The Udupi district police in Karnataka on Wednesday, December 29, suspended a police sub-inspector and transferred the staff at the Kota police station for allegedly attacking people from the Koraga adivasi community who had gathered for a mehendi ritual on Monday night, December 27. The incident took place at the Kotathattu gram panchayat near Kota in Udupi district. During a pre-wedding mehendi programme, visuals showed police attacking people with lathis. The police officials arrived at the wedding celebrations asking the organisers to lower the sound volume as it was disturbing neighbors.
"The police arrived there at 9:30 pm based on complaints by neighbours about the wedding celebrations. They began lathicharging people at the wedding even though those at the wedding agreed to lower the volume of the music," adivasi rights activist Shridhar Nada who is from the Koraga community said. Locals told TNM that even the bridegroom Rajesh, who works as a pourakarmika, was attacked by the police.
Police officials dragged five people, including the bridegroom, from the wedding to the police station that night. This led to a protest by the members of the community outside the police station calling for the sub-inspector to be suspended. Santhosh VP, who was the sub-inspector at the Kota police station, was suspended with immediate effect and other personnel from the station were transferred to other police stations, following an enquiry by the Udupi Superintendent of Police N Vishnuvardhan on Wednesday.
Santhosh VP, Sub-inspector in Udupi
The Koraga community is an adivasi community mainly residing in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts of Karnataka and Kasargod district of Kerala. The Koragas are a vulnerable community whose population has seen an alarming decline over the last few decades.The population of this community is now around 16,000 people of which 9,000 people reside in Udupi, mainly in places near Baindur and Kundapur towards the northern part of the district. The members of the community speak the unique Koraga language which does not have a script of its own.
According to Shridhar, weddings in the Koraga community are a rare event in Udupi. "Usually, the people from the Koraga community marry outside the community. This was a wedding between two people from the community and this is why loud speakers were used for the celebration of the wedding. The police should not have lathicharged people at the wedding for this reason," said Shridhar Nada.
Minister for Backward Classes Kota Srinivas Poojary who hails from Kota condemned the actions of the police who assaulted members of the Koraga community. "I strongly condemn the brutal assault on innocent Koragas, including the bridegroom, by the police at a function in a Koraga colony last night in the Kotathattu Gram Panchayat of Brahmavar taluk in Udupi district," Kota Srinivas Poojary said. He said that he will visit the family of the bridegroom who was attacked, on Thursday.