Nepali Times

That CK Lal in his article Kingdom of Bahuns, tries to poise Bahuns at the forefront even when they were being ruled by non-Bahuns is an indication of his rhetoric to exaggerate the domination of the dominant caste in Nepal. One wonders: is it prejudice that he does not blame the prime minister, for example, but the chief secretary? Not the general of army, but one of his psywar experts? Anywhere else, this would be called scapegoating. Did CK read Manjushree Thapa's 'Thapadom' (# 149)? It is interesting, however, that his article does not go further to use the lexicon 'Bahunbad', as some Janajati's politicians would enjoy doing. Perhaps for Lal this word is either too derogatory or includes non-Bahuns and would therefore undermine his case. Lal seems confused beween caste and class. Some influential social groups do indeed dominate the power centres in Kathmandu. And it is true that Bahuns dominate the civil service and the leadership of the political parties. Nevertheless, when we talk about power domination we cannot forget gender and class-based oppression in and out of the caste and ethnicity divide. Lal is right when he supports the parties' demand for a secular state, and when he calls for reform in some social injustices like untouchablity. And if Bahuns spearhead this movement for change, Lal should not blame them just because they happen to be Bahuns.

Krishna P Adhikari,
Reading, UK

. Prakash A Raj's feedback ('Exaggerated dominanace', #154) to CK Lal's 'Kingdom of Bahuns' (State of the State, # 153) is a typical knee-jerk reaction to the thorny issue of dominance of brahmins in Nepali society. It is always very difficult for the people of the upper class (caste) to understand the oppression faced by those in lower classes (caste). For a person from a privileged caste to profess that Nepal is not dominated by brahmins is obviously living in a land of fantasy. One merely has to look up at the make up of the all the political parties including the supposedly classless Maoists, the bureacracy, police, parastatals, media and education. The upper caste makes up only 26 percent of the Nepali population, however, their representation in power is highly disproportional to their total population. This is a classic case of self-denial. May I remind the authors that there are two kinds of casteism (just like racism)-blatant caste-based discrimination which is banned by law and the other institutional casteism which is much more subtle. Although in the eye of Nepali legal system, all Nepalis are equal, in practise it is a separate-but-equal concept. The upper castes maintain their own identity by pursuing scholastic work while the lower caste always perfoms the same age old menial labour. In the present-day context, there is an undercurrent of institutional casteism practised through aphno manchhe nepotism.

It is quite impossible for less privileged Nepalis to rise up the social ladder. In order to level the playing field, there needs to be affirmative action for lower castes, janjatis and dalits. Getting rid of this discrimination will lead to a healthy, dynamic society where everyone, not just a few are equal participants. If this cannot be achieved sooner or later, the class war will turn into a caste war. And it will make the Maoist insurgency look like child's play.

SN Singh,

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)