What has Kodagu district in Karnataka got to do with the endorsement by the United Progressive Alliance and the Congress Working Committee for the formation of Telangana State?
It has reinforced the belief of the Codava National Council (CNC), a body fighting for autonomy for Kodava homeland and Kodava people, a small and well-knit community in Kodagu.
Kodagu, one of the smallest districts in the State, remained a Part ‘C’ State from 1952 to 1956. It was amalgamated with the then Mysore State (now Karnataka) amid protests by a strong section of the Kodava people in 1956.
“We (CNC) will achieve our goal of securing autonomy for Kodagu through peaceful means,” asserts Nandineravanda U. Nachappa, who has been leading the movement for the last 22 years, albeit under different nomenclatures.
“The Telangana decision has strengthened our cause,” he told The Hindu.
Kodagu was ruled by the Lingayat Rajahs till the British annexed it in 1834 and renamed it Coorg.
The protests against the merger of Kodagu started gathering momentum, thanks to Mr. Nachappa, who formed LIWAK (Liberation Warriors of Kodagu) on September 1, 1991, seeking Statehood.
LIWAK was re-christened Kodagu Rajya Mukti Morcha (KRMM)) in 1995 by Mr. Nachappa to give it wide acceptance and a sense of a revolution, he said.
He accused the State governments of “suppressing” the feelings of the Kodava people who had been “marginalised and discriminated against” since the merger.
To counter the movement, Kodagu Praja Vedike was set up in the district around the same time, but this organisation later declined.
Mr. Nachappa chose to rename his organisation “Codagu National Council” (CNC) for a brief period in the beginning of 2000. However, he has continued with the arrangement since then. With this, the CNC also diluted its stand by dithering on the Statehood issue. Instead, it is demanding autonomy for Kodava homeland by bringing together the 45 erstwhile “nads” (a ‘nad’ is a cluster of several villages) inhabited by Kodava people, mostly in the southern parts of Kodagu.
The CNC’s other main demands are: reservation for Kodava people in all sectors; providing Constitutional guarantee to the land and culture of Kodavas; continuing with the exemption to hold weapons under Section 3 and 4 of the Indian Arms Act; establishing a university in Kodagu to propagate ‘Kodavalogy’; and inclusion of Kodava ‘thakk’ (language) in the VIII Schedule of the Constitution.
“What is wrong if an autonomous region is carved out within the State of Karnataka?” Mr. Nachappa asks and adds that the CNC would intensify its agitation.
The struggle for Kodava autonomous homeland has seen innumerable rallies in Kodagu, Bangalore, and at times in New Delhi. Numerous petitions have been submitted to the top political leaders in New Delhi and the State in the last two decades. Mr. Nachappa has roped in the support of academics, intellectuals, and even represented the United Nations. Ten days ago, Mr. Nachappa attended a meeting of the Federation of New States in New Delhi, a network of Statehood and autonomous region movements across the country. Mr. Nachappa said that the meeting was convened under the Chairmanship of Bodoland leader S.K. Bwismuthiary at his residence on July 21. Leaders of 26 Statehood and autonomous status movements were present.