Training for Dalit Members of the Constituent Assembly
We were scheduled to conduct four trainings for the Constituent Assembly (CA) Members within in the month of March, June, September and December respectively.
The First phase of interaction program scheduled for the month of March could not be held as stipulated in the project document due to various circumstances beyond our control. The month of March was marked by violence waged by student union. Daily life in many parts of the country was heavily affected by protest and strikes. Same time around CA members were out in the field to collect suggestion of the general public on upcoming constitution. Soon after that country witnessed a major political crisis since the peace process began in 2006. PM Prachanda resigned due to a standoff with the president over the issue of sacking the army chief. With the fall of the Maoist-led government the level of consensus among the political parties hit the lowest ever. The Maoist party obstructed the normal business of the Legislative Parliament for weeks. Maoist announced their different programs of agitations as a result the country witnessed a series of protest and Bandh. Given the above mentioned deadlock of legislation parliament and unrest in the street the first phase of CA interaction program scheduled for the month of March was held on June 16, 2009 when things were relatively normal.
The first phase training held on June 16 dealt with various issues mainly related to constitution making and legislative process. Forty-five CA members were trained on the aforementioned issues. The CA members got acquainted with constitution and law making process, various terminologies and procedures of parliament and constituent assembly, lobby and advocacy strategies for ensuring Dalit issues and rights in constitution making process etc.
The second phase of CA training was scheduled for the month of June. However, due to delay in first CA interaction and unavailability of CA members, it was rescheduled for the July 18. Second phase CA interaction focused basically the following issues;
- Protection of Marginalized and Minority including Dalit in Nepal
- State restructure and Issues of Dalit
- Federalism and Non territorial Federalism
- Political Participation and Representation
- Fundamental Rights and Untouchability
Third Phase, CA interaction was scheduled to be held in month of September but program couldn’t be completed as scheduled due to festive seasons of Dashain and Tihar. Most of the CA members were out of Kathmandu to celebrate Dashain with their families and relatives. Also political situation was not very conducive at that moment because of Maoist agitation against the government and obstruction of parliament. Therefore third and fourth phase of CA interaction were held together on December 28th and 29th .
Third phase CA interaction was mainly focused at reviewing the thematic document that has been prepared and submitted by various committees under Constituent Assembly. Thematic Papers were critically analyzed from the perspective of Dalit rights. Discussion was held with CA members on the issues that have to be included in draft constitution along with wide ranging discussion on strategies to be adopted to secure the rights of Dalits in new constitution.
The major issues highlighted in 3rd Phase training program were as follows;
- Acknowledgement of the contribution of Dalits to the National Development should be made in the preamble of the new constitution.
- Repentance for the atrocities that Dalit Community faced on the basis of caste due to state’s protection of caste discrimination and Untouchability.
- Non- discrimination to acquire citizenship certificate. No one will be forced to reveal his caste while taking Citizenship Certificate.
- Provision of Positive Discrimination along with compensation for past atrocities against Dalit.
- Guarantee of right against Caste Discrimination and Untouchability.
- Caste Discrimination and Untouchability at both in private and Public Sphere should be punishable by the law.
- Enactment of Untouchability Elimination Act.
- Right to compensation against Untouchability and Caste Discrimination.
- Proportional Participation of Dalit in all sectors of state.
- Provision of Constitutional Commission to Implement Reservation Policy.
- Proportional Representation of Dalit in Constitutional Bodies including National Human Right Commission (NHRC), National Women Commission (NWC) etc.
- Establishment of National Dalit Right Commission a Constitutional Body.
- Adoption of Scientific land reform policy to distribute land to landless Dalit.
- Practice of Caste Discrimination and Untouchability in the name of religion or culture should be strictly punishable.
- No exploitation on the basis of inhuman and discriminatory traditions like Balighare, Haliya,, Deuki, Badi, Chaupadi, Haruwa/charuwa etc.
- Compulsory and Free Primary Education. In case of Dalit, Special protection to secure education up to higher level should be guaranteed.
- Protection and Promotion of Inter-caste Marriage by the State with social security and employment guarantee.
