Kambalapalli incident was waiting to happen

[News analysis] S.A. Hemanth Kumar

BANGALORE: The growing urge on the part of the Dalits to assert themselves and intolerance on the part of caste Hindus to accept this "inevitability" is the root cause of the gory incidents like the one witnessed in Kambalapalli in Kolar district on last Saturday, according to sociologists, the police and political leaders.

This urge to assert is due to the increase in the literacy among Dalits, mass awareness programmes undertaken by voluntary organisations like the Dalit Sangharsha Samiti (DSS) and realisation of their legitimate rights, which according to them, was deprived to them for a long time by caste Hindus.

The socio-economic-political setup of Kolar district is such that the incident like the Kambalapalli one appears to have been waiting to happen. Out of 12 assembly seats, three are reserved for the SC/STs and the rest are dominated by the powerful Vokkaliga community who are called as Reddys in that part of Karnataka. The fact that the lower strata of the political setup is dominated by caste Hindus, the MP of Kolar who is a Dalit by virtue of the seat having been reserved, is of no consequence.

It had been a permanent phenomenon for the caste Hindus to own the land and Dalits to work as bonded labourers until revolutionary Land Reforms Act was brought into effect by the then Chief Minister late D. Devaraj Urs in early 70s. This resulted in the Dalits becoming owners of small plots of land which gave them a sense of pride but which was not tolerated by the caste Hindus.

Agriculture and sericulture are the two main vocations of the people of Kolar which is labour-oriented. While the caste Hindus owned the land, the silk reeling and twisting unit, the Dalits were labourers at the mercy of the landlords. That was till the dawn of 80s.

However, various schemes brought out by the government for Dalits including Ganga Kalyana scheme (of providing water to the lands of Dalits at subsidised rate) and mass literacy programmes undertaken by the government as well NGOs resulted in the Dalits becoming increasingly conscious of their legitimate rights and status in the society. According to the government statistics, there are now 26 lakhs Dalits studying between class one and PG course in Karnataka.

There had also been instances of the Dalits becoming scapegoats in a fight between two Reddys by misusing the civil rights enforcement Act which stipulates the immediate arrest of the culprit who insults the Dalits. "A gullible Dalit would be forced by one Reddy to give a complaint against another Reddy under CRE act.While the aggrieved Reddy takes revenge against the Dalit, the other Dalits retaliate resulting in a major conflagaration," said a Dalit leader V. Hanumappa while speaking to The Times of India.

According to Hanumappa, the caste Hindus did not relish the poor Dalits going to the fields of affluent Dalits for labour where they were paid properly. Small things lead to big clashes.

"The fact that Kolar district borders Andhra Pradesh where Naxalites are having a gala time adds to the volatility of the people of Kolar. These Naxalites brainwash Dalit youths with songs and speeches. They also provide them with arms and ammunition. The Dalits are coaxed to take revenge against the caste Hindus.The gullible youths play into the hands of these Naxalite outfits," Hanumanthappa explained.

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