Nepal Today

Monday, June 3, 2013

KAMLARIS TO INTENSIFY PROTESTS KATHMANDU, 4 June: Two weeks ago, when she was heading to Kathmandu along with other former Kamlaris, Urmila Chaudhary, 21, had no inkling of the ordeal that awaited her, Om Astha Rai writes in Republica.. After being brutally thrashed by the police on Sunday, Urmila now says their resolve has grown tougher and that they are now willing to intensify their struggle for justice. Urmila, who worked as a Kamlari, or former agricultural bonded laborer, for 12 years before being freed five years ago, had thought that they would submit their memorandum to political leaders, stage peaceful sit-in programs and return to home districts happily. "I was confident that our peaceful protest would definitely draw the attention of the government," says Urmila. "But, now I think we will have to pay much heavier price to win our battle." Urmila, who hails from Dang district, is now undergoing treatment at Annapurna Neuro Hospital, Anamnagar. She said she was particularly targeted by the police as she was leading the group of nearly 70 former Kamlaris to stage a protest in front of Singha Durbar. She was severely thrashed by policemen. "One policeman almost throttled me to death," she says. "Others hit my stomach with boots." Urmila bled profusely after being beaten up badly. By Monday evening her bleeding had stopped, but she was still unable to stand on her feet. "We are all young and uneducated girls," she says. "I never imagined that our home minister would allow such brutality against us." Having undergone such cruelty, Urmila said she was now prepared to face any sort of difficulty to get their voices heard. "The police beat us up for entering the restricted zone near Singha Durbar," she says. "Now, I can even burn effigies of ministers in front of Singha Durbar." On Sunday, altogether 10 Kamlari girls were injured when the police baton charged them for entering the restricted zone. Five of them are still bed-ridden in the hospital. Other injured are now taking shelter at Pashupatinath temple complex. Of those who are still in the hospital, Sujata Chaudhari´s hand has been broken. She has deep bruises all over her abdomen. Sita Chaudhary, Mina Chaudhary and Kamala Biswokarma also cannot walk properly. Only some of them can speak to visitors in low voice. Although the agitating former Kamlaris have a number of demands they want to press, they are mostly concerned about two of the demands: safety and rehabilitation. "Our demands are not inordinate," says Urmila. "We just want justice." The former Kamlaris were galvanized by a series of mysterious deaths of freed Kamlaris, most of whom were still serving a rich family. According to a joint struggle committee for abolition of Kamlari tradition, as many as five former Kamlaris have been found dead in mysterious circumstances in the last five years alone. Similarly, 11 former Kamlari girls have been impregnated by their owners and 22 have gone missing so far. What really prodded former Kamlaris to wage what they have called a decisive struggle is the recent mysterious death of Srijana Chaudhary. Srijana, 12, was found severely burnt on March 27 in the house of Yubaraj Poudel in Chakupat of Lalitpur district. Kamlaris decided to come to Kathmandu and fight for justice after the police did not bother to investigate Srijana´s death even after her mother Draupadi Chaudhary lodged a written complaint. Sita Chaudhari, one of the Kamlaris injured during Sunday´s clash with the police, had never met Srijana. But she wants to see everyone involved in Srijana´s murder behind the bars. She says she is ready to take part in any kind of struggle to ensure justice for Srijana´s family. "I did not personally know Srijana," says Sita. "But, I can sense her grief. I can understand her family´s plight." Sita says many of her friends have gone missing from their employer´s houses. "But the police never bothered to search them. When a former Kamlari is killed, no one is arrested. We want to put an end to this situation," In addition to their safety, former Kamlaris want the government to introduce new packages for their rehabilitation. "Although Kamlaris were considered to be Kamaiyas, the government´s programs to rehabilitate Kamaiyas never included Kamlaris," says Santosh Dahit, assistant secretary of the struggle committee. "Former Kamlaris now want the government to bring a separate program to rehabilitate them just like the Kamaiyas." Nnnn


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