Dalits living under fear : caste virus 002KT2007


 For the Dalits of this non-descript village in Srirangapatna taluk, Ambedkar Jayanti was ironically a bitter day. Despite the presence of Rapid Action Force and Karnataka State Reserve Police platoons in the village, the Dalits are still in a state of terror after a brutal attack on them by caste Hindus on Friday.

Indeed, the deployment of police forces in the village has not helped in allaying the fear among Dalits, as according to them, the caste attack on them was followed by police violence. Of the 20 injured in the incident, four are being treated in K.R. Hospital, Mysore, while others have returned to the village after treatment.


Pic01: Dalit women  talking of their problems

Protesting against the police and caste attacks against them, Dalits blocked Bangalore-Mysore road for an hour. Their leaders gheraoed Minister for Transport and Mandya district in-charge N. Cheluvaraya Swamy on Saturday during his visit to Mandya to participate in the Ambedkar Jayanti programmes.

The police attribute the simmering dispute over the rights to lift sand from the Lokapavani River as the cause of the friction between the Dalits and the dominant Vokkaliga community. The immediate provocation for Friday’s clash was Vokkaliga caste opposition to Dalit youth swimming in the river, the police say.

According to Dalits, however, the attack on them is the end result of pent-up upper caste rage against them. The police have arrested one person in connection with the incident and registered a complaint against 12 persons.

S.S. Ranganatha Kumar, a former taluk panchayat president told The Hindu : “It was a planned attack on Dalits. When some Vokkaliga women abused Dalit boys for swimming in the river, Dalits complained to their leaders. Leaders of both the communities tried to resolve the differences at a meeting. However, a few Vokkaliga boys opposed the meeting and threatened to `teach Dalits a lesson.’ Within minutes of the completion of meeting, more than 20 men armed with clubs, iron rods and sickles attacked Dalit youths and injured D. Shivalingaiah, K. Lokesh, V. Keerthi Kumar and B. Prakash seriously.”

Showing the wounds on her body, Sunanda Sreenivas said that more than 10 persons pounced on her when she tried to save her son Shivalingaiah. Rukminamma Mallesh and Jayamma Devaiah spoke of how the police “tormented” them and their children when they questioned the police on why they allowed the accused to escape. They told The Hindu that what hurt them more than the physical abuse was the caste abuse they had to endure from both the police and the “upper castes” of the village.

The Vokkaligas of the village have watched the small steps taken by Dalits towards empowerment with distrust. According to K. Panduranga, a Dalit village resident, the representation of Dalits in local dairy and other institutions that were earlier dominated by the Vokkaligas fuelled their anger. They could not stomach even the small advances in education by young Dalits. Despite these changes, 85 per cent of Dalits are poor and come under the Below Poverty Line category, he said.

Mr. Ranganatha Kumar urged the Government to arrest all those involved and take action against the police officials who beat up Dalit women. He demanded compensation for the families who were victims of atrocities and for suitable protection for Dalits in the village. If the authorities failed to protect them, they would be forced to launch a peaceful, non-violent protest, he said.

Source: The Hindu

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