PUCL Bulletin, September 2001

Letter: Untouchability in Udipi


Subject: Illegal system of Untouchability still practiced in Barkur, Udupi District in the form of KATT system, Hosala village Karnataka.

I left my native place Barkur for Bombay at the age of 15 or 16 (1954), not knowing much of about the word "KATT" and its usage in our community. It is not known in many places from where this particular system of giving KATT originated. As per the KATT procedure as I came to know when a person gives KATT to another person that person to whom it is given is totally prohibited form doing his traditional work, fishing anywhere and their women folk cannot go for fish trading (selling) till the matter is discussed in front of the villagers and settled By the Gurrkarr and other members of the place.

The person who has been given KATT has to go personally to all village houses numbering 80 or so to call them to the Benekudra temple to attend the discussion. And if one person is left from calling to the temple then that person becomes your opposite in your matter. Now here till the date the matter is settled the affected person/family has to suffer without daily work and food irrespective whether he has done anything wrong not only that the prohibited person or his family members cannot go to other peoples house of his own community family members and vice-versa. I wonder how this system exists and where the crime doers are at the right side and the innocent victim is in the wrong side.

How could this purely illegal act which is punishable by law is practiced. The poor victim is not invited to any marriages or religious function. Nor can they call other people for their social functions. Any society or system which supports wrongdoing/lies/suppression of truth is bound to be heading towards self destruction and our history has proved it.

Another inhuman restriction is that when any person dies because of the above practice no members of village will come to removing the dead body. This is irrational and disgraceful.

Sir, since you spread the ideals of civil liberties, I take this opportunity to write about this.

I am a retired Government Servant of 63 years old of Gujarat Government. We have already faced the destructive Earthquake on 26-1-2001. We have visited our place Barkur during vacation. We have our own plot of land and a house. At Sarabeedikalu, Hosala village, post Barkur, district Udupi we were developing our plot. What I told people that one work near the riverside is a gross misuse of my land indulged in, I was given by the neighbourhood boys KATT in the local language.

The kattu procedures is remained to be completed as we had to depart from Udupi on 9-6-2001 by Cochin Express for which ticket was booked on 9-4-2001, 60 days in advance. After this incident we have decided to approach you personally but the incident happened on 7-6-2001 and the remaining was 8-6-2001 and our departure was on 9-6-2001 morning 6:00 am from Udupi railway station. Our presence was required in Ahmedabad due to the aftershocks threat and chose to attend our duties. My wife is a tuition teacher in English medium.

This is how our people treat us as if we are outsiders. The KATT system is an outdated, orthodox, blind system prevailing and practiced. Even unmarried youths are give KATT to elders of more than their fathers' age who they think have no support like us. This Katt is normally misused for selfish and materialistic purposes and some take for raving against someone. It is not used for any noble purposes of society or community in general. The boy who gave us Katt is unmarried and is known for his rowdy nature of misbehavior and vulgarism. The Bhramvara police station officer Mr. Laxmi Narayan knows his deeds. I therefore request you to kindly look into the matter. Further, I have to add here that by giving KATT to any individual and thereby prohibiting and totally cutting of his social relation with fellow community people would result in social disorders in the society he lives. The concept of Untouchability is banned by the Government of India. All the citizens are to be treated equally under the provisions of our Constitution.

Our house in Sarabeedikalu, Hosala village, Barkur has cement platform and built on RCC. Since we did not give any part of share to our neighbours free of cost one of the boys has given us this Kat.

-- V K Kanchan

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