KATHMANDU, DEC 18 – The National Dalit Commission has been without members for a year, hampering its work on championing Dalit rights.

The last time the Commission had a full team, with a chairperson and 16 members, was when Baburam Bhattarai was the Prime Minister from August 2011 to March 2013. The two-year tenure of the members, whose number fluctuates with each government, expired a year ago. “The Sushil Koirala-led government was supposed to appoint new members, but the political wrangling held the process back,” says Dalmardhan Kami of Social Democratic Party.

The Commission, formed in 2002, safeguards Dalit rights, raises awareness against caste-based discriminations and lodges complaints of untouchability with police on behalf of victims. A National Dalit Rights Commission Bill drafted in 2009 tried to empower the Commission further by making it a constitutional body which can probe into cases of caste-based discriminations and recommend actions to the government.

The Bill, however, is yet to be passed into law. The bill also envisions a complete team with a chairperson and four members with four-year tenure. “We want a Dalit Commission that can play a constructive role in safeguarding Dalit rights in the new constitution,” said Kami. Issuing a press release on Tuesday, the Social Democratic Party warned the government of a protest if the Commission remained with only its chairperson even after 15 days.