formed a working committee to help the victim and her family. A press conference was organised at the National Women’s Commission in which Kumari narrated the details of her ordeal. The participants were overwhelmed after listening to her narrative. The following day, news was disseminated through newspapers, radio and television channels.

The working committee formed to support Kumari with her case approached the CDO on March 29 to request the officer to arrest the culprits, obtain compensation and to assist in resettling the victim's family. The committee requested the CDO that his office should ensure that the culprits are arrested within a week's time. However the authorities have failed to do so. The committee has decided to take further actions if the culprits are not arrested.

In the meanwhile, Kumari is provided medical care by the JMC, which in fact is the responsibility of the government. But the government has failed to do so. It appears that the authorities are failing to take any action because the Lama is the dominant community in Pyutar village and further, due to the caste prejudice entertained by the authorities in Nepal. It is common in Nepal, for the members of the Dalit community to be accused of witchcraft. Additionally, the Dalits are considered to be of less significance and lower in status in the country due to caste-based discrimination.

You will be happy to know that three people have been arrested in this case:

Suspect in Beating of Dalit Woman is Apprehended
Posted By: AP Staff
June 11, 2009, Pyutar, Nepal: Police in Nepal have arrested a woman accused of beating and torturing a Dalit woman for being a "witch."

Bimala Lama (shown below) was apprehended Wednesday, June 10, by police in the Lalitpur District, nearly three months after the incident. When interviewed by reporters from the Jagaran Media Center (JMC), Ms Lama talked about what drove her to commit the crime:

"Villagers used to term Kalli as a witch, and while I became ill, one of the shaman from Chabahil-Kathmandu confirmed her as a witch, so I thrashed her," Ms Lama said.

The beating occurred March 20 in the Lalitpur District of Nepal, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) outside of Kathmandu. Kalli Kumari Bishwokarma, a Dalit, was accused of witchcraft, attacked, and forced to eat excrement.

The case was reported on by the JMC, a leading advocate for Dalit rights and a partner of The Advocacy Project (AP). When JMC journalists heard about the case, they traveled to the village with a human rights team and rescued Ms Kumari BK, her husband Chet Bahadur, and their 17-year-old daughter.

Ms Lama intitially fled from the police when they tried to arrest her. She told reporters Wednesday that she first went to her relatives place in Makwanpur, Nepal, and then headed to Kathmandu. She said Wednesday that she regretted fleeing and should have turned herself in earlier.

Before the incident, Ms Lama was the principal of Gadhibhanjyang Primary School in Pyutar village and had been studying for her bachelor's degree.

According to the 'Muluki Ain' (Country Code in Nepal), if convicted, Ms Lama could face from three months to two years in prison, along with a fine ranging from 5,000 Nepalese rupees (about $60) to 25,000 rupees (about $304).

Two other suspects in the beating, Kamal Gole and Shyam Negi Lama, were caught a month ago and are now free after paying 15,000 Nepalees rupees each (about $200).

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