For daring to stand up for their rights and refusing to do demeaning work for dominant caste families, a community of Dalits in a village in Karnataka’s Nelamangala have been brutally assaulted and harassed. In Kachanahalli village, over 40 people belonging to the Vokkaliga community – a dominant caste – allegedly entered the homes of people belonging to the Madiga community – a Scheduled caste in Karnataka. They dragged people out by their hair onto the road, and assaulted them with iron rods and wooden logs, police said. The incident occurred around 8.30 pm on September 8, and nine people have been hospitalised.
Speaking to TNM, Nagaraju, who sustained injuries on his head and limbs in the attack, said that they were specifically targeted for refusing to participate in a discriminatory practice in the village called ‘talavaarike’. “When someone from the Vokkaliga community dies, or an animal dies, people from our community have to dig the holes to bury the dead. This is called talavaarike. On September 8, some of us had informed the Vokkaligas that we will not continue this practice anymore,” Nagaraju told TNM.
On the morning of September 8, Nagaraju and his friends began an awareness campaign in the locality where members of the Madiga community live in Kachanahalli village. “We put our foot down and we began spreading awareness that it’s illegal and wrong for the Savarnas to treat us this way, and that we must say that we would not stand to be discriminated against,” Nagaraju said.
Speaking about the discrimination they routinely face, he said, “We are made to do chores for the Savarnas without being paid. We are made to play drums for funeral processions. We are not allowed inside the temples, we are kept out of their homes, and we are asked to clean up after them. They don’t even touch us. If we drink water in their house, they throw away the glass.”
This awareness campaign did not go down well with Vokkaligas, he alleged. On the afternoon of September 8, a wealthy man from the village named Sidda Byregowda, who belongs to the Vokkaliga community, allegedly called Nagaraju and threatened to kill him and his family members after he heard about the awareness program. Nagaraju told him that he would go to the police if the threats and discrimination continued.
Around 8.30 pm on September 8, Sidda Byregowda arrived at the Madiga area, where 35 families live, along with Gangaraju, Srinivasa, Prasanna Kumar, Naveen Kumar, Rangaswamy, Doddanna, Ramakrushnaiah, Thimmegowda, Shashidhar and around 30 others.
“Gangaraju and his men came and began shouting outside our house, yelling and demanding that we come out of our houses. He began using very derogatory, casteist abuses at us. He began saying that Madigas are like dirt and we were born to serve the Vokkaligas. One of the residents of our locality, Narasimhamurthy was standing outside. Gangaraju took an iron pipe and hit Narasimhamurthy on the head,” Nagaraju said.
Almost simultaneously, the rest of the group allegedly began dragging people out of their homes and beating them up. According to the Nelamangala Rural Police, Sidda Byregowda also began beating Narasimhamurthy. One of the accused, Prasanna Kumar allegedly beat up one of the members of the Madiga community, Kemparaju, on his head, hip and limbs with an iron rod.
“Accused Naveen Kumar beat up another man named Nagendra. Rangaswamy dragged Nagaraju outside the house and began beating him with a wooden log on his head. Three women were dragged out of their homes by the accused. The women were pushed into a sewage drain and beaten up,” the Nelamangala Police said.
The assault allegedly went on for over 40 minutes after which the Vokkaliga men allegedly threatened to kill the members of the Madiga community if they did not adhere to their diktats. Police say that nine people were taken to the Nelamangala district hospital, where they are currently undergoing treatment.
The Nelamangala Rural Police have arrested Shashidhar and Thimmegowda and are currently looking for the rest of the accused, who have absconded.
Accused persons Gangaraju, Sidda Byregowda, Srinivasa, Prasanna Kumar, Naveen Kumar, Rangaswamy, Doddanna, Ramakrushnaiah, Thimmegowda, Shashidhar have been booked under sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with a deadly weapon), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt with a deadly weapon), 354 (criminal force against a woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 504 (intentional insult to provoke breach of peace) and 149 (unlawful assembly with common intent) of the IPC and relevant sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.