- Proportional Participation of Dalit women in all facilities and services provided to women by the state.
Though the initial target was to train CA members from Dalit Community only, pro Dalit CA members also participated in the training. It was a strategic move taken to get support and solidarity from non Dalit CA members on the issue of Dalit concerned and agendas.
Participants found the program very effective as it tried to increase their capacity in familiarizing on constitution and law making process. The CA members said that the learning from training will be supportive in raising Dalit issues more proactively in CA. Similarly, the CA members were trained on parliamentary procedures; like resolution motion and government bill, which can be expected as an effective tool to ensure and secure Dalit rights more meaningfully. They were also trained and facilitated on future strategies to be taken to ensure rights of Dalit in new constitution.
The trainings with Dalit Constituent Assembly representatives not only increased knowledge and effectiveness of CA members, but contributed significantly for further collaboration with LANCAU and its associates throughout the constitution building process. These series of trainings with CA members representing different political parties also helped to bring them together on the issues of Dalit agendas and consequently it helped on the initiation of Dalit CA member and senior leader within different political parties to form Multi Party Dalit Committee. Consequently, Dalit sister organizations of seven political parties have come together for the first time under the initiation of LANCAU and on November 9, 2009 reached to a 20-point agreement on minimum provisions for Dalits to be included in the new constitution.
These trainings also helped to create mutual understanding and trust among Dalit CA members and civil society, as earlier it was felt that Dalit CA members have some sort of reluctance to work together with civil society. All trainings were held at very difficult political circumstances; however the output was significant in terms of securing rights of Dalit in new constitution.
Since the resignation of Prachanda from the post of Prime Minister in early May, Maoist CA members had been obstructing the Legislative Parliament’s sessions, demanding that the President reverse his decision to reinstate the Chief of Army Staff(CoAS). The obstruction followed in the winter session as well which largely contributed for political deadlock. In addition, Maoists cadres started protest programs in various parts of the country. These protest programs sometimes turned violent, as the Maoists clashed with police and other political parties. This political development affected the overall implementation and monitoring of our programs. However, amidst these challenges, LANCAU Nepal succeeded to implement most of its activities including CA training programs.
Lobby trained Dalit Constituent Assembly (CA) Member to form multi-party “Dalit Committee”
In the year 2009, LANCAU-Nepal initiated its effort to form a Multi-Party Dalit Committee. The main purpose of the Committee is to enable the CA members to serve as the primary body in representing Dalit interests in CA. In Nepal’s current political context where CA members are strictly guided by party’s whip and orders, the purposed multiparty committee was expected to bring Dalit CA members of different political parties together and make them raise the issues of Dalit beyond political parties whip and orders. It was also expected that the committee will serve as a principal body to represent Dalit interest in CA and will act as the principal contact point for the ad-hoc representation and agglomeration of think-tank members who will advocate and lobby throughout the constitution making process in CA. For this purpose, Dalit CA members and leaders were facilitated on the importance of Multi Party Dalit Committee to raise the issues of Dalit in CA and secure rights in new constitution.
Responding to the advocacy of civil society along with LANCAU-Nepal, a four-member ‘Code of Conduct Drafting Team’ was formed. The drafting team had prepared a draft code of conduct for Multi Party Committee. However, the formation of Multi-Party Committee had been delayed due to political turmoil resulting in change of government. Due to the lack of understanding among the political parties and augmented political differences, the process of formation of multi party committee had been delayed. However, LANCAU Nepal continued its efforts to lobby CA members, leaders of political parties and their sister organisations through different lobby meetings and informal consultations and discussions.
These discussions and lobby meetings finally succeeded to attain a breakthrough as on November 9, 2009, Dalit sister organizations of seven political parties came together for the first time under the initiation of LANCAU and signed a 20-point agreement on minimum provisions for Dalits to be included in the new constitution. The document was signed during the lobby meeting organized by LANCAU.
Signing of this Common agreement was a land-mark development as it succeeded to form the Multi party Committee of Dalit CA members. LANCAU Nepal is engaged in constant dialogue with multiparty committee and providing its technical inputs and resources in relation to constitution building process.
