Their right... near, yet so far
By K.R. Chakrapani
HUBLI: They went to the nearest polling booth to exercise for the first time their `new-found right'... only to be thrashed and chased away.
Many tribals, including some women, were allegedly attacked by the Congress workers on Thursday when they went to the polling booth in ward No. 63 here.
This correspondent saw some injured tribal men lying near their settlement -- Shinde Colony in Durgadevinagar on Timmasagar Road. They said the Congress workers didn't spare even the women. ``Not only were the women chased and kicked, a three-year-old girl was slapped on the face.''
These tribals, known as Shinde Colony nomads, are ragpickers settled here for the past 10 years. ``We got ourselves registered as voters three years ago and this is the treatment we get,'' said Kariayappa Kariayappa Uggar (35), one of the injured.
Former Mayor Panduranga Patil, Janata Dal (S) candidate, said about 50 tribals came to the booth in a tractor. ``It was their shabby appearance that made Congress workers raise objection, though attempts were made to convince them,'' he said.
Revenue officials said the local politicians helped Telugu-speaking nomads find a permanent settlement in the outskirts of Hubli. ``As they live 3 km from the polling booth, they were brought in a tractor,'' said the JD (S) workers.
They said the police did not put up any resistance when tribals were attacked. ``Many women who fell were holding babies,'' said Kamala Bhai, an eyewitness to the incident.
Deputy Opposition Leader in the Legislative Council, Basavaraj Bommai, who arrived at the spot, had an argument with the police. He said, ``Officials should have verified whether they are genuine voters or not, but they deliberately stopped them from voting.''
Inspector S.B. Khot, however, denied the police were witness to the incident. ``It is the duty of polling officials to clarify,'' he said. He admitted the police deflated the tractor tyres as voters are not supposed to be provided transportation. Panduranga Patil, a candidate, who had a list of voters, said the list includes their names from No. 1279 to 1355. Meanwhile, the Congress has denied it had any role in the attack.