When BJP's Chitradurga MP A Narayanaswamy planned to travel to Gollarahatti village in Pavagada taluk of Tumakuru district on Monday, he was intent on highlighting the issues people were facing in the village to officials from Biocon Foundation and Narayana Health.
"We had visited many government schools and hospitals in Pavagada and the plan was to urge these two companies to invest in developing infrastructure and facilities in this area," says Narayanaswamy. Even though Gollarahatti is in Tumakuru district, it falls under Chitradurga Lok Sabha constituency.
But just as the MP's convoy, which included representatives from Biocon and Narayana Hrudayalaya, entered the road leading to the temple in Gollarahatti village, they were stopped by the residents of the village. The MP, who belongs to the Madiga community, was shunned in Gollarahatti (settlement of Golla community). The Madiga community is a Dalit artisan group classified as a Scheduled Caste.
"I was adamant that they (residents) should stop this practice but they insisted that the priests in the village did not allow any previous MLAs or MPs from my community to enter the village. Even though some people agreed to allow me to enter the village, I left the area because I did not want to cause a fight among the people", says Narayanaswamy.
What transpired in Gollarahatti on Sunday is the kind of caste-based discrimination that has been taking place in the village for generations. Narayanaswamy, a former Social Welfare Minister and a three-time MLA from Anekal in Bengaluru, says this is the first time he has faced such kind of discrimination in his political career.
"I have worked for over 20 years and I have never experienced this. I do not see people through the lens of caste. Neither do I have it in my mind that I am from a particular caste. I won't try to forcefully go to the village again because I want the people of the village to understand this is wrong and welcome people from my community there," he says.
He was seeking funds from corporates like Biocon Foundation and Narayana Health under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes to initiate infrastructure works in the village.
Pavagada taluk in Tumakuru district in Karnataka is an arid, drought-prone area. People in the area are also grappling with fluorosis, a chronic condition which occurs when there has been an excess intake of fluoride. This causes skeletal deformities and yellowing of teeth.
Narayanaswamy is keen on working towards changing the mindset of people living in the village to accept him as a political leader. "I might have been saddened by the incident but we should not consider it a setback. The discussion this has sparked is an important one and we should ask people to stop this practice," he adds.