Nepal minister forces Mumbai temple marriage to end: Report

June 2nd, 2010 - 12:58 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 2 (IANS) Under growing public fire for conferring state honours on controversial security personnel, Nepal’s coalition government Wednesday caused fresh outrage when the official media reported that a minister had fuelled caste discrimination by forcibly separating a couple from different communities.

Dan Bahadur Chaudhary, the state minister for industry, had forced a young woman to be separated from her husband because they belonged to different communities, the state-run Gorkhapatra daily and its sister publication, the Rising Nepal, reported Wednesday.

The incident occurred in Kapilavastu, the district in Nepal’s southern Terai plains, once part of the kingdom ruled by the Buddha’s clan but now riven by caste feuds, poverty, illiteracy and superstition.

During his ongoing visit to his home district Kapilavastu, the minister ordered the administration to forcibly separate Sarita Chaudhary from her husband Taulan Kohar because Kohar belongs to a community that is regarded as a low caste in the rigid social hierarchy in the terai.

The couple fell in love despite fierce objections from the woman’s family and eloped to Mumbai in India to get married, the reports said.

Nine months ago, they tied the knot in a Mumbai temple. Though the marriage was accepted by the man’s family, the 25-year-old bride said her family tried to break it up.

They filed a police complaint charging Kohar, 28, with abducting Sarita for the purpose of trafficking.

This week, the minister went on a visit to Kapilavastu when he ordered the district authorities to forcibly remove Sarita from her in-laws’ house and send her back to her parental home in Pakadi village, the reports said.

Sarita reportedly fought the separation, saying she was an adult and free to marry whoever she wanted. She also threatened to kill herself if she was not allowed to return to her husband’s home, the dailies said.

While Chaudhury could not be contacted immediately, his ministry in Kathmandu said they could not comment on the matter since it was a personal matter and not related to official work.

Inter-caste marriages remain a contentious issue in both Nepal and India where families frequently resort to force, false police complaints and even killing to stop them.

Last year, the Nepal government announced an incentive of Nepali Rs.100,000 (about $1,270) to each couple from different castes who decided to tie the knot.

The gesture was meant to end discrimination against Dalits, the community at the bottom of the social ladder who are still treated as untouchables though the country has officially abolished the practice of untouchability.

It triggered protests by women rights activists who said the money would spawn malpractices and do little to help women. Instead, they had asked the government to invest the money to provide education and employment opportunities to women.

More than a dozen ministers in the coalition government of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal face allegations of corruption and high-handness, including assaulting senior government officials.

However, the prime minister, fighting an ultimatum by the opposition Maoist party for his resignation, has been concentrating on his survival, to the detriment of other issues.

His government missed a deadline last month when it failed to promulgate a new constitution.

Now there is a fresh countdown to crisis as the time given to him by the Maoists to quit expires at Wednesday midnight.

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