For five years they were ostracized by other villagers. But now 19 families from the Gud-Kagal village in Uttara Kannada district will finally be allowed back into the village’s fold.
Shiva Harikantra and his wife were among the 19 families belonging to Harikantra community, a fishing community in the district, to be ostracised by their fellow caste leaders for showing non-allegiance to their decisions.
While there was a different reason behind every family’s ostracisation, for Shiva’s family it started over indifferences on the illegal liquor business in the area. Shiva had opposed the illegal brewing as many youngsters were turning into alcoholics.
“I got the police authorities to check on the hooch business. Some of the caste leaders were associated with the business. So before I could say anything to defend my decision, they held a meeting to keep me away from the village. There are over 70 families belonging to the same community,” says 36-year-old Shiva. He runs a gymnasium in the village.
The village’s system is a well-planned one. “One member from each family is expected to turn up at the meeting. The heads would describe to them what our violations were and ask them to keep away from us. They will also come up with a penalty if someone disobeys the decision,” he said. People would have to pay a fine ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 for interacting with the ostracised families.
Pavan, was kept away from the village for interacting with Shiva and then for refusing to pay the fine.
“Many others disobeyed the rules and were ostracized. Some broke rules by giving water to one of the 19 families. Some were caught sitting together in the bus with them,” said Pavan.
Once made an outcast, life can be miserable, says Shiva. He, along with his wife, were kept away from the village for over 5 years.
“There is no respect. People belonging to the community would treat us like dirt. They would not interact with us. They would neither sit with us in the bus nor would they let us draw water from the village well. They would neither come for our functions nor would they call us for theirs,” he said.
“What was worse is nobody would come to help us during deaths in the family,” laments Shiva.
Some representative meeting the DC. Shiva second from left.
On July 5, the affected families submitted a memorandum to Uttara Kannada district commissioner, SS Nakul, saying that they would commit suicide if the authorities did not take up the issue. Uttara Kannada district-in-charge minister RV Deshpande asked the administration to look into the issue.
“An ACP rank officer visited the village along with other officials on Thursday. The village heads have been warned against carrying on such practices and been told to solve the issues among themselves. They have agreed to do so but we will conduct constant checks,” he said.
The government and police have promised to intervene if the ostracisation continues. Shiva, Pavan and others like them hope that perhaps now they would be able to lead a life with dignity.