UDAYAPUR, Oct 25: Balighare tradition — the remnants of the centuries-old slavery system — is still common in Udayapur. Various campaigns have been launched against this tradition, but in vain.
As per this tradition, denounced by human rights activists as one of many forms of slavery, Dalits — socially oppressed people — work for Non-Dalits, especially Brahmins, throughout the year. At the end of year, Dalits get some five pathis (one pathi is roughly equal to five kilograms) of rice, maize or millets for their whole year´s works.
Bishwokarmas, people of one of many Dalit castes, craft traditional weapons (Khukuri-knives, sickles, hoes and blades used in ploughs) as required by Brahmins.
Similarly, Sarkis cobble shoes and Damais tailor clothes. They do not get payments in cash. Brahmins, particularly Bishtas here, give just Rs 10-20 along with some pathis of food grains.
Dal Man Bishwokarma, a resident of Rautaha village in Udayapur, not only manufactures domestic weapons and equipments used in farming but also repairs them. He provides his service to 21 Bishta families. However, he gets only 10 pathis of maize once a year from each of them.
During festivals like Dashain and Tihar, Bishta families provide Dal Man with a mana (one mana is roughly equal to half a kilogram) of rice and Rs 20 each. His family has to survive on this meager income for the whole year. “With this income, I find it difficult to make ends meet even for six months,” he said. “For the rest of the year, I have to go somewhere else to work as a laborer.”
The tradition, which exploits Dalits´ labor, is still in fashion mainly in Bhutar, Nametar, Bhalayodada, Panchawoti, Dumre, Barre, Iname, Jante, Thanagau and Laphagau villages. Harka Bahadur Pariyar, a resident of Jaate village where 24 Dalit families are stuck in this tradition, said, “We have been surviving like this for generations.”
Many Dalit rights organizations have been raising their voice to eliminate this tradition. However, due to the lack of any concrete steps by the government, the Dalits continue to be exploited in villages.