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`Help us live or give us poison'

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UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Hit by hunger and disease, the children of Dalit families of Kadkol village in Bijapur district await justice
UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Hit by hunger and disease, the children of Dalit families of Kadkol village in Bijapur district await justice

Suresh Bhat