National Conference on Ideal Dalit Participation in the Constituent Assembly Process
National Conference on ‘Ideal Dalit Participation in the Constituent Assembly Process’ was scheduled to be held in June for Dalit intellectuals comprising of Dalit, activists , lawyers, professionals, academicians journalists. However, the conference couldn’t be held as scheduled due to the political instability, Maoist agitation and augmented differences among major political parties. As the process of formation of Dalit Committee and training was delayed, the purposed national conference was consequently held on August 30-31, 2009 in Kathmandu. The theme of the conference was “Ensuring Issues of Dalit Rights in the process of constitution making: The need of the Time”
The primary aim of the conference was to provide a forum for Dalit Intellectuals to share their visions, experiences, understanding and chalk out a strategy on how Dalit intellectuals, activists and other stakeholder could contribute in ensuring Dalit rights in new constitution. The conference also aimed at identifying the social, economic, political and legal agendas of Dalits. Over 200 people including 140 Dalit intellectuals from 75 districts and luminaries from different walks of life attended the opening ceremony.
During the conference, discussion was held in following thematic issues;
- Ensuring Dalit Social and Cultural Rights in New Constitution.
- Addressing issues of Dalit in New Constitution in the context of economic development.
- Ensuring Dalit Rights in New Constitution at Present Context.
- Dalit Rights in Federalism and State Restructuring Process
This national conference was a historic event as it happened for the first time in the history of Dalit Movement, that Dalit intellectuals and activists from 75 districts came together to discuss and raise the issues of Dalit agendas to be incorporated through constitution building process.
The conference not only brought all the key stakeholders together to consolidate and compile their views into Dalit agendas but also issued “Kathmandu Declaration 2009″stating the commitments of all the stakeholders to root out the century old caste based discrimination and untouchability. On the initiation of Ad- hoc Think tank, the conference also issued a “Dalit Agenda” to be discussed in different round table discussions.
Moreover, the conference expanded existing Seven Members Adhoc think tank to 31 members Committee by including 24 more members from across the country. The think-tank will raise the issues and agendas of Dalits at local, National and international levels and also contribute in the Constitution writing process by acting as a pressure group.
Formulation of Ad-hoc Think Tank
A seven-member Ad-hoc Think Tank was initially formed comprising Dalit intellectuals, activists, and lawyers to serve as a resource and organizational backing to the Dalit Committee. The think-tank was further expanded by the National Conference as 24 intellectuals across the country were included to the existing 7-member think tank making it 31 members Committee.
As there has been growing political differences among major political parties due to the withdrawal of Maoist from government, the role of think-tank became very vital to engage the political parties into dialogue to bring them together to arrive an at agreement on the issues of Dalits. This existing think tank has also engaged itself in collecting and compiling grassroots inputs to prepare final Dalit consensus document and Draft legislation for rights of Dalits.
Think Tank Compiles Grassroots Views into Dalit Agenda
An adhoc think thank has prepared the first “Dalit Agenda Consensus Document” incorporating social, economic, legal and political issues that came up in the discussion held during national conference of Dalit intellectuals and activists. Think tank has been collecting grassroots views through different round table discussions and consultations of district UCWC networks. After the completion of all regional round table discussions and view collection activities, the think tank will compile all inputs and prepare “Dalit Agenda Consensus document” that will be effective and comprehensive lobby and advocacy tool to secure rights of Dalit in Constitution Making Process.
Think Tank Work Meetings
Think tank under this project assigned to prepare Dalit consensus document and draft legislation and providing resource and organisational back up to Dalit committee. For this purpose, altogether four think tank meetings were held during the year 2009. During the meeting think tank discussed on various issues relating to constitution building process, draft legislation, compilation of Dalit agendas etc.
