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PUCL, November 2006

Dalits ostracized in Karnataka

PUCL Karnataka report on Kadakola

[ Also see, Karnataka PUCL statement ]

By Dr. V Lakshminarayana, Sister Celia, Dr. E Rati Rao, R.V.Chandrashekar, Srikanth Karabi, Sister Anna and Gopal. 28October 2006

Kadakola, a small village near Basavabagevadi in Bijapur district is in the news for the past few months for reasons not so encouraging. Chalavadi community, a lower caste in the hierarchy is facing a social boycott from the upper caste and including Madigas which also a dalit community, for having used the Village tank water.

A fact finding team comprising of Dr. V. Lakshminarayana and Dr. Ratirao from PUCL, Sister Celia and sri R.V Chandrashekar from NAPM, Srikanth Karabi from Human rights forum of Bijapur, Sister Anna and sri Gopal from Nava Sanidhya Samsthe of Bijapur, visited the village on 27-28th October 2006.

Before the formation of Karnataka state Bijapur was a part of Mumbai province and even today one can visualize the cultural, Socio-economic moorings of the erstwhile Mumbai province in this region. The land owning pattern and the feudal system has remain unchanged since the British period and the social relations have, since the times of Peshwas the maratha rulers, who protected the Hindu caste hierarchy. Ironically the village Kadakola is situated 30 km away from Basavana Bagevadi, the birth place of Basavanna, the 12th century social reformer, who fought against the caste system within the hindu fold. But this region has not seen any anti caste movement nor any OBC movement and the land reforms implemented in 1970s by the Devaraj Urs government has had no effect here. There has been no effort whatsoever to disturb the socio-economic relations of the region throughout the history. And one cannot find any progressive social or ideological tendencies here, with Dalit movement being weak and left parties having almost no support base.

But the region has a history of atrocities against the Dalits. Sasanur, a near by village was a centre of caste conflagration in 1946 when more than 50 chalavadi daliths were burnt alive. Dr.B.R.Ambedkar had visited the place after the incident. 1979 a relative of local MLA had raped a chalavadi girl and the incident was hushed up with a compensation of Rs.50/-. The infamous Devadasi system, once prevalent here is not found now.

Recent Incidents
It all started on 25th of July 2006 when Cahalavadi Ramanna, the president of “ Forum for protection human rights of untouchables “ gave a press statement that the Chalavadi dalits of kadakola, who are being prevented from using the tank water for drinking purpose for centuries, would break the tradition on 25th of July and would directly access the water themselves, as against the system of two intermediary caste people( Vaddas and Bhajanthris ), pouring water to them from a distance. The district administration immediately went into action and some dalit children were made to lift water from the tank. This incident infuriated the upper caste people and they along with Madigas, also a dalit community, imposed a social boycott on the Chalavadi community, which virtually meant not engaging them on daily wages, no access to shops and flour mills and any public services and facilities available. More than anything else the tank water was polluted to avoid chalavadi dalits using it.

On 17th of October 2006 Justice Sadashiva commission, appointed by the state to study violations in implementation of statutory rights of SCs and STs , was camping in Bijapur and the Chalavadi daliths of Kadakola conducted a sit in demonstration in front of the commission’s office , protesting against the social boycott imposed on them. Justice Sadashiva promised the protestors of intimating the same to the government for further action.

But much damage had already been done in the village. The chalavadi were denied jobs from 25th of July itself, they had no access to any shops to buy their daily needs, and the families were starving for months. Muniyappa a 75 year old bonded labour working for a landlord for the past 25 years, for a mere 2 quintals of jowar per year, was kicked out from the job. Temples and government corridors were closed for them and the students were barred from taking part in any functions of the school. The three doctors in the village refused to attend to chalavadi dalit patients and the government hospital was open to themonly from 25th October 2006.

After these incidents appeared in the press, many groups and parties visited the village. The prominent among them being Maruti Manpade of CPI-M, Dhimathi Kaladagi of KRRS, Lakshmana Banahatti of Dalit panthers. They could find out that even though more than 40 cases of atrocities have been reported inkarnataka in this year , the government’s “Committee against atrocities on SC-ST” has never met even once and no minister has visited the village. The above groups apprehended the fear of torching of chalavadi colony by the upper castes and demanded for withdrawal of the boycott and providing jobs to the community people immediately and insisted on relocating the dalith colony. All these groups have planned for a March to DC office at Bijapur on 4th November 2006.

Findings of the team
In this backdrop the team visited Kadakola on 27-28th October 2006. The village is situated on the banks of River Doni , with rich black soil suitable for growing cotton, Jowar and other dry crops. There are 500 houses in the village of which 86 are of Chalavadi dalits, 50 Reddy lingayats (veersahaivas), 50 Ganigas, 30 Talvars, 40 Madigas and 40 Muslims, as told by Mallikarjuna Chalavadi, who says that the reddy lingayats own majority of land holdings. Neither Madigas nor Chalavadis own any land, though 2-3 years back government had disbursed some land to 4-5 dalits. Among chalavadis some 30 youth have studied upto 10th standard, 8 of them being girls .As the bore well water in the village is hard all dalits depend on the tank water for drinking purpose. Untouchablety is being practiced in several ways here, apart from the present boycott. When the upper castes cross theDoni river, the untouchables ,i.e., chalavadis, are supposed to carry their slippers to the other end of the river.

