‘The entire official machinery had failed us’
It has been 100 days since 37 Dalit (Madiga) families of Shivanagar in Hiriyur taluk in Chitradurga have been on a protest at Freedom Park in Bangalore, and the government has been deaf to their demands, they say. Their request is for rehabilitation as they have allegedly been boycotted by “upper” caste Hindus of the adjoining Majure village, where most of them worked.
After being evicted from the premises of the Hiriyur taluk office where they had protested earlier, over 115 Dalits, including women and children, continued their dharna at Freedom Park.
‘No to complaint’
The protesters told The Hindu that they did not want to register a complaint, as it could mean being forced to go back and live in the same place again. “We have no faith that the local police will protect us and help in rehabilitation,” said K. Nagaraju, who is leading the dharna under the Dalit Sangharsh Samiti (B. Krishnappa faction).
Dalits from Shivanagar, 12 km from Majure viallge, were eking out a living by working in the fields and houses of the “upper” caste in Majure. What brought the situation to a boil was the appointment of a Dalit woman, Lakshmamma of Shivanagar, as a cook in the anganwadi of Majure village. According to the protesters, residents of Majure boycotted the Dalit families because Lakshmamma refused to sign a letter rejecting the appointment. “They did not want a Dalit to cook food and feed their children,” said Lakshmamma, who is among the agitators. “They abused me in the foulest language and humiliated me.”
Warning to residents
According to M. Jagadish, another protester, village heads have warned residents of the village that they would be fined Rs. 5,000 if they employ any Dalit from Shivanagar. “They even stopped shop owners from selling us groceries,” he alleged.
Except the very old, nobody is living in Shivanagar now, he added. The entire official machinery has failed to respond, he said.
When The Hindu contacted M. Venkatesh, Social Welfare Officer at Chitradurga, he said: “The issue has been sorted out and a detailed report on the plight of Dalits is ready for submission soon.”