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An Attitude of the Consumers of ILL Kami’s (Blacksmith’s) Traditional Skills of Nepal

Is The Traditional Skill of Dalits No Longer a Social Need?



An Attitude of the Consumers of ill Kami’s (Blacksmith’s) Traditional Skills of Nepal



A Research Report



Submitted to:



Social Inclusion Research Fund (SIRF/SNV)



Bakhundole, Lalitpur, Nepal



Submitted by:



Radha Kumari Sonar



Researcher Apprenticeship Grantee



June 2011



Chapter One: Introduction



Background and Significance



Nepal is a land of ethnic diversity and is popularly known as “Ethnic Museum”. In Nepalese demographic composition all four races of Hindu Verna system viz. Brahmin, Kshatry, Baishya and Sudra are noticed. According to Verna system all these four races are assigned to perform their respective occupations i.e. Brahmin to study the Ved, and to do the business of providing education to others, Kshatri to protect people and to run state, Baisya to involve in commercial activities and doing agricultural jobs and Sudra to serve the rest of the three races doing the jobs of what the other races consider themselves are not to do by birth. Hindu Verna system not only assigned Sudra to do the rejected works for their livelihood but later it added the tag of ‘untouchable’ to them connecting them with their works. So people of so-called Sudra race have been compelled to live a suppressed and downtrodden life at the bottom of social strata despite their skills and service are the everyday concern of the so-called upper class people.

 Dalits represent a community of 5 million in Nepal, constituting 13% of the population.  One out of every eight Nepalese is Dalit, yet due to their caste identity Dalits regularly face discrimination and violence which prevent them from enjoying the basic human rights and dignity promised to all citizens of Nepal.  90 percent of Dalit live below the poverty line and have little or no land. Traditionally, the Dalits have been relegated to doing dirty, menial work, and as a result, have been considered unclean and therefore “untouchable by the higher-caste groups who have reserved for themselves the right to do business, run the government, and educate themselves. Throughout their history, Dalits have been deprived, both economically and socially, by longstanding traditions, and during some periods, by law (Civil Code 1853).

Dalits are highly dependent on their traditional so-called caste based occupation (knowledge system) for their livelihoods. Their living standard is also very low i.e. per capita income of Dalit is 39 US dollar as compared to 240 US dollar, national per capita income (Bk, 2004). However, it is a fact that Dalits are the richest source of art, skill and culture of Nepalese society that contribute to civilization of society since the dawn of society. Cultural, Tourism and Civil Aviation sector of the Tenth Plan has also emphasized conservation, preservation and study of literature, art and culture along with their practical utilization. It emphasized increasing employment opportunities through protection of local skills and its commercial use. Emphasis was also given on use of locally produced goods, services. There is provision of legal protection and recognition of works of various literatures, attires, musician, artist and encouragement to new talents (NPC, 2002). Both the long term and five years plan for upliftment of Dalits in National Dalit Strategy Report (Dahal et al, 2002) clearly stated that there is a need for modernization of traditional Dalits’ skill and enhancement of traditional musical instruments.

In order to uplift their socioeconomic status, the Tenth Plan of His Majesty’s Government of Nepal clearly states that inherent skills, efficiency and specialization traits possessed by Dalit community is asset of nation, and it needs to be propagated. It also stressed that the traditional occupation of skills and jobs of Dalits are neglected are to be conserved and modernized. Their traditional occupation needs to be developed as an alternative as well as a dignified source of employment. Another provision is that by providing financial support and upgrading their skill, people of the Dalits and oppressed communities will be attracted in foreign employment opportunities.  The earliest detailed record of the caste system operating in Nepal occurs in the Kathmandu valley during the reign of the Newari King Jayasthiti Malla (1380- 1394) where 64 different castes were allotted different tasks and ranks in the hierarchy.

Nepal is a country of villages and rural based population and their lifestyle is its identity. Though the world is meant to be running in the 21st century, Nepal is yet to meet even the minimal standard of consuming mechanical equipments. The output of 21st century’s scientific development. Most of the people in rural areas seem to languish their life with the traditional equipments and weapons they need for their everyday household affairs.

Kami (Blacksmith) who with their invaluable traditional skills have been serving this society for ages despite being deprived, suppressed and humiliated being them of ‘lower caste’, and ‘untouchable’ by no one other than those who they have been serving for centuries. However, for a recent decade now it has been observed that the new generation of Kami (Blacksmith) group is reluctant to continue their livelihood with their traditional occupation and the rate of transforming their ancestral skills to the new generation is seemingly being declined. It is found that a Kami father, who makes household weapons and makes his livelihood does not encourage his fore sons at least one to continue his occupation and the understable sons are to keep them away from what their father brought them up with. Consumers of blacksmith service today are complaining that there will be no blacksmith in the society to get their weapons and tools made and mended in the immediate future. In some village blacksmiths are disappearing so rapidly that the consumers should have to walk all morning to reach the nearest blacksmith. So, who will fulfill the social role that the blacksmiths played for ages but now blacksmiths are not ready to continue it? Is the social role of blacksmiths till and essential for the society?

