Social Stratification and Dalit Leadership in Nepal: An Ethnographic Study of a Village in Western Nepal
Caste-based social stratification has placed Dalits in the lowest stratum of society and hence denied their involvement, as ‘Untouchables’, in every aspect of life in Nepal. The repercussion of the age-old system is ultimately reflected in the social and political leadership as well. The state and the political parties adopted inclusive and participatory democracy quite recently especially in the wake of the Second People’s Movement of 2006. However, the social unacceptability of Dalits ultimately has led to a deficit of Dalit leadership in both social and political domains.
Primarily, the implementation of inclusion is not smoothly practised due to reluctance to cooperate by ‘high-caste’ and ethnic groups dominating the decision-making posts. Members of marginal communities, especially Dalit leaders, are highly likely to get denied and unaccepted in both national and local election, which causes low representation. The issue of the denial of Dalit leadership is often raised by academicians, scholars, and the civil society community. As the issue is not systematically explored and studied, this paper will examine how Dalits are denied leadership roles, especially at the nomination stage of the election process, which then leads to their exclusion from national and local elections and therefore from other important bodies of government. The research methodology is largely qualitative, and the basic source of data are collected in the course of field work from November 2015 to March 2016 in a village of Kaski district, Nepal. These data will be supplemented with some in-depth interviews with four national and four local-level leaders of major political parties and others representing diverse, regions, gender, and socio-economic backgrounds. The collected data would be transcribed, coded, categorized by theme, and analyzed. The purpose of the study is to identify the gap and discrepancies between policy and practice of inclusion of the state and political party policy and practice based on the experience of Dalit leaders.
Key words: Dalits, social stratification, exclusion, inclusion, unacceptability, representation