“Politics of Dignity & Equity: Dalits in Nepal”
Questioning to reclaim narratives
Annual DASJ Seminar
14-15 August 2017
Kalikasthan, Achham, Nepal
The Darnal Award for Social Justice (DASJ) is a biennial international award that celebrates and honors the extraordinary life of Suvash Darnal. The Award recognizes and supports the work of a youth advocate, organization, or movement that has been steadfastly fighting for social justice, dignity, and a better future for Dalits and other marginalized peoples in Nepal and beyond. The award is also a tribute to the power of ordinary people who have demonstrated unwavering courage and passion in their efforts to bring change to society. The Darnal Award is given in conjunction with a ‘Politics of Dignity and Equity Seminar’. The Sarita Pariyar Trust Fund, in collaboration with Jagaran Media Center (JMC), will award a prize of five lakh Nepalese rupees (NPR 500,000) biennially on August 15, the anniversary of Suvash Darnal’s tragic death. While the Darnal Award is awarded biennially, the ‘Politics of Dignity and Equity Seminar’ is held every year on 15th August. During non-award years, the DASJ Steering Committee will hold a seminar on “Politics of Dignity and Equity: Dalits in Nepal” outside of the Kathmandu Valley.
In 2016, Mr. Raksha Ram Chamar (Harijan), was the inaugural recipient of the Darnal Award for Social Justice. During the award ceremony in Kathmandu, the Award Seminar focused on the topic “Politics of Dignity and Equity: Dalits in Nepal.” Mr. Carl Gershman, Founding President of the National Endowment for Democracy; Prof. Larry Diamond, Stanford University; Prof. Emeritus Sukhadeo Thorat, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Prof. Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama (via video) and several prominent scholars from Nepal participated in the seminar. Although the Award was initially intended to be awarded for the first time in 2015, the DASJ Steering Committee decided to delay the award one year and support the reconstruction of the Shree Bal Kalyan Primary School in Sindhupalchok, which was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake.
Achieving social justice and inclusive democracy, especially in a highly stratified society like Nepal, is a long and complex journey. DASJ recognizes the importance of critically re-examining existing knowledge, as well as producing and sharing new knowledge and networks to allow scholars and activists to benefit from multiple perspectives. For this reason, the Darnal Award steering committee aims to conduct a two-day international discussion on “Politics of Dignity and Equity; Dalits in Nepal” in the Kalikasthan VDC of Achham district on 14-15 August, 2017, deliberately breaking with the tradition of holding the vast majority of such conversations in the urban setting of Kathmandu.
Since the Far and the mid-Western parts of Nepal continue to experience severe caste-based discrimination and are some of the most underdeveloped regions of Nepal, the main purpose of organizing this program in Achham is to better understand and explore the power relations, existing knowledge, narratives, achievements, challenges, and aspirations of the Dalit community in the region. As a primary convener, Sarita Pariyar Trust Fund (SPTF) is partnering with Jagaran Media Centre, Samata Foundation, and Dalit Shreejanshil Sahakari Sanstha (DSSS) of Achham. DSSS, as a local partner organization, is a cooperative cultural group consisting of more than 500 Dalits who are at the forefront of fighting caste-based discrimination.
Brief Overview of Interaction Program in Achham (14-15 August 2017):
Following the vision of DASJ, which recognizes the power of ordinary people and significance of building collaborative partnerships with individuals, institutions and movements dedicated to understanding and advancing the cause of social justice, the annual “Politics of Dignity and Equity: Dalits in Nepal” initiative is focused on two primary objectives during the two-days of deliberations in Achham:
(1) Critically re-examine and retell the history, current struggles, and aspirations of Dalits by situating and convening the conversation in/from the Far and mid-Western region of Nepal.
(2) To initiate new discourse and network focused on Dalit youth.
Primary Participants: Up to 10 youth selected from the Far and mid-Western region covering Karnali, Bheri, Seti and Mahakali zone; selected leaders and public intellectuals from the Far-West region; and 12-15 respected individuals working in the field of social justice, Dalit rights, journalism and politics.
Proposed Format & Activities:
- Learning with Dalits: Carefully designed and facilitated small mixed-group conversations, including short visits to nearby villages aims to situate and encourage learning from the below (subaltern). The small groups will consist of individuals from different backgrounds as well as participants from inside and outside of the Far and mid-Western regions.
- Questioning to Reclaim Narratives: With a particular focus on engaging promising youth leaders from the Far and mid-Western region, the DASJ aims to convene critical and reflective conversations on experiences and narratives of Dalits in Nepal. During the two-days of interaction, the experiences of the Dalit youth who have been doing inspiring work in the Far and Mid-Western regions of Nepal will share their insights and aspirations about their engagement with social justice issues.
- Politics of Dignity and Equity: Dalits in Nepal: We shall convene a public forum with select prominent individuals (e.g. scholars, activists, officials, public intellectuals) who are committed to addressing social justice issues. In addition to inviting the panelists to briefly (10 minutes each) share thoughts on a particular aspect of their engagement with social justice, a set of questions will be used to facilitate a robust discussion. This public forum will also invite brief comments and questions from the audience (e.g. students. journalists, villagers).
(a) Gain better understanding of narratives, challenges, aspirations, and opportunities facing Dalits in Nepal.
(b) Expanding and developing new networks of social justice leaders, especially involving youth from the Far and mid-Western region of Nepal.
(c) Broadening public understanding and debate on Dalits in Nepal (through news articles and Op-Eds).
(d) Encouraging deeper and sustained work on contested narratives and aspirations of Dalits in Nepal.
View of download this as a pdf (Darnal Award 2017)