We aim to transfer the first instalment ASAP! So would highly appreciate your prompt support.
Raj Kumar Chepang, 24, along with six other friends were brutally beaten up by Nepal Army personnel in Chitwan National Park on 16 July 2020. His friends survived the horrific ordeal and still seeking medical attention but Raj Kumar Chepang died a week later. They were collecting 'ghongi' (snails), popular among indigenous people of the region, in a stream near Rapti river. The army personnel approached them and repeatedly punched, kicked, beat with batons for hours. Raj Kumar Chepang was a bread winner of the family and is survived by his wife, Ripu Praja, one and half year old daughter and other family members.
Two days after the beating, houses of Chepang community in Madi, ward number 9, was burned down by Chitwan National Park’s authorities on a different incident. Two houses was burned to ground while other 8 houses were demolished using elephants to forcefully evict them from the settlement they been calling home for years. Foods, documents, clothes and even his only saving of NRs 10,000 (£60 approx) cash was burnt to ashes, says Dan Bahadur Praja, the owner of one of the 2 houses burnt. All 10 families are now in temporarily living in nearby school.
The death of an indigenous youth and demolition of houses by authorities claiming to protect the National Park is nothing but state sponsored violence and abuse against indigenous people of the region. The irony is, this very Chitwan National Park was established on indigenous land of Chepang and other communities by displacing them, where they are now being abused and assaulted since its formation. The forest which is now a national park used to be primary source for food and resources for Chepang people, and they have vast indigenous knowledge about fauna, flora and herbal medicines. Around 90% of Chepangs are landless, and resettlement programmes by the government has been an utter shamble at its best.
Although the notion of wild life reserve and protecting environment sounds all good and positive, there has been a huge flaw while creating such conservation areas in Nepal. Not only in Chitwan but in all national parks and conservation area, it has undermined the way of life of indigenous people and their relation to nature. This latest Chepang tragedies are reminders of much needed change about the idea about conservation areas.
The struggle and fight of indigenous people against state sponsored violence, oppression and marginalisation are ongoing and all indigenous and many non-indigenous people are in solidarity in Nepal and beyond. This funding appeal may not address the core issues but it will definitely help indigenous Chepang people who did nothing wrong but were persecuted anyway for being in a situation they were forced into by the state. So, for now, we are appealing for your kind support to help Chepang families mentioned above for immediate relief and care.
This fund will help in three areas-
1. Aid for family of late Raj Kumar Chepang- immediate needs like food, clothes, legal help, and whatever needs they could fulfil with the amount collected.
2. Medical treatments/needs for six men who managed to survive the brutal thrashing by army personnel.
3. Emergency needs for displaced family who are now temporarily living in local school.
This funding appeal is facilitated by Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) and is set up in coordination with Nepal Chepang Association Chitwan.
Bhim Praja (President) and Indra Jit Praja (Secretary) of Nepal Chepang Association Chitwan, and Rajkumar Bote (Secretary) of Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), will be helping on the ground to realise this much needed aid to concerned Chepang family members.
We will be updating any new developments as it happens.
We shall not publicly post any images of handing out aid, but should you want to know more we would be more than happy to provide documentation privately in your email.
Bhim Praja, Indra Jit Praja, Rajkumar Bote, Jerusha Rai and Subash Thebe Limbu.
image- Rajkumar Bote
Further information and readings-
How the state continues to dispossess Chepangs , The Record Nepal by Dewan Rai
No country for indigenous Chepang people by Kumar Yatru-Tamang, Indigenous Voice
Nepal Army personnel blamed for death of Chepang youth , The Kathmandu Post
Why current conservation models are flawed by Amish Raj Mulmi, The Kathmandu Post
Killed for gathering snails in National Park : indigenous man beaten to death by soldiers, Survival International.
Army claims that it killed two Dalit women and a child in self defense in Bardyia National Park
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