On Saturday, 21 Jestha (4th June), ‘National Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination & Untouchability’ was celebrated. However, a recent case has sparked protests and outrage in Beni, Myagdi,and all over social media. Ever since Prabhat Bosel was taken into custody on May 21st, public opinion has been wedged between vying for justice on possible caste-based discrimination versus not invalidating a potential rape case.
According to an Instagram post by Haatemalo Collective – a social media community dedicated to the movement to annihilate the caste system – Prabhat Bosel had been in a relationship with an “upper caste” girl named Priti Ghimire for two years. They ran to India to marry and when they returned to Nepal, Prabhat was charged with rape and kidnapping. Following up on this, Nepal Police Spokesperson DIGP Kuber Kadayat has provided the following statement to Aawaaj News: “Regarding (Prabhat Bosel), a case of kidnapping, body hostage and extortion has been registered and the investigation is being extended by Myagdi District Court.”
Haatemalo Collective has stated that “We believe the charges against Prabhat are nothing but caste-based discrimination, oppression and violence” and have called for his immediate release along with compensation for the “emotional, psychological, and physical torture he and his loved ones are going through.” They claim that this case is one more point on the pattern of an “upper caste” girl being coerced by her family to criminalize their “lower caste” partner.
Nepal’s caste system, an ancient hierarchical social structure, has entrenched discrimination against Dalits for centuries. Although the Constitution has proclaimed equal rights and proportional representation in elected governmental bodies, discrimination is still seen in communities. The Soti incident is one example of the long history of atrocities committed against the Dalit community in Nepal.
While Dalit rights are a pressing issue, equally as important is justice towards victims of rape – the vast majority of who are women. Nepal has seen a rise in the number of rape cases being reported and peaceful protests are regularly held to ensure the safety of women, which makes this particular case even more sensitive.
Beni Online TV covered the protests and also interviewed the Plaintiff of the case Priti Ghimire.
According to Priti Ghimire in the interview, Prabhat Bosel – whom she was in a relationship with – had been spreading false news of her aborting their 3-month-old baby; she claims that she was never pregnant. He had also created a group chat on Facebook and shared an illicit, faceless picture claiming that the picture was hers.
On a later date, Bosel had invited her on a bike to discuss and finalize their relationship. Another man whom she did not recognize had accompanied them. On the way, they offered her tea, but according to Priti, the tea was spiked and she blacked out. When she woke up, she was naked on a bed with Prabhat at her side. She recalls feeling pain throughout her body. Later, she claims to be smuggled to India in a van. She says, “Prabhat told me the people back in Beni will think you ran away with me and nobody will believe you.” She was apparently kept at his relative’s house where she was not allowed to contact anyone or leave the house. Prabhat had been contacting her family by using her social media pretending to be her and all calls from back home were only to be answered with responses given by him. Only after she had convinced him that their family would accept them, did he take her back to Beni.
In this case, we have two powerful narratives coming from either side. While we may not know the truth at this hour, this is precisely the point of this article: we simply do not know the truth. Many sexual assault victims as well as victims of caste-based violence are yet to receive justice, and this is a sensitive case on both sides of the sword.
The discrimination faced by the Dalit community in Nepal is no doubt a grave injustice that demands immediate attention and concerted efforts to bring about social change. What is also important is ensuring that measures are taken to mitigate and eliminate violence against women.
While everyone has a right to an opinion, we need to understand that voicing excess support or hate against either can be harmful. In this case, the questions “What if I was a rape victim facing public backlash for speaking out” and “What if I was a member of a marginalized community being falsely criminalized” both require extensive empathy, which in turn demands neutrality.