Think tank drafting of legislation, lobbying and support of Dalit Committee
Ever since the formation of think tank, it has been actively engaged in dialogue with Dalit CA members to lobby for the formation of Code of conduct drafting committee. It has also provided technical inputs to the CA members as and when required. Besides, Think tank has compiled the first draft of “Dalit Agenda Consensus Document “incorporating views of grassroots and participants of National Conference. It is also in the process of finalisation of draft legislation. After the completion of five regional round table document and view collection, think tank will prepare final “Dalit Consensus Document” and “Draft legislation” based on grass root inputs expressed during the round table discussions and district based programs.
Negotiation meetings with Ministry of Women in preparation for establishment of offices
In the year LANCAU along with NNSWA, Dalit civil society organizations held 2 negotiation meetings at different levels with the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare to establish offices at district level within existing Women Development Branch district offices. LANCAU also met the Minister for Women and Social welfare on September 11, 2009 and submitted a letter requesting to provide office space at existing Women Development Office.
Following a subsequent meeting and consultations with officials of Women Children and Social Welfare Ministry, Ministry expressed its inability to provide office space citing the lack of such policy to provide office space for any NGO initiatives. However LANCAU along with Dalit civil society, National Dalit Commissions and UCWC will continue to lobby with Ministry of Women Children and Social Welfare to provide office spaces. LANCAU will lobby at national level to make policy decision that will make it possible to establish UCWC office at existing district women development branch offices.
Local view collection
The UCWC network has regularly been providing recommendations for the constitution making process with its active participation at local levels’ programs and regional round tables during this period. The members of this network are providing recommendations and their feedbacks and inputs through their participation at regional roundtable discussions organized by LANCAU through think tank.
So far, different thematic committees of CA have submitted their draft concepts in CA for discussions. The first draft of constitution yet to be disclosed will be based on various the various draft concepts. In this context, LANCAU felt it is very necessary that upcoming first draft constitution should be critically discussed and analyzed against the Dalit agenda document and draft legislation that LANCAU has prepared and published. Grassroots people’s view collection on the draft constitution will also be very important. Taking this into consideration, LANCAU plans to continue the local view collection program in 2nd year also. Therefore local view collection program will continue as accordingly through the interactions and discussions in the stipulated year.
Think Tank Holds Regional Roundtables for View Collections
Five round-table discussions were scheduled to be held during the reported period. However, only 3 discussions could be held in first year and remaining two were rescheduled for the 2nd Year. The three round table meetings were held till December; on November 14 in Pokhara of Kaski district, on November 15 at Lahan in Siraha district and on December 5, 2009 in Kathmandu. Due to indefinite strike at Far and mid western districts over the killing of squatters at Dudejhari forest, program couldn’t be completed in first year as scheduled. These round table programs are now scheduled for January 23 and 25, 2010 in Nepalgunj and Mahendranagar respectively.
During these round table discussion programs, participants expressed their views and comments on the compilation of Dalit agendas that is prepared by adhoc think-tank compiling economic, social, political, educational issues and agendas to be incorporated in new constitution. Round table discussions were very successful as it gave an opportunity to local grassroots people to raise their agendas and issues to be incorporated in the new constitution. A significant number of Dalit activists, member of civil society and other regional stakeholders participated in these round table discussions. Think tank has gathered all these inputs from grassroots people and included in the draft agenda. A comprehensive ‘ Dalit Agenda Consensus Document “will be formed by compiling the views compiled from all the five regional roundtables.
Public announcement campaign using loudspeakers on awareness raising on the elimination of caste discrimination.
The public announcement campaign was designed to be implemented in Baglung and Kailali districts. The activity was implemented through its partners Untouchability Apartheid elimination organization (UNELO) in Baglung and Forum for Upliftment of Women (FUW) in Kailali. The public hearing campaign entailed two major activities loud speaker announcement and co-feast.
Public hearing for Social justice a TV program which began in March 2008 was continued till February 2009. Eight episodes of the TV program shot in Doti, Kanchanpur and Kathmandu were telecast in the month of January and February from Nepal Television. The public hearing dealt on role of political parties in elimination of caste discrimination, role of service provider and role of the youth in Constitution building.
