By Siraj Khan
Nepalgunj, Sept 7 : Despite being declared free 23 years ago, the emancipated Kamaiyas say that they are still struggling to get rehabilitated.
Sumita Tharu, a freed Kamlari and Banke district president of the Freed Kamlari Development Forum, said that while they were no longer in slavery, they were still not truly free. While speaking at a discussion programme on the problems of the freed Kamaiyas organised in Nepalgunj on Thursday, she said, "The government acted like it had done everything by declaring Kamaiyas free. But in reality, our situation has not changed much."
Biruni Tharu, chairperson of the Kamaiya Mahila Jagaran Samaj, complained that the government had not implemented the 10-point agreement it had signed with the freed Kamaiyas in 2013. The agreement was signed after the Kamaiyas launched a capital-centric protest 10 years ago.
"The government signed the agreement to end our protest but never enacted it," she criticised.
Those who spoke at the programme said that the government had added to their pain by cancelling the scholarships it used to provide to Kamaiya women wishing to pursue Bachelor's education.
Pashupati Chaudhary, chair of the Mukta Kamaiya Jagaran Samaj, said that the government only announced Kamaiyas free in words but did nothing to ensure their livelihoods.
Meanwhile, Manisha Singh Tharu, vice-chairperson of Rapti Sonari Rural Municipality, called for the formation of a high-powered commission at the federal level and a committee at the local level for the rehabilitation of the free Kamaiyas. He said, "Free Kamaiyas have land but no ownership certificates. Some families have ownership papers but their land is used by someone else. How can Kamaiyas survive in such conditions?"