The Karnataka government’s delay in sanctioning permission letters may cost 64 Dalit artists the opportunity to attend a global Kannada meet in the US.
90 dalit artists were selected to be a part of the ninth Association of Kannada Kootas of America (AKKA) World Kannada Conference to be held in New Jersey on September 2-4. But only 26 are likely to attend the event after being given visa slots on Monday and Tuesday.
The remaining 64 artists are anxious and disappointed.
Dhimant, a member of Shivasanchar theatre group alleges that they are the victims of infighting between Culture Minister Umashree and Social Welfare Department Minister H Anjaneya.
“After the SWD agreed to bear all our travel expense, the Culture Department deliberately delayed giving us the permission letter. Despite repeatedly following up on the matter, Minister Umashree delayed granting the permission. She finally signed the papers only last week. How are we expected to get the visas ready in such a short span of time?” says Dhimant, whose 15-member theatre group was to participate in the event.
Thirty-five-year-old Mohan Sheni, another artist from the group says, "Anjaneya has been telling Umashree to approve 90 Dalit artists’ names for AKKA for the past one month. She has deliberately delayed.”
He also alleges caste discrimination on the part of the minister, claiming, “There is clear sign of discrimination, because we heard that the artists who belong to general category were given the approval."
Mohan doesn't know how to face his family in Sullia, who are still under the impression that he and his troupe will perform in the US.
They have been rehearsing for the last one and half months forsaking all other commitments.
"We conduct theatre workshops and get anything around Rs 750 to Rs 1500 per day. This is our only source of money. Since July 15, I haven't done any workshops," he rues.
For artist Bhavana HT, an MBBS student, who is part of the theatre group, her disappointment knows no bounds.
“As a student, it was extremely difficult to skip classes to attend the rehearsals. And then last week we were informed that our chances of attending the event is bleak. We still had hopes that the visa procedures would somehow be done on time. But then our names did not feature in the 26 people who received slots,” she says.
The group believes that there is little chance of a miracle happening in the next few days, allowing them to attend the event.
“We are instead performing in Bengaluru next month in the presence of the authorities. We will do this to show them what we were rehearsing," Mohan says.