LANCAU Nepal launched a TV show Pairavi- defending the defensless in the month of July and first episode has been telecaste on the 20th of November 2010. The TV show aims at providing platform to victims of caste discrimination to voice their grievances directly with concerned stakeholders. Given the incident of caste discrimination taking place throughout the country we think, TV could be an effective platform to bring the issues of Dalits before the authorities.
4.LAW AND JUSTICE
Prepare guidelines and background documents for Untouchability Crime Watch Centre (UCWC).
During the year 2009 “Untouchability Crime Watch Centre Guidelines” was published and disseminated to the respective districts UCWC networks and concerned stakeholders. The guidelines have incorporated the roles and responsibilities of the stakeholders and training materials for the help and support to any untouchability related crimes. UCWC guidelines have defined the key functions of UCWC, its roles, jurisdiction, operational procedures etc. On the basis of UCWC guidelines, 5 refresher training to UCWC advocates and members were also held in different regions. Apart from UCWC guidelines, background document for refresher training was also published within stipulated time.
Facilitate Establish district-level UCWC offices in 25 districts
LANCAU, in conjunction with NNSWA, local Development Ministry offices, Dalit NGOs, national-level human rights organizations, and the UCWC network negotiated with? the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare to establish offices at district level within existing Women Development branch district offices. The purpose was to establish permanent district based body that can monitor and initiate legal cases against those committing the crime of Caste Discrimination and Untouchability. However, after two rounds of negotiation meetings with Ministry of Women Children and Social welfare at different levels, ministry expressed that it is unable to provide office space to UCWC staffs as it is against the policy of government to provide space to any non- governmental project initiatives.
Against this backdrop, LANCAU Nepal and NNSWA has established UCWC offices in rented space with its own fund and all UCWC offices are functional since November 1, 2009.? A trained UCWC advocate has been appointed as UCWC advocate and he/she is working as the front-line contact for victims of Untouchability-related crimes to receive assistance from the UCWC. Their salary will initially be supplemented through project funds, and will gradually be transferred to districts’ responsibility.
Refresher trainings for UCWC members, partner organizations and associated groups.
Within the reporting period, five refresher trainings, one each in Mahendranagar, Bhairawa, Kathmandu, and Lahan respectively were held.
Based on the already prepared and published Untouchability Crime Watch Centre Guidelines document, the training was facilitated by Advocate Dinesh Tripathi on various issues related to UCWC. The training mainly dealt on following issues;
- Concept of UCWC
- Rationality of UCWC
- Objective of UCWC
- Jurisdiction of UCWC
- Structure of UCWC
- Aspect of Structural Policy of UCWC
- Function and working procedures of UCWC
- Sustainability of UCWC
- Existing Laws regarding Untouchability in Nepal
These trainings served to reconvene the UCWC including both previously-affiliated and new members, including district-level legal help and support team members, with the representation of lawyers affiliated with Nepal Bar Association as the coordinator and other member representing journalists, Dalit and human right activists, member of civil society and selected representatives of the district line agencies as its members.
Filing cases against Untouchability
Filing case against untouchability and caste discrimination is another major activity of LANCAU Nepal and under this existing project we have been filing legal cases on behalf of victim of untouchability and caste based discrimination. Under the project, mainly two types of cases have been filed. In first type, the cases against crime of Untouchability and caste discrimination have been filed to ensure justice to the victims. Along with case filing we have been carrying out fact finding studies, monitoring and other assistance to the victims to encourage filing the cases against perpetrator.
LANCAU Nepal has also been filing writ petitions or Dalit Interest Litigations (DIL) in Supreme Court. Though the government has ratified entire major human rights instrument including International Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and guaranteed fundamental rights against untouchability, the state still failed to fulfil its expressed commitments. Still policies, programs are found which are discriminatory based on caste. Taking this into account LANCAU Nepal, has been filing writ petition at the Supreme Court to make the state comply with its international commitment and constitution.
According to the nature and severity of case, we step forward to file the case and necessary follow-up, investigation, advocacy and lobby will be carried out thereafter to ensure the victims access to justice and authorities compliance with the law. Apart from legal cases some fact finding studies have also been carried out to initiate writ petition against Untouchability and caste discrimination.
Case details can be viewed in the Case inventory section.