Sob went flat-hunting throughout Kathmandu without hiding her caste, since she did not want to face the same problem again. But that made it even more difficult for her to find an office and residence space to rent.
“I asked many people for help, no one came forward,” Durga Sob recalls. “In the end, I lied about my caste and soon got a flat. But even then, they would find out and harass me by cutting off my water supply or electricity to drive me out. I have had to move so many times in Kathmandu because of my caste.”
In 1995, Sob was invited to attend the Beijing International Women’s Conference with other Nepali women activists. She had to share her hotel room in Beijing with a Nepali, but because she was a Dalit, none of the other conference participants from Nepal agreed to share a room with her.
“That was the worst day of my life, I wept,” Sob remembers. “This was an international conference on women’s rights, the Nepalis were gender activists, and yet this was happening.”
In 2001, Durga Sob was nominated member secretary of the newly established National Dalit Commission. But the discrimination did not stop. She says: “Dalit women have to face double discrimination: first because they are women and second because they are Dalit.”
Sob was convinced that the only way to resolve caste racism is through politics. So, she started becoming politically active, but even in politics she found prejudice against Dalits. First, she joined Baburam Bhattarai’s Naya Shakti Party as a coordinator, hoping that its progressive agenda would help in her struggle.
“I got that position because of my ability, but I started feeling pressure, there was a feeling that a Dalit women should not have a leadership role. I should have been a deputy chair or general secretary, but I was demoted to being a secretary,” she says.
Durga Sob is now a central committee member of the People’s Socialist Party, but she has no illusions about ever rising to a position higher than secretary. She concludes: “When racism is direct and open, we can resist it. But when it is hidden, it is difficult to endure and fight against.”
Yash Kumar, singer
Yash Kumar’s father was a Brahmin and his mother a Dalit. When he was 10 years old his parents brought him to Kathmandu from Sarlahi. He did not have to face racism while in the Tarai because he was quite young, and he was not discriminated against in Kathmandu because he had a Brahmin surname. However, when he was making his citizenship papers, he added ‘Pariyar’ to his formal name.