Rajesh Hamal, the undisputed superstar of the Nepalese cinema world, temporarily shocked his fans yesterday by posting a rather harsh status on his social media account.
Using roman characters he wrote, “Jivan ma pahilo patak Nepali hunu ma lajjaspad mahasus bhayo….” which essentially translates into, “For the first time in life I feel ashamed of being a Nepalese”.
Anyone who did not dig into the reasons of Mr Hamal’s indignation at being a Nepalese would have easily misunderstood his Facebook status posted yesterday at 1:43 local time in Kathmandu. But a quick read of the accompanying article justifies his frustration.
He was within his rights to be angry and frustrated too. After all, he or for that matter any modern Nepalese citizen, would not have imagined what he witnessed in Siraha district last Saturday could have happened in their revolutionary country.
What was it?
When Mr Hamal accompanied 21 year old Dipak Malik (Dom) to fetch some water from his village well, the film star was taken aback to see that local women were already gathered around it with the intent of blocking them from accessing the water. According to Setopati, their male counterparts further strengthened the blockade by posting themselves in front of their women folks while seniors of the village began arguing with the duo.
Why? Because Mr Malik is from the so-called lower caste (Dalit or untouchable) while rest of the villagers are from the so-called ‘higher caste’. According to the report, two Dalit families (Dipak Malik one of them) in that village of Nayanpur in Siraha district have always been barred from using the water of the well.
The actor, who himself was born into a higher-caste and aristocratic family (his father was a diplomat), had never seen something of the sort and was apparently left spell-bound by what he witnessed on the occasion.
Not only him but most youths in major cities of the Himalayan nation would have been equally surprised to witness the inhuman treatment of their fellow citizens.
And yet, the country is ironically in the midst of drafting a constitution that is purported to guarantee equal rights to all citizens. Two revolutions in less than 25 years seem to have afforded nothing for the two Dom families of Nayanpur village.
When asked how he and his family had so far survived without being able to touch the well, Mr Malik said that every time they needed water they would holler out to any passing by ‘higher caste’ people to pull out some water for them. They would then pass the water to the ‘lower-caste’ members of the community.
Hence, the crowd gathered on the occasion said to the visiting star, “We shall not at any cost allow Doms to touch the well. They are dirty and from the lower caste. Our family gods will be upset should the well be touched (by them).”
“Let the government build a separate well for them. It is our right whether or not we allow our private property to be touched.”
According to Setopati, Mr Hamal asked the hundreds of (higher caste) protesters as to what they would lose if they allowed the Doms to use the village well to which the villagers argued that the Doms were never allowed by their forefathers to use the well and that they would not allow it now.
A distraught Hamal then urged one of the ‘protectors’ of the well to fill up Mr Malik’s bucket which was duly obliged. They went to the victim’s home with the precious supply where the young man’s parents offered the renowned artist ‘tea and biscuits’.
The actor had visited the village as part of BBC’s weekly talk programme focused on the challenges facing the Dalit community of Nepal.