Fighting boundaries: Dallu Ruchal
"I vividly remember that day. My friends and I were playing near the village temple. It was 'Janaipurnima' the Hindu festival where everyone tied the holy thread that symbolized purity and wellbeing. As all my friends had the holy thread in their hands, I had this sudden urge to wear the holy thread as well. I went to the priest of the temple and requested him to tie the thread in my wrist but suddenly the priest slapped me and accused me of sabotaging the entire festive preparation. I was petrified and simply couldn't move as the only thing that I remembered at that precise moment was the hatred in the face of that priest as he continuously told me that I was a Dalit; I was an untouchable!"
Dallu Ruchal, at the age of 12, forcibly accepted the fact that he belonged to the Dalit community; people who were considered untouchables by birth. As he recited his tale of discrimination and injustice the twelve year old, Dallu could not garner support from his family as their silence echoed the prevailing dominance and exploitation bestowed upon them towards his community by the then Nepali society. Witnessing his parents’ helpless condition curtailed the inhuman truth that as a Dalit he did not have any right and worst of all he did not have a voice.
"It's heart breaking to remember what my family had to go through" Dallu continues as he recites another incident "My mother was beaten in front of my eyes just because she had dared to go to fetch water in the common water tap but amidst the society's hypocrisy my family could not protest because if we protested we would have to face the same autocracy; therefore we remained silent and my parents in order to protect us decided to move to another village".
Dallu's parent's might have considered migrating a final escape from the inhuman surveillance of the society but they were soon proved wrong as the deep rooted culture of separation and injustice followed them wherever they went. The students belonging to high caste bullied Dallu and his siblings in school. Jibe and mockery became an everyday event and behind the picture of poverty and the untouchable branding being awarded by the society, silence became a part of their lives. Elaborating the pain he felt, Dallu added "People always looked at us suspiciously as if we were capable of subjecting them to any grave danger. Life was like a vicious circle of pain and torture; as every time I moved around I thought I was chained and with each passing moment I used to envy others for their freedom, the freedom I could never have." He takes a deep breath "I was frustrated as I simply wanted a way to protect my family to help restore their dignity because remaining silent did not protect us from society's intolerable behavior. One fine day I accidently listened to Saathi Sanga Man Ka Kura and believe me or not for the time in my life I found ultimate solace".
But how was the radio program an antidote for his plugging grief? Dallu answers "Look at that time I was felling so helpless, I cursed my existence as I thought my condition was the worst thing anyone could be subjected to but the radio program urged me to remain positive, I could feel that the hosts were telling me not to give up".
Reminiscing the event that sparked hope inside Dallu, he shares "This particular episode about two friends who were separated because of the caste system, the story was so meaningful it portrayed caste discrimination as a powerful tool of divide and it also pointed out the need to overthrow the draconian ideology of the society to unite the people and in order to materialize the peaceful, prosperous country we dream of. When the program hosts stressed on the role of youths and the creative measures that we could inject in order to aware people about caste discrimination I finally found a way!"
Dallu lobbied in his school, asked help from his like-minded friends, and convinced them that the formation of a youth club could be a powerful vehicle for social transformation. The club became a junction of young people belonging from different caste, creed and race. This was the beginning of 'Milan youth radio listeners club'. Talking about the initial days during the formation of the club Dallu says "Of course we were not expecting a smooth transition there were people who were unsupportive towards our cause and they even tried to sabotage events that our club wanted to organize but we did not give up. We staged street dramas on caste discrimination, jointly we defied rigid customs- Together we entered temples, collaborated with educated and respected people in our community who supported our cause, we also requested the people in our community to boycott local shops that discriminated people on the basis of their caste".
So has the radio listener club made any difference? Dallu answers with a smile "There are still people who blindly follow many ill-customs and flag their disapproval towards our program. However, if you come to our monthly tea interaction program you will be surprised to see so many people who previously were for the caste system now impressively interact with each other regardless to one's caste or creed". As a parting line Dallu states "We have not been able to bring absolute change but we do credit ourselves of being able to break the Ice and one day we surely will succeed in making our community discrimination free ".
Dallu plans to expand his activities to the nearby villages as well by officially registering his club as an NGO aiming to work for the upliftment of Dalit youths and to provide them with a powerful voice. Listening to this powerful tale of a determined young person one simply cannot help but agree to the fact that 'One should never doubt that a small group of thoughtful young people can indeed change the world as it's the only thing that ever has' and Dallu Risal's story bears witness to this thought.
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