Untouchable, unforgiven, unending

 

by B.R. Srikanth

 

Not far from Kupegala, in Mysuru district, where Vokkaligas are now asking their children not to eat food cooked by a Dalit in their school, are Badanawalu and Ummathur, both non-descript villages till they turned into dreadful models of the vicious divide between caste Hindus and Dalits which plague the rest of Karnataka and divides the state's politicians as well.  
 
For, the clashes in these two villages in 1993-three Dalits including a school headmaster were lynched by Lingayats because they sought rights to offer pooja at a newly constructed temple in Badanawalu, and in retaliation, the Dalits burnt down scores of houses of Lingayats in Ummathur-not only mirrored the visceral hatred among people of these communities but also the rivalry between two Congress leaders, one of them a lieutenant and minister in Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's cabinet. 
 
Though this leader had won consecutive elections to Lok Sabha since 1980, the other leader not only made sure that he was denied a ticket but also ensured his defeat when the latter contested as a rebel candidate in 1996. The CBI probed these clashes but the leaders were not named in the report, while 20 men who murdered the Dalits were handed life terms after a trial which lasted 17 years! 

 

Seven years, later the scourge reappeared about 60 km from Bengaluru with Kambalapalli witnessing the gruesome murder of seven Dalits in retaliation for murder of a Vokkaliga, as a grim reminder of the caste wars in the state. 
 
In almost every village, the Dalits follow an unwritten rule of caste Hindus: do not enter the local temple, draw water from the main tank or lake, even use a separate plate and cup for a snack and coffee or tea at the local joint. Any deviation would be dealt with severely.    
 
To make matters worse, a divide runs through the Dalits, too, with some belonging to the right and others to the left. Those of the left are numerically significant, but will not marry into a family belonging to the right sect. So, the Varna, the sects, sub-sects and their rivalry continue to dog the state notwithstanding tall claims of the end of untouchability. 
 
Meanwhile, Dalits in a village school in Kupegala where Chief Minister Siddaramaiah actually studied, are shocked at the resounding silence by their most well known kinsman, who is likely to visit Varuna constituency for an event on Tuesday, as for the second time in as many days, Vokkaliga parents of schoolchildren barged into the school and physically prevented their kids from eating a mid-day meal cooked by a Dalit.
 
The time was 1 pm Monday and 133 children of the Government Higher Primary School in Kupegala village were sitting down to have their mid-day meal when the Vokkaliga parents played their caste card. It was the children who pacified their parents saying they would eat the food they had brought from home. Of the 133 children, 48 had brought home food. 
 
Headmaster Chikkadev had no small part in this, visiting the homes of all 150 children enrolled in his school after the first incident to convince parents to give up their opposition to the Dalit cook and send their kids back to school. He succeeded. On Monday morning 133 children were present as was Dalit cook Manjula. But the parents played the spoiler. Again! Source- Deccan Chronicle
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