Vasanth N K
KARNATAKA CM Siddaramayya claims his is an ‘AHinDa’ (government of and for minorities, backwards and dalits) government. But every week events and developments confirm it is anything but true. Two incidents of atrocities on dalits last week in which CPI(M) intervened bear it out clearly. Attacks on dalit homes started in Sigaranahalli (in Hassan district) to ‘punish’ entry of dalit women to a temple (a ‘crime’ according to caste Hindus). In Hulivana village (of Mandya district) the ‘crime’ of a dalit youth was that he fell in love with a caste Hindu girl and married her. In both the cases, all dalits of the village were under attack. Attackers were leaders of the powerful caste in the area – Vokkaligas.
Sigaranahalli episode was triggered interestingly by ‘celebration’ of a Stree Shakti Sangha (a self help group) on the occasion of sanction of loan on August 31. Members of the Sangha which included dalit women offered special puja in the temple, for which there was no objection from other members or the priest. However after the puja, one person objected to it and abused dalit women using casteist obscene language, and complained to village ‘elders’. ‘Elders’ met the same evening, condemned the Sangha members act, fined the Sangha for Rs 1000 apart from ordering them to bear the cost of ‘purification’ of the temple. Dalith youth who protested the decision were attacked. Dalit youth decided to complain to the police. At this point, CPI(M) and its Dalit Rights Sub-committee intervened along with other dalit/progressive forces.
But the police delayed in registering the complaint on the pretext of calling a ‘peace meeting’. However when peace meeting was called on September 8, a war-like situation prevailed with caste Hindus armed, threatening and abusing dalits using casteist obscene language right under the nose of the area MLA, senior administrative and police officers. Activists of progressive organisations were also not spared. But the police remained a mute spectator. Ultimately, the police registered a case, but also obliged caste Hindus by filing cases on village dalits using false allegations.
Sigaranahalli has 30 dalit and 300 Vokkaliga families. This village happens to be the neighbouring village of former PM and JD(S) supremo, Deve Gowda. Revanna, son of Deve Gowda is the area MLA. This area is a stronghold of the JD(S) and Deve Gowda clan that acts as the ‘government’ here. The village temple was renovated in 2001 and was open to dalits also. Samudaya Bhavana (community hall) built using the MPLAD funds of Deve Gowda was also open to all castes. However, untouchability was being practised in various forms. Intolerance to dalit assertion has been increasing. Appointment of one dalit woman (mandatory under rules) for cooking mid-day meals was being prevented. When the demand grew, threats of boycotting the school were brandished. Increasingly, the Samudaya Bhavana was limited to functions of Vokkaligas only. Recently the board itself was changed to ‘Vokkaliga Samudaya Bhavana’. Those who were protesting against these developments were threatened with dire consequences. Whenever there was a function in the Bhavana, mid-day meal cooks were diverted for it. But dalit school children were not permitted to eat at the Bhavana. Even kids straying to Bhavana and eating, were thrown out after seizing food. Those who objected, were threatened.
In this background, the CPI(M), the Dalit Rights Sub-committee along with other dalit/progressive forces decided to act, in support of village dalits. A temple entry and community lunch at Samudaya Bhavana was announced on September 12. Permission was obtained from relevant administrative and police officers. GV Srirama Reddy, CPI(M) Central Committee member and state secretary announced his participation. This sent shivers down the Deve Gowda, his party and clan. Overnight plans were hatched to prevent the programme.
‘AHINDA’ GOVT PROTECTS
Senior police and administration officers were deputed to convince GV Srirama Reddy and district leaders of the movement to cancel the programme to prevent serious law and order problems and even possible murders. When the leaders insisted on going ahead with the programme and proceeded towards the village, all were arrested. Arrested included apart from GV Srirama Reddy, Dharmesh, district secretary of the Party, Naveen Kumar, district secretariat member, Venkatesh Murthy (editor, Janatha Madhyama, a local daily), dalit leaders Narayana Das and Sandesh. They were also told now that permission given to the programme has been withdrawn.
Meanwhile unaware of the developments in Hassan city, arrangements were on at the village. Many supporters/members of Party/other progressive organisations had reached the village. But they were confronted by big force of policemen and vehicles that had surrounded the village. They were prevented from going to village. Even the villagers were allowed only on the basis of ID cards. Some of the leaders of the movement from village including a dalit activist/journalist were not allowed to enter the village. Such was the unprecedented police protection of ‘AHinDa’ government extended to those practising untouchability, in the Deve Gowda clan stronghold.
CPI(M) and other dalit/progressive organisations have decided to challenge the might of ‘AHinDa’ government and of the Deve Gowda clan, and continue the movement for punishing those practising untouchability. Confronted with such stubborn resistance, taluk administration has taken over control of Samudaya Bhavana from local Vokkaliga leaders.
In the episode of inter-caste marriage in Hulivana (6 kilometres from Mandya district centre) trouble was not from either of boy or girl’s family or even their communities. The boy belonged to dalit and girl belonged to Lingayata community. The boy sought police protection anticipating trouble. Police had taken consent of both the families in writing to ‘prevent any trouble’. The village has 40 dalit, 5 Lingayata and 1000 Vokkaliga families. Dalit and Lingayata communities did not object to the marriage. But some in the third-party had problems with it. Some Vokkaliga leaders were heard saying ‘Today a dalit boy marries Lingayata girl, tomorrow they will eye our girls. We need to teach them a lesson, so that they don’t even think of it’. Obviously these leaders roused conservative, casteist and anti-dalit sentiments.
The houses of the boy and his friend were attacked on the very day of the marriage on September 3. Eventually all dalit houses were attacked by a big group of about 300 people going round the village. Police personnel deployed were overpowered and also several of them were severely injured. Almost all dalit houses were badly damaged and are under siege. Virtual social boycott is operating. Over 10 dalits severely injured have been hospitalised. Over 40 attackers have been arrested and about 30 have disappeared. In this case, the administration and the police is trying to protect and assist dalit community, but is unable to control the aggressive majority community.
CPI(M) Dalit Rights Sub-committee and other progressive/civil rights organisations have intervened. They have formed a fact-finding committee and demanded protection to dalit families, repair damaged dalit houses, pay compensation and punish attackers under the PoA Act. Fact-finding committee includes G N Nagaraj, CPI(M) secretariat member, district leaders Puttamadu, Basavaraju, Kumari, R Krishna and others.