Untouchability victim Ajaya Ram's relentless quest for justice

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Sarlahi –A man from the Dalit community in Bishnu Rural Municipality-2 in Sarlahi district who suffered caste-based discrimination some three months ago from a government employee claimed that he has been relentlessly seeking justice but to no avail. 


Ajaya Ram, who belongs to Chamar community, shared that although he tried to file a case with the police against a government employment for his unfair and uneven treatment based on 'untouchability', he bemoaned that police were reluctant to file the case thereby delaying justice to him which eventually is interpreted as denial of justice. 


The incident, as Ram narrated, took place on August 12 when he was queuing up at the local level ward office to receive nutrition allowance for his four-year-old son. 


Meanwhile, office assistant Ram Ishwor Chaudhary brought a water bottle and put it on the table which a thirsty Ajaya Ram drank like anything. 


Ram further illustrated that thereafter office assistant Chaudhary demanded him get out from the office room but he did not budge an inch. 


Immediately entered the scene the ward chairperson Sanjaya Sah, who, echoing with Chaudhary, shouted at Ram for behaving arbitrarily in his office. 


Furious Sah ranted that Ram 'touched the water bottle' not acknowledging his social status as Chamar who were stigmatized as 'untouchables' until the country's legislature on May 24, 2011 passed the Bill on Caste-Based Discrimination and the practice of untouchability was designated a punishable crime in a bid to end discriminatory practices aimed at those considered to be members of the lowest caste. 


The Bill acknowledges that each person is equal in terms of rights and human dignity and no untouchablity and discrimination prevails on the ground of caste, race, descent, community or occupation in the name of tradition, religion, culture, custom, ritual or any other name


Hurt Ajaya Ram insisted he would not move out of the office for which, he shared, was beaten black and blue by the ward chairperson Sah. "I did not budge from my insistence to move out of the office, arguing that the government office was no one's private property," said Ram, recalling the harrowing experience. 


Following the 'harrowing' incident, frightened Ram returned home and immediately knocked the door of the District Police Office, Sarlahi to report the incident. 


The victim grieved, "I went to District Police Office on September 1 to file a case as per the Caste-Based Discrimination and Untouchability (Offence and Punishment) Act, 2068 (2011) but the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Purusottam Pandey refused to register my complaint and instead suggested me to opt for 'out-of-court' settlement." 
Furthermore, Ram made frequent visits to the District Administration Office, with a memorandum for justice but again his voices fell on deaf ears. 


When approached, Chief District Officer (CDO) Drona Pokhrel pledged to respond the case promptly so that prompt justice could be served to the victim. 


During the discussion with a monitoring team that reached the site to look into the incident and to enhance advocacy on the victim's case, CDO Pokhrel vowed to take the issue into serious consideration. 


The team arrived here Sunday under the leadership of Samabeshi Foundation comprising National Dalit Commission outgoing member secretary and spokesperson Sitaram Ghale Pariyar, advocate Ram Bahadur Mijar, rights activist Santosh Kumar Pulami and RSS journalist Sushil Darnal. 


DPO's Superintendent of Police (SP), Koshraj Pokhrel, assured of the registration of the case at the earliest. "Though a case is not registered, investigations into the case is underway," SP Pokharel offered an insight into the case. 


"I visited the police office four times to register a complaint, but I was told to settle the case out of court," admitted Ram. 
The Dalit Struggle Committee, Sarlahi and local Dalit rights activists are rallying and demonstrating, demanding justice for Ram. They have sought action against the CDO and SP Pokhrel who refused to listen to his clamour for justice. (Photo available) 
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