Dalit activists walked out of the monthly meeting organised at the taluk level here on Wednesday after being made to wait for nearly an hour by the tahsildar.
The monthly review meeting for schemes meant for the development of Scheduled Castes was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. and was to be chaired by the Assistant Commissioner of Mangalore. Members of the Dalit organisations had started arriving at the taluk panchayat well before the stipulated time.
Around 11.30 a.m., a few people demanded to know why they were being made to wait. Taluk Social Welfare Officer Reddy Naik tried to pacify them saying that the tahsildar Ravichandra Naik would arrive shortly. After another 15 minutes, the murmurs grew stronger with several people saying they felt humiliated.
Gurupura Pirka, a member of the Dalit Abhivridhi Samiti, said: “We drop everything to attend these meetings. Why do we have to keep waiting like this?”
Soon after, all the members of the Dalit groups walked out of the panchayat office and raised slogans against officials who did not come to the meeting.
Mr. Naik's efforts to pacify them went in vain. Even as they raised slogans, the tahsildar arrived and walked into the building without even glancing at the protesters. This made the gathering more furious.
Shankuntala, a member of the samiti, said: “He did not even spare us a glance and went inside. We will not come inside now.” Several others demanded that the tahsildar should come outside and explain the delay.
Soon Mr. Ravichandra Naik came and apologised saying that he had been deputed to go to Ulaibettu for a spot inspection on behalf of the Deputy Commissioner. “I did not go to attend personal work, it was on official duty that I went, which caused the delay,” he said.
However, the protesters were not willing to be mollified. They pointed out that neither the Assistant Commissioner of Mangalore nor the Assistant Commissioners of Police were present and walked away.
Mr. Ravichandra Naik told presspersons that Assistant Commissioner Prabhulinga Kavalikatti had asked him to chair the meeting. Asked what the Ulaibettu spot inspection was and whether it could not have been put off, he said he had been asked to go to the spot by the Deputy Commissioner.
He said it would be recorded in the proceedings that the Dalits had boycotted the meeting.
Among the people who had come to discuss their problems were a group of migrants from Koppal district.
They had been living on land belonging to the railways at Yekkur and had been victed from that place.
After that they shifted to Mudipu where the panchayat officials asked them to leave the spot in 10 days, said a member of the Dalit group. Now, they did not know where to go, he added.