The pioneer of the Nepalese Dalit Right Movement, Sarbajit Biswokarma, devoted his entire life for the sake of his people – the the-forever-oppressed Dalit People.
Early Life of Bhagat Sarbajit
The architect of the oppressed Dalit free movement in Nepal, Sarbajit, was born in Mulpani V.D.C. of Baglung district in 1950 B.S. (1893 AD). Nepal was ruled by The Ranas back in those days, and thus the general public was not allowed to practice formal education.
Sarbajit, therefore, received informal education from his grandfather who was a prominent leader among the Dalits in Mulpani village. Fascinated by Hindu mythology, Sarbajit aspired to further enhance his knowledge of Sanskrit and Hindu scripts.
Higher Education and Life in India
Denied any sort of formal education whatsoever, Bhagat Sarbajit Bishwokarma, went to Benaras in India to pursue further education. Having faced infuriating comments from ‘upper-class’ privileged Hindu priests, Sarbajit was committed to excelling in Hindu mythology and to later challenge these priests.
Sarbajit found his way to Benaras India in the year 1965 B.S. (1908 AD)
Bhagat Sarbajit was always an excellent student, and thus he was soon pursuing his Master’s degree in Sanskrit from Benaras Hindu University (also written as Vanaras Hindu University). Sarbajit also received personal mentorship from local priests on Hindu epics and scripts, especially, the Mahabharat, Vedas, Ramayan, Purans, and more.
Upon studying these scripts, Biswokarma was convinced the oppressive Hindu caste system and untouchability was rather an ill practice introduced by the Hindu people themselves. He now knew the repression and prejudice he and his people were facing for centuries was wrong even according to these sacred Hindu scripts he had now studied.
Inspired by the Indian Dalit Liberation Movement, Sarbajit, accompanied by other activists including Saharsa Nath Kapali returned to Nepal. Sarbajit and Saharsa both had witnessed the Indian movement upfront and therefore were planning a similar movement in their own land. Thus, after spending almost twenty years in Benaras, Biswokarma finally returned to his hometown, in Baglung.
Activism in Baglung & Kathmandu
Sarbajit Biswokarma, established the Vishwa Sarvajan Sangh, the ‘Association for All the People of the World’ in his hometown Baglung, in the year 2003 B.S. (1946 AD). The association was one of a kind, an organization founded with the objective to promote the self-worth of Dalits.
Although Sarbajit had already initiated his activism well before the establishment of the Sarvajan Sangh, this particular act of his, caught the attention of the prominent Hindu leaders who used to oppressing the Dalits.
In 2000 B.S. (1943 AD), Sarbajit tried bringing all the Dalit community of his village together. 73 Dalits from his own village and a few from the neighboring ones came together at Bhalumare Chhautari, inGauri Gaun of Baglung. Sarbjit explained to all of them how untouchability and caste-based discrimination were not-at-all based on Hindu mythology. There were rather no mentions of such practices in the Hindu scriptures at all.
Later at the beginning of 2003 B.S (1946 AD), Sarbajit and his wife were blessed with a baby boy. Hindus perform a ritual, called Nwaran, the name-giving ceremony specifically on the 11th day of birth. The ritual, however, is only reserved for upper-class Hindu while Dalits were denied of any such event.
Sarbajit took the birth of his child as an opportunity to act against the prevailing unjust caste system. He performed the Nwaran, according to Hindu culture. He who himself had immense knowledge of Hindu culture, performed the ritual with Sankha and Ghanta (a conch shell and a bell, the instruments for Holy music). People believed these instruments if used by anyone other than the higher-class Hindu would bring bad luck to the whole village.
Hindus, especially the upper-class Brahmans, attacked Sarbajit’s home with local weapons. The vicious attack injured many Dalits who were attending the function.
Sarbajit’s Arrest and Exile
Sarbajit’s activism was now talk-of-the-town. The Ranas and the Brahmins were both furious with such an act of Sarbajit and his fellow friends. The local governing bodies had already received orders to arrest Sarbajit and his co-activists. They were accused of derangement of peace in the society.
Sarbajit later was arrested and imprisoned for over three months.
While in detention, Sarbajit was brutally tortured. He was beaten with iron rods making it impossible for him to walk for over four months. Finally when he could walk, he traveled to Gorakhpur, India, to print pamphlets and brochures with slogans against untouchability and caste-based discrimination.
He even established a school, primarily aiming to educate Dalit children who were deprived of any form of education. The school at Hiliapani, Baglung, at present, is a high school with over 400 students. Brahmins and more specifically Ranas were enraged at Sarbajit for establishing the school. Ranas knew if individuals could formally study, their autocratic regime would fall into pieces soon. This is why Sarbajit was again arrested in 2006 B.S. (1949 AD) only to be exiled this time to India where he had to spend 17 months of painful life as an inmate.
Sarbajit passed away in India in 2012 B.S. (1955 AD).
Although Sarbajit’s dream of uprooting social discrimination for Dalits still demands some homework, his contributions are remembered with respect.
To honour his contribution to Nepalese society and especially the oppressed Dalit community, the postal services department issued the commemorative stamp depicting his portrait.
Mulpani Rural Municipality in order to pay homage to the contributions introduced Sarbajit Scholarship. It aims at providing financial aid to competent and eligible Dalit children to further their higher education.
According to the municipality, as many as 7 Dalit children are currently benefiting from the scholarship programme.
Bhagat Sarabjit Biswokarma’s life to this day is a source of constant inspiration to many activists irrespective of their caste, race or culture.
The government, however, should further respect and recognize his contributions. Nepal’s pioneer Dalit Rights Activist truly deserves much more appreciation and recognition.