Title: DALIT a quest for dignity
Photographer(s): By Nepal Picture Library
Writer(s): Diwas Raja Kc
Edit: Diwas Raja Kc
Designer(s): Dishebh Shrestha
Publisher(s): Photo.circle, Kathmandu, Nepal
Language(s): Nepalesi, English
Size: 17,5 x 24,5 cm
Print: Naveen Printers, New Delhi, India
Nation(s) and year(s) of Protest: Nepal, 1960 - 2018
Collating photographs on Dalit lives and about Dalit resistance from the last six decades and across the diverse regions of Nepal, this photobook asserts the historical presence of Dalits in Nepali public life. With accompanying essays exploring the economic, social, and political dimensions of Dalit struggle, this volume activates archival photographs to demand an accounting of obscured histories.
This timely document expresses how the ambivalences of seeing and not seeing relate to the processes of inclusion and exclusion in Nepal. Exploring the capacities of cameras to connect us with people and their pasts, the book seeks to redirect the ethical premise of photography to probe the structures of caste oppression.
The struggle for dignity fundamentally shapes the Dalit experience in Nepal. The caste system in Nepal worked by not only maintaining material inequality between the upper castes and lower castes but also by ritualizing honour and humiliation as everyday practice. The legacy of this brutality against Dalits in Nepali social life can, even today, debilitate the official commands of law and the state to end caste discrimination. Against this history, Dalits in Nepal struggle to break the identity of untouchability that the hegemony of upper castes thrusts on them.Dalits were the bricoleurs of Nepal: skilled at many things, holding an array of tools, and tinkering with the substances they have for multiple and creative uses. They were the repositories of technical knowledge and creativity. The vast majority of Dalits may have been agricultural labourers, but it was these supplementary occupations that defined their caste identity. High castes typically attributed the stigma of untouchability to these occupations and kept away from them. Thus, Dalits travelled around villages carrying and wielding their tools, forging metal, stone, and wood. They provided and improvised services of all kind.Since the start of the democratic movement in Nepal, Dalit activists have worked to create a counter public, a space from which the exclusion of Dalits from public life can be challenged. The quest for basic human dignity is critical to the Dalit counter public as it aims to overturn the very moral ground by which one understands the problem of caste. It shifts the focus from what Dalits are deprived of to what Dalits inherently possess. The photograph of the sweeper from Pharping represents some of the social, economic and political discrimination that Dalits have historically faced. By shifting the focus to the unique skills and innovations of Dalit groups community, we see how Dalits are beginning to make use of their own cultural pasts for a new and respectable identity.
From the text of Diwas Raja Kc