Nepal’s authorities must immediately and effectively investigate the deaths of five Dalits, including a 12-year-old girl who had been forcibly married to her rapist, and deliver justice to the victims, Amnesty International said today.
On 23 May, in the Devdaha village of Rupandehi district, the body of a 12-year-old Dalit girl was discovered hanging from a tree. The day before, she had been forcibly married to a man from a dominant caste who had raped her. A preliminary police investigation found that she had been raped and murdered.
On the same day, in Rukum district, a group of 18 young men, many of them belonging to the Dalit community, were attacked by a village mob from a dominant caste, who chased them to the edge of the Bheri river, where the bodies of five men were discovered over the next five days. One other man remains missing.
Local government representatives are implicated in both tragedies, necessitating an independent and effective investigation. According to media reports, a ward chair was part of the group of villagers who organized the forced marriage of the raped 12-year-old Dalit girl in Rupandehi district. Another ward chair, in Rukum district, is now in police custody for his involvement with the violent mob.
These horrific deaths exemplify the discrimination and violence that Dalits continue to face in Nepal, where laws and policies are inadequately enforced as affected communities lack protection.
“These horrific deaths exemplify the discrimination and violence that Dalits continue to face in Nepal, where laws and policies are inadequately enforced as affected communities lack protection,” said Nirajan Thapaliya, Director of Amnesty International Nepal.
“Given the involvement of local government representatives in both tragedies and the fears of the victims that justice will not be delivered, it is imperative that there is an independent and effective investigation. The suspected perpetrators must be held accountable through a process that is credible in the eyes of the victims and their families.”
The violence in Rukum district was apparently sparked when the group of men visited a nearby village. According to eyewitnesses, they came under attack from a mob of more than 50 people, who pelted them with stones, taunted them with caste-based epithets, and chased them to the edge of the Bheri river.
Four of the five men who died were Dalits, including 21-year-old Nabraj BK, who had been targeted by the mob for being involved in a relationship with a 17-year-old girl belonging to a dominant caste in the village. His body was discovered near the river on 24 May, along with that of Tikaram Sunar. The next day, the body of Ganesha Budha Magar was discovered near the river, that of Lokendra Sunar two days later on 27 May, and that of Sanju BK on 28 May.
One of the injured men who survived the attack has since accused the dominant caste villagers of beating 21-year-old Nabaraj BK to death before throwing his body into the river. According to media reports, Nabraj BK sustained severe injuries to his head and face.
“The shocking violence highlights the enduring structural problems that reinforce the caste-based discrimination, ostracization, and violence that Dalits in Nepal are subjected to. The limited progress that has been made in laws and policies to protect Dalits is clearly not enough and must be urgently accelerated,” said Nirajan Thapaliya.
Earlier in May, a Dalit family was refused entry to a public building and denied the chance to perform the last rites of their family member. More than a dozen incidents of caste-based discrimination and violence have been reported in the past two months.
Nepal has obligations under international law, including through its commitments in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to take effective measures to prevent and punish all forms of caste-based violence and discrimination. The government must take immediate action to protect Dalit people’s right to life and dignity and end impunity for crimes against them.
Despite criminalizing caste-based discrimination in the constitution and through special laws, Dalits across Nepal continue to face multiple layers of discrimination and violence. The implementation of the laws remains ineffective, while crimes against Dalits are often not properly registered or investigated as per the legal provisions. Dalits rights activists claim political protection of perpetrators is one of the major drivers of impunity for caste-based discrimination and violence.