Clarification sought on granting exemption certificates to Kodavas and ‘Jamma’ holders

The clarification sought by the Kodagu Deputy Commissioner from the State government on granting exemption certificates (ECs) to the ‘Coorg by race’ (Kodava) people and ‘Jamma’ (land tenure) holders to keep weapons without licence, a privilege existing since the days of the British, has caused anxiety among the people here.

In his letter on September 20, Deputy Commissioner Anurag Tewari asked the Home Department whether the Jamma holders should necessarily be Kodavas (Coorgs) or otherwise. He asked whether ECs could be granted to Kodava people even if they were not Jamma holders, and non-Kodavas, who are Jamma holders. It was also asked whether EC holders could purchase weapons from outside Karnataka in such cases.

Claims

Kodavas are eligible for EC, as per concessions under Sections 3 and 4 of the Indian Arms Act of 1959, even if they are not Jamma holders, says T.C. Thammaiah, a former tahsildar. “ECs were issued to Kodavas and non-Kodavas, who were Jamma holders. There is also no mention about the extent of land a Jamma holder should possess to qualify for ECs,” he says. After the letter sent by the DC, many people have been forced to wait for long to get ECs.

Kodavas worship fire arms during festivals, they are used to fire shots in the air to herald the birth of baby boys, and some use it during house warming too.

Weapons provide security to people who live in remote villages and can act a deterrence to ward off activities of Naxalites.

The new documents sought by the district administration included original Jama Bandhi (land record) pertaining to 1918, Kodava caste certificate, Election Photo Identity Card bearing address in Kodagu, and ration cards, which were not necessary, Mr. Thammaiah argues, quoting lawyers in Madikeri.

A revenue transfer certificate would confirm whether the person seeking EC is a Kodava or the land held by him is Jamma.

The Madikeri Kodava Samaja has threatened non-cooperation for the All India Kannada Sahitya Sammelan scheduled to be held in Madikeri from January 7 to 9 if the obstacles in issuing ECs were not removed.

The Akhila Kodava Samaja, a representative body of the Kodavas, wants the rights continued. The Codava National Council, headed by N.U. Nachappa, too has demanded unhindered continuation of the privilege.

However, Mr. Tewari told The Hindu that the administration did not want to harass people, but the intention was to devise an alternative way to regulate the likely misuse of weapons.

The government of India had raised the issue some time ago, he said. “We have not stopped issuing ECs to the people,” Mr. Tewari confirmed.

Asked why the applicants were being told to produce Jama bandhi copies of 1918, he said some officials dealing with it had sought them to verify the claims of the applications as additional proof and it was not mandatory.

Efforts were on to computerise and keep a directory of licensed weapons and EC holders in the district, Mr. Tewari said. “The people of Kodagu should get the benefit,” he added.

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