Press Release | 11-06-2013
Nepal Peasants' Rights

Victory for the Dalit Community of Bajura, Nepal

Thirty-five Dalit families from the Bajura district of Nepal are celebrating the return of their home and land certificates, which were fraudulently taken 25 years ago.

After a series of positive interventions, on 2 May 2013, the District Development Committee of Bajura decided to allocate 150,000 Nepali Rupees (NPR), approximately 1,300 Euro, towards assisting the Dalit[1] community in getting back their land and housing titles.

The land ownership documents belonging to these 35 Dalit households had been used as collateral by a trader for transporting rice for the Nepal Food Corporation (NFC)[2] in 1988 from Achham to the Bajura district. The trader deposited these documents at the NFC as a safeguard for the rice handed over to him to be transported to people in need.

The Dalits handed over their land ownership documents to the trader in the belief that they would receive rice from him, as a form of interest for lending him the documents. However, the trader fled the district with the rice given to him by the NFC. Since then, the land certificates have remained with the NFC, leaving the food-insecure families of Bajura district without any legal records of possession for their land, which they need to feed themselves.

Even though the Dalit families had clearly been betrayed by the trader, the NFC regarded the rice handed over to the trader as a loan with a value of 265,910 NPR. Until and unless this loan was paid back, with interest amounting to 537,736 NPR, the NFC said they could not hand back the land documents in question to the community. The NFC also threatened to auction the Dalit’s land if the community members did not repay the loan with interest; however, the Dalit families were unable to pay the necessary amount to the NFC.  The Dalit families struggle to secure their daily livelihood, and do not have any resources to come up with the sum required, a huge amount for them.

Since 2011, FIAN Nepal and Right to Food Network of the Bajura district helped to facilitate interactions such as delegation and lobby visits with the concerned stakeholders and authorities. FIAN Nepal also informed the community about their right to food. The existing struggle committee of Bajura reformed and took up initiatives to address and reclaim their rights. In addition, local radio broadcasters were mobilized to address and highlight the case.

As a consequence of continuous and joint efforts the following results were finally achieved:

  • In November 2011, the Ministry of Local Development designed a project to construct an irrigation canal, enabling the Dalit community members to work  in this project and generate an income of 300,000 NPR (around 2600 Euro) in labor wages, which then were  paid to the NFC to pay for the principal amount due.
  • In September 2012, the NFC agreed to waive 50% of the interest.
  • On 2 May 2013, the District Development Committee decided to allocate 150,000 NPR to the community for the remaining amount to be paid back to the NFC, for the community to finally get back their land and house certificates.

FIAN Nepal is closely monitoring the implementation of this decision.

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[1] In South Asia caste discrimination is traditionally rooted in the Hindu caste system.  Dalit is a designation for a group of people who are traditionally regarded as outside the caste system, as “untouchable.”Dalits are a mixed population, consisting of numerous social groups. They disproportionately suffer from the effects of oppression and discrimination.

[2] The Nepal Food Corporation (NFC) is a public sector institution involved in food-grain procurement and distribution.