21 Feb 2015

Caste discrimination a growing concern in Adelaide




Cohesion Matters issues this press release in relation to recent developments in Adelaide, Australia, regarding untouchability and caste discrimination. In that process we would also like to clarify our broad role in setting the tone and timing of this very important discussion within the Bhutanese community. A video named “The end of divisions” was produced and released by the organization back in February 2014 as part of our alternative educational campaign and since then there has been some discriminatory conduct against innocent participants of that video. Although the video belongs to Cohesion Matters we believe the conversation about caste prejudice is a public one and requires timely action.

Reportedly, Mr. Bhanu Adhikari hailing from Gelephu, Bhutan a well-known member of our community, who participated in the video, has now been boycotted and denied religious services in Adelaide. Mr. Adhikari wanted to perform a special ritual for his old mother-in-law, namely, a Chaurasi (a celebration when an individual attains the age of 84) that required at least four priests to finish the ceremony within a day. In the end the ceremony was stopped because only one Pundit agreed to read. The other three gave several reasons two days after accepting his invitation.

Mr. Adhikari alleges that the fifth pundit even disappeared inside his own house unwilling to conduct their ceremony. One of them openly admitted that he would not conduct their ceremony because Mr. Adhikari and his son had spoken against the priests in the video. During the same conversation an old lady said, “How would people come to your house to read, if you let anybody enter your house and if you eat whatever you like?” Her brother, the priest in question, tried to quiet her, “This is only about the YouTube video”. At the residence of another priest he was told that the whole community of priests had already decreed to not conduct ceremonies at the houses of seven people including five who had participated in the video. The lady of the house is also reported to have said “There are others as well who are trying to make Kamis their eating folk”. Kami is a derogatory denomination or even a general caste compartment used to indicate untouchables.

Cohesion Matters deliberately and repeatedly used the words “discriminatory priest” in the video/poem so that our message is specifically against priests who discriminate and not everyone. We argue that 99.9% of all humans have similar genes according to modern science so our message was that none could proclaim any form of superiority on the basis of caste.

We unreservedly ask, “If we cannot educate our parents the meaning of injustice, how are we going to educate the King of Bhutan? An uneducated person is not excused from normal standards of behaviour” and that “all Bhutanese bear individual responsibilities to educate their parents and grandparents.” “One can control religious services, but not the reaction to discrimination.”

With this case in the spotlight we would like to urge all community members to rethink their positions as ‘one’ former Bhutanese people living all around the globe. For us it is not a secondary issue and in fact it is the main issue that requires a solution before any other ambition of the diaspora can take shape.