The wages paid to the agricultural labours are Rs.30-40 for men and 12-20 for women. After Ramanna chalavadi gave the press statement, all the uppe rcastes and the Madigas assembled in a temple and decided unanimously to impose social boycott on the Chalavadi dalits. “The government had arranged work 15 days, now we don’t have any work on hand nor any government help. The DC is speaking of compromise settlement but to no avail. We are unable to fetch any provisions. Two upper caste men have been booked under atrocity case for having beaten Mr.Chayappa with slippers, and they are infuriated. But no case has been booked against those imposing boycott, for more than 3 months we are starving and surviving on assistance from relatives.

The BJP MLA Shivaputra Desai is advising us to compromise, but we are not being compensated nor do we have a penny on hand, there are no telephone facilities for us. We have all voted to these parties and candidates and Taluk panchayat member of Telgi Nyamannanavar, president Srimantha Hallagi belong to our village, but his brother Ningappa Basantharappa Hallagi is the man behind the boycott, both these brothers are united against us and all these leaders belong to the reddy lingayat community” so narrates Smt.Chalavadi Yamunamma.

Sangappa shivappa says “We are afraid of our houses being torched and so we keep awake throughout the nights. Madigas are also using the tank water but they have joined with the upper castes. More than 70 muslim families in the villages have stood by us and they have saved us from attacks from upper castes. The villages is still haunted the specter of caste discrimination. On the Dipavali day a 10 year old chalavadi boy was driven out from a cracker shop calling him an untouchable.”

Muniyappa chalavadi had more to say “We are afraid the 60 year old sasanur incident may repeat here as the upper castes are threatening us of torching our houses. Today there are no chalavadis in Sasanur. If we were to live happily we should be shifted to the other side of the river near Allamaprabhu temple ,otherwise we should be given poison “ says Muniyappa sadly.

When the team met Mr Srimanth Allagi , the president of Taluk Pachayat, who belongs to the reddy lingayat community, he said “We have advised all the villagers to live in harmony” andwhen we were discussing at that time a news of fire at Kadakola made him deepart from the scene.

Then the team proceeded to Basavana Bagevadi and met Tahasildar Mr.M R Reddy, who, after hearing us said that the administration has given job for the affected people worth one lakh rupees and 10 kgs of rations is being provided to each family. We were also told that Atrocity case has been booked against 2 persons. When questioned “Why no such case has been filed against those imposing the boycott “the Tahasildar and also the DYSP told the team that they were trying for a compromise settlement amicably.

Then the team met the DC at Bijapur and he said the administration has taken steps to give jobs for the chalavadis and there is no dearth of funds. When questioned about filing of cases against the perpetrators of crimes, the DC said “He has not received any complaints “When we reminded him about his authority to file case Suo motto he was speechless.

The DC was apprised of the fact that the chalavadis are living in the grip of fear and hence they are not in a position to lodge any complaint. To the team’s observation that the upper castes of Kadakola have not stood by their promise of withdrawing boycott, as assured to the DC and the district administration has not taken any steps to file a case against the perpetrators of the crime during the past three months, the DC had a ready answer “ We are trying to solve the problem amicably through negotiations”. In fact the DC tried to pass on the blame on outsiders, i.e., Dalit leaders from outside, for creating all the trouble. When we met the people of Kadakola village on 28th of October they were gripped by the fear of reprisal and hunger had taken away much of their enthusiasm.

Findings of the committee

  • The Chalavadi community of Kadakola is the victims of heinous caste system which is still alive and kicking.

  • The lower castes of the village are not supposed to directly access the public water tank and some upper castes used to pour water to them. When dalits tried to break this tradition trouble arose and instead of appointing police to monitor things the administration has appointed aged dalits and they have been attacked. The government has not taken any concrete steps in this issue.

  • Even after three months the social boycott imposed on the chalavadi dalits have not been revoked and the upper caste leaders who promise to the DC of revoking the same have violated the promise. This boycott has made life hell for the chalavadi community and the government has not offered any help in the form wages or jobs. The chalavadi dalits are treated worse than animals.

  • The administration has not filed atrocity cases against any of the upper castes who are responsible for imposing the boycott. Cases have been filed against 2 people for attacking the dalits. No arrests have been made and the culprits are roaming free in the village. The administration is trying to convince them for revoking the boycott. It is nothing but violation of law of the land and it is a shame on civil society for having tolerated the medieval caste suppression and oppression.

  • The government is playing dubious politics in the issue and the political parties including the left and Dalit groups are almost silent on the issue. This is frustrating development.

Demands of the fact finding team

  • All the upper caste leaders responsible for imposing the boycott should be arrested forthwith under atrocities act.

  • Shifting of dalits to other place is not a viable solution, instead an atmosphere of harmony to be created in the village for the dalits to live happily.

  • Dalits of the village should be provided with jobs, health care and suitable security. The fear of reprisal from upper caste people, who had burnt 50 people in Sasanur 60 years ago, is hovering over dalit colonies and the government should initiate steps to clear the air of suspicion.

  • Deputy commissioner, District chief of the Police, And the Tahasildar who have failed in their duty to arrest the perpetrators of the crime should be transferred forthwith.

  • Dalits allege that the upper caste people have the support of Political parties and local upper caste politicians and hence they indulge in such heinous acts. We feel that the politicians should make a self introspection and protect the constitutional, legal rights of the dalits.

Members of the team: Dr. V Lakshminarayana, Sister Celia, Dr. E Rati Rao, R.V.Chandrashekar, Srikanth Karabi, Sister Anna and Gopal. 28-10-2006

People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014