Nepali Dalits represented in the 6th US Congressional Hearing


On Thursday, October 6, 2005, a delegation of NASO Community led by its President Dharam Bishwokarma, with its members Bishnu Pariyar, Sharda Khati, Sitaram (Chandra) Bishwakarma and Prakash Nepal represented Nepali Dalits in the 6th US Congressional Hearing on Caste and Untouchability.  


“It was an encouraging experience to be there and hear how US Government is concerned over the Dalit issues worldwide”, said Prakash Nepal.  Overall, it was an exciting moment for NASO Community members to be introduced as an organization. 


A first hand account of the Congressional hearing provided by Prakash Nepal follows:




Before the hearing, Dalit Freedom Network executives presented papers on Dalit and Dalit women issues (Details below). 


The following speakers presented their written papers on various issues:


  1. Dr. Kancha Iliaiah:  Professor of Political Science, Osmania University, Hyderabad, India:


Topic:  The Abolition of Untouchability: The key to stability in India


  1. Dr. Udit Raj: National chairman, All India Confederation of SC/ST Organizations & India Justice Party.


Topic:   Left Behind: The importance of Reservation for the future of the dalits.


  1. Joseph D’souza:  President, All India Christian Council, President, Dalit Freedom Network.


      Topic:  <No topic> written statement on Dalit Christians.


  1. India Athwale:  General Secretary and Maharastra State President of All India conference of SC/ST Organizations.


Topic:  Thrice oppressed: Caste Violence against Dalit Women





  1. After the speakers’ presentation, the question/answer session on the topics began.  Ms. Sharda Khati introduced herself and the team of NASO Community, and said that it was formed by the Nepalese residing in the United States. The participants were very much delighted to see the presence of  NASO Community, and they started including Nepal’s dalit issues in every topic of hearing presented.  This was a rare opportunity to introduce NASO Community at the hearing. 


  1. Second question was asked by Bishnu Pariyar, who is also the President of EDWON.  Again, she presented herself as a Nepali individual working for EDWON and NASO Community.


  1. The third question was asked by Prakash Nepal, a member of NASO Community.


  1. NASO Community had prepared a booklet in the PowerPoint format on various dalit tortures, and its organizational brochure for distribution.  Since the distribution of the materials was not allowed in the hall, NASO community delegates had to stop and handover them outside the building; this was partially accomplished in another building where the congressional hearing took place.  That material must have reached to a lot of journalists and participants.


  1. Ms. Smita Narula gave special emphasis on Nepal’s dalit issues and presented the scenario how dalits are sandwiched in between the Nepal Army and Maoist. The Nepali delegates express their sincere appreciation and thanks to Ms. Smita Narula.


  1. Prakash Nepal and Sharda Khati had a long conversation with Ms. Rushmie Kalke, reporter of Eagle Tribune, Boston.  She was particularly interested in dalit issues and wanted to find out which COMMON AGENDA can be hit in her paper.  For example, what would be the common issues for all dalits who reside in the United States, or what kind of news would attract all dalits from all over the US and Canada.  Briefly, Prakash Nepal highlighted that any news related to dalit would be the one.  She was interested to hear what NASO Community’s main goal is; and our goals, and priorities were briefly mentioned.




Congressional hearing took place in another building called Rayburn building. Most of the hearing was concentrated on the dalit issues in India and how the US government can help fight the discrimination.  There were various suggestions from the testimony varying from aid to India specifically allocated for the uplift of dalit.


The delegation established contacts with the following personalities: Dr. Berwa, Luise Bush (Transform World Connections-Singapore), Peter Dance (Director of Church Relations, Dalit Freedom Network), Dr. Udit Raj (Formerly Ram Raj; Chairman:  All India Confederation of SC/ST Organizations/ National President:  Indian Justice Party; Member: National Integration Council, Govt. of India),  Rashmie Kalke, Veena Siddharth, Washington Director, HUMAN RIGHT WATCH, Asia Division; Dr. Smita Narula, Executive Director, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice School of Law, New York University; and Dr. S. Madhava Rao, Civil Surgeon (Retd.) Chairman-Forum for Dalit Literature, Hyderabad, Dr. Joseph D'souza, International President-Dalit Freedom Network.




NASO Community has to put up excellent effort in building relationship with different organizations and individuals, and it would be a good idea to pursue further from that point forward.



Bishnu Pariyar adds more on this event:


It was really good opportunities for us, theNepali delegates to participate in the Congressional hearing on Caste and unsociability on 6th October, 2005 at Capitol Hill, Washington DC. We (Bishnu Pariyar, the founder of Empower Dalit Women of Nepal and member of NASO community, Prakash Nepal, Dharam Biswokarma Sitaram Biswokarma and Sharda Khati of  NASO community) participated to this historical event. We distributed brochures of Empower Dalit Women of Nepal and NASO community. Even though we couldn’t present our papers, we got chance to speak about the plight of Dalits in Nepal. We met a lot of people who are very interested in learning about caste issues in Nepal.


The US House Committee on International Relations - Subcommittee on Global Human Rights heard prominent Dalit Leaders on 6th October, 2005 at Capitol Hill, Washington. This Committee was chaired by veteran New Jersey Congressman Christopher Smith. Other veteran Congresspersons like Barbara Lee, an Afro-American representative from California, Sherman, Tanscredo, Forteinberry, and Boozman were part of the Committee


 Udit Raj, who is National chairman, All India Confederation of SC/ST Organizations & India Justice Party said, “The US House Committee was also requested to plead for reservation in the IMF, World Bank, and USAID aided projects. US Enterprises are controlled by upper castes and hence they are also not free from discrimination in hiring Dalit manpower”.


 Dr. Joseph D'Souza, International President of Dalit Freedom Network (DFN) said, “The US should support efforts to abolish caste through UN and other International bodies.” He also mentioned donations coming from US should be given tax exemptions if they guarantee admission of Dalits.”


Indira Athwale, the President of Maharashtra State unit of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organizations described that Dalit women are victims of not only double jeopardy but triple.


Prof. Kancha Ilaiah expressed UN should include Caste as a major source of discrimination, besides its five sources of inequality like race, religion, gender, language, etc. He said that “US relationship and interests can be better guarded if there is equitable distribution of wealth in India and Nepal, lest Dalits join in Maoist and Naxalite movements”.


Congresswoman Barbara Lee, an Afro-American added, "many of the issues and difficulties concerning Dalits, very much relate to their past history in US on slavery and segregation".


We Dalit people of Nepal should organize this kind of event in the future to focus more directly on our problems.


Related News/Statements:

Dalit Freedom Network Hosts Historic Conference on Capitol Hill: Conference and House Hearing Mark a New Awareness of Caste Atrocities in India

United States asked to uplift Dalits: A statement released by Dr. Udit Raj (India)