ANOTHER incident of ‘pankti bedha’ came to light recently at Udupi Sri Krishna math (temple). The practice of serving food (prasada) to Brahmins at one place and to all other castes separately is called ‘pankti bedha’. The discriminatory practice of ‘pankti bedha’ is being practiced at Udupi Sri Krishna math inspite of being opposed by progressive sections and organisations.
It was on April 15 this year. Vanitha Shetty, an assistant professor at Manipal University, had gone to the Math with her colleagues. After prayers, she went to the dining hall and sat down in the line, to take the prasada. Before she was served, she was asked to go out of the dining hall of the math, for being a non-Brahmin. Vanitha Shetty was very much pained at the discrimination meted out to her. She left the place without eating. Later, when media representatives contacted her, she told them that the government should intervene and see that nobody, at least in the future underwent such humiliation at the Math.
As soon as the news spread, spontaneous protests were held all over the state. The Udupi district committee of the CPI(M) immediately issued a statement and condemned the incident.
This is not an isolated incident. Such instances of caste discrimination take place at the Udupi math every now and then. Only a few incidents become public. Without the government’s firm intervention, such regressive customs cannot be stopped. It was the CPI(M) state committee which took up this issue first. Protest rallies were held at Udupi and demonstrations were held near the Sri Krishna math. During the protest held in December 2012, the police resorted to lathi-charge in which a number of CPI(M) activists were severely wounded and hundreds of them were arrested.
After the recent incident, the state committee of the Party has decided to hold 24 hours (day and night) dharnas at all district centres on May 5, 2014. The dharnas would continue for a continuous period of five days at Udupi, Mangalore and Bangalore. The main demands would be, a thorough investigation into the April 15 incident and a ban on ‘pankti bedha’ practice.
YOUTH SHOT DEAD:
Kabir, a youth from Mangalore, was shot dead by Anti-Naxal Force (ANF) personnel at Tanikodu check-post on the Sringeri-Karkala road around 4 am on April 19. The explanation given by the police is that the ANF personnel mistook him for a naxalite.
Kabir was part of a group that was transporting cattle purchased from Tirthahalli and Sringeri in a goods carriage to Mangalore. They stopped the vehicle near the check-post and one Rafiq and the driver Pramod got out of the vehicle to show the documents pertaining to the transport of cattle. Kabir, Umar Farooq and Sarfaroz who were inside the vehicle also got out of the vehicle. ANF personnel say that after getting out of the vehicle, they started running. One of the ANF men opened fire thinking that they were naxals. The bullet pierced into Kabir’s chest. He died on the spot. When they heard the sound of the bullets, the others fled. The ANF could take only Umar Farooq into custody.
The ANF version of the incident raises a number of doubts. The youth were not naxalites. They were not carrying arms. They did not attack the ANF personnel. They were not illegally transporting cattle. Even if they were engaged in illegal cattle trade, the ANF cannot open fire to kill them. It is alleged that the suspected naxalites were shot at when they started to escape. If Kabir had been shot at, while he started running, the bullet would have pierced his back. The fact that Kabir was hit at his chest, disproves ANF’s claim. Hence, widespread protests took place throughout the state demanding impartial inquiry into the incident.
Tension prevailed in Sringeri that day, when the relatives of Kabir came to take the body. A group of Bajrang Dal activists tried to attack them and damaged their vehicles. The Hindutva Organisations have welcomed the action taken by ANF personnel alleging that they were illegal transporters of cattle. All this points at some foul play in this incident.
The state government ordered a CID probe into the incident and announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakhs to the aggrieved family.
CPI(M) intervened by staging protest demonstrations and dharnas in various district centres like Mangalore, Udupi, Tumkur, Bagepally, Davanagere demanding a CBI probe into the incident, to register case against ANF personnel and to increase the compensation to Rs 30 lakhs. The Party organised a protest rally and demonstration at Sringeri itself which was supported by CPI, Congress, JD(S) and DSS.
Now, the government has registered a case against ANF personnel and raised the compensation to Rs 10 lakhs. The BJP and Sangha outfits continue to support the ANF action and are demanding the withdrawal of compensation. This only strengthens the suspicion that the right wing organisations did have a hand in the killing.