Theoretical Framework



Karl Max theorized that the rich can forcefully take over economics while others are impoverished. Max Webber’s extension of Marxist theory in regard to caste states that those people with wealth, power and social prestige can become higher caste and those without can gradually become low caste. This theory suggest Dalits who perform jobs considered demeaning and unclean tend to change their possessions, so that they want to change their traditional occupations in search of 3Ps (Property, Power and Prestige) in the society while the Non-Dalit people who are their traditional consumers want to pursue this social system where they are practicing their power and benefiting with prestige and property in return. This research intends to find out whether the so-called upper caste people tend to be stuck with such theoretical assumption or they are changing their attitudes as their daily needs get blocked by the abandoning of these Blacksmith’s (Kami’s) traditional service to them.

Literature Review



Some of the researches had been carried out under the funding of SIRF regarding Dalits and their traditional occupations. In 2007 Purna Bahadur Nepali had done research under the topic of ‘Potentiality of Dalits’ Caste Based Occupation in Chitwan and Nawalparasi Districts. The study has highlighted the economics strength associated with Dalit’s traditional occupation, socioeconomic constraints faced by their occupations and ways of its upgrading and modernizing. Similarly, in the same year Mr. Rup Kumar BK conducted his research on ‘Adaptation of Dalit Skills and Technology: A Case Study of Chitwan and Tanahu Districts of Nepal. His study explored on causes and consequences of continuation and change in traditional Dalit skill and technology and it excavates some of the hidden factors regulating the issues. In 2006 Mr. Yam Bahadur Charakar was carried out his research on ‘Dalits Skills, Technologies and Their Perspective: A Sociological Study of Baglung District. His survey had been conducted to trace the pattern change in traditional skills and technologies. Furthermore, in Jumla district, Mr. Ram Sunder Nepali did research in ‘Dalits Skills, Technologies and Their Perspective: A Special Policy and Challenges for Dalit Inclusion in Jumla District. The study dealt with new dimensions to debate on Dalit participation and inclusion.

All the stated researches were done from the perspective of Dalits themselves. But, none of them were conducted from the perspective of the consumers of their traditional skills. Therefore, I believed this research project is significant to study the perspectives and attitudes of second party of their traditional occupations to be preserved.

Traditional Occupations Associated with Dalits



Various traditional occupations are associated with different caste groups (Table 4.1).

S.N.

Traditional Occupations



Caste Groups





Hills and Mountains





1.

Blacksmith work

Kami (Lohar, Mahar, Pouri)

2.

Goldsmith work

Kami (Sunar)

3.

Coppersmith work

Kami (Tamta)

4.

Tailoring

Damai, Kusle

5.

Cobbler/Leatherwork

Sarki (Bhool), Kulu

6.

Sweeping/cleaning/human waste disposal

Pode, Chyame, Halahulu

7.

Oil extraction

Koli

8.

Butchery and milk-selling

Kasai (Khadgi)

9.

Laundry washing

Dhobi (Rajak)

10.

Music/dance/entertainment/singing

Kusle, Damai, Gaine, Badi, Hurke (Damai)

11.

Bamboo-work

Chitre



Hills and Mountains





12.

Woodenpot-making

Kami (Chudara/Chunara/Chanara)

13.

Funeral undertakers

Kusle (Kapali)

14.

Drum-making

Halahulu, Charmakar



Terai





15.

Cloth-weaving

Tatma

16.

Earthwork/clay-digging

Khatwe, Musahar

17.

Leatherwork

Chamar

18.

Catching field rats

Musahar

19.

Collecting and selling medicinal herbs

Musahar

20.

Collecting and selling fermented juice from palm and date trees

Paswan (Dushad)

21.

Bamboo-work

Dom, Batar

22.

Laundry washing

Dhobi

23.

Sweeping/cleaning

Halkhor (Mehetar)







Source: Gurung, et al 1999; Dahal, et al 2002 and Gurung 2002


Besides, Dalits are also involved in wage labour in both agricultural and non-agricultural sectors because many groups tend to embrace activities in these sectors when traditional occupations do not bring expected returns and when they cannot compete with factory produced goods (DNF 2002).

Bhattachan et al. (2000) noted that only 19% of Dalits are involved in traditional caste-based occupations. While 91 per cent of Kamis, a hill Dalit group, were still engaged in their traditional occupation, viz. blacksmith work (ILO, 2005). Similarly, overall, gender participation in each occupation is found to be unequal except tailoring. However, in occupations such as shoe making, iron and gold smithy, women support male counterparts as assistants.

Research Problem



Dalits in hill are rich in traditional skills and knowledge. They are serving their consumers making and mending different domestic tools and weapons for years with their customarily transferred knowledge and skills. Unfortunately, the occupation that they are doing for years is now endangered. In such situation, the attitude study of their consumers was the must which could not be studied yet.

Research Objectives



The general Objective of this research study was to analyze the attitude of the consumer groups of the Dalits’ based on their extinct tradition skills. Specifically, the key research objectives of the study were to:

The proposed research was conducted to study consumer’s perspective. The research will also help to explorer if there is any significant role of consumers of traditional skills to preserve it from the extinction. So that every aspect will realize that conservation and preservation of such traditional values is a must.
2014-07-19 18:44
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