June 22, 2022
KATHMANDU – At a time when Dalit rights activists and experts are raising concerns over the ‘usefulness’ of the ‘pompous’ representation of Dalits in local governments with the provision of mandatory Dalit woman representations in each ward, some advocacy groups have called for their meaningful representation in the political arena.
Experts have been worried whether they are actually empowered as people’s representatives themselves have been facing caste-based discriminations due to the reluctance of the political parties to internalise non-discrimination. Comparing the data of the two local polls, a Dalit advocacy group, Samata Foundation, has also claimed that the political parties are not serious about the proper representation of the historically excluded Dalits in the political process of the country.
The results of the second cycle of local elections on May 13 has shown that the political parties of the country are reluctant in ensuring the representation of Dalits as the number of their representation has decreased compared to the previous 2017 local polls.
As the number of Dalits representatives in different positions of the local level has reduced compared to the 2017 polls, the Foundation has said the community that constitutes around one-fourth of the total population of the country has been deprived of fair political representation.
“The new constitution has stated that Nepal will adopt proportional inclusiveness in governance and the republican Nepal has ensured constitutional and legal provisions for the political representation of Dalit community though inclusive principles,” states a press statement issued by the Foundation on Monday. “But the Dalits have not got their rights on the basis of their population.”
As per the study of the Foundation, the political parties didn’t bother to field women Dalit candidates in 124 wards ignoring the mandatory provision, and from among 293 municipalities, just three mayors are Dalit, or 1 percent of the total mayor positions. The number of Dalit mayors has reduced to half this time compared to the previous local polls.
The number of deputy mayors from the Dalit community has also decreased from 11 in previous polls to eight this time which is only 2.73 percent of the total deputy mayor positions.
However, the number of chairpersons of rural municipalities has increased from just one in the previous polls to seven this time. This is 2.73 percent of the total 460 rural municipalities. But the representation of Dalits in vice-chairs of rural municipalities has come down to seven from the previous 16.
Only 148 Dalits were elected as ward chairs, which is 2.19 percent of the total 6743 ward chair positions.
Among the 13,486 ward members only 878 have been elected from Dalit community which is 6.51 percent on the total positions.
“The results proves that the political parties are still infected with traditional feudalist thinking,” states the statement issued by Pradip Pariyar, chairperson of the Samata Foundation. “To weaken the representation of the community excluded historically instead of ensuring their meaningful political representation is nothing but making fun of the spirit of the constitution.”
Pariyar has also said such reluctance of the political parties would also raise questions about the democratic process and practices. “Therefore, I strongly demand parties to ensure meaningful representation of Dalit community in the upcoming provincial and federal polls,” Pariyar said.