Hassan (Karnataka), Jan 26 (IANS): At a time when the entire nation is celebrating the 73rd Republic Day, the stark realities of social imbalance continue to haunt the country.
An incident of caste discrimination has been reported from Gangura village in Karnataka's Hassan district, where the upper caste people have reportedly ordered the Dalits not to be part of a religious ceremony, and even took an undertaking from them in this regard.
The villagers of Gangura, where the main temple coming under the Muzrai department is being renovated, have decided to perform a ritual called ‘Adde Utsava'.
During this ritual, the deity from the Adibailu Bindigeyamma Ranganathaswamy temple is taken to 28 villages before culminating in a religious fair after 28 days.
However, though the temple comes under government control, the upper caste elders of the village have held a panchayat and decided that Dalits should not participate in any of the religious affairs when the deity is brought to the village.
They have issued clear instructions to the Dalits families that they should not attend any religious ritual, nor should they worship the god. They have also been threatened not to write anonymous petitions to the district commissioner or any other government authorities in this regard.
Going one step further, the upper caste elders of the village have reportedly taken an undertaking from the Dalits that if any issue arises in connection with ‘Adde Utsava', it would be resolved within the villagers.
The educated youth belonging to Dalit community in the village are fuming over the upper caste diktat.
There are around 300 houses belonging to the upper caste in the village, while only 10 families belong to the Dalit community. It is alleged that knowing fully well that the Dalits won't be able to put up a protest, upper caste people have decided to go unilaterally on the issue.
"If we are outcast from worshiping god, why should they be allowed? Don't we have the same blood in our bodies? Is it just to practice untouchability staying in the same village," asked Akash, a graduate from the village.
"We are celebrating Republic Day today. But we are yet to get freedom. The oppressive caste system is still haunting us. All castes are equal Constitutionally, so why are we being exploited? Why is the society giving us a raw deal," Akash asked, adding: "We don't want ‘Adde Utsava' to come to our village if we are prohibited from taking part in the ritual."
Another villager said on condition of anonymity that ‘Adde Utsava' was stopped for many years, and the villagers want to conduct it this time.
"But whenever it happened earlier, the upper caste people not let Dalits go near the deity. This time they are collecting signatures from our elders, who are readily obliging fearing being targeted or boycotted," he said.
"The caste system is very much alive… It is practised in every village. Ironically, it is not the Brahmins who are imposing untouchability, but other caste groups which are considered as lowly by the Brahmins are dictating in this regard. The temple belongs to the government, it is not a private property. If we are not allowed to worship and participate in rituals, we don't want the ‘Adde Utsava' in our village," he said.
The village comes under the reserved Sakleshpur Assembly constituency represented by H.K. Kumaraswamy of JD(S).
The ‘Adde Utsava' was stopped 20 years ago after a big uproar over a Dalit participating in the religious fare. After a long time, arrangements are being made to restart it but without Dalits, according to locals.
When contacted MLA H.K. Kumaraswamy stated that the issue has not come to his notice yet.
"I will inquire about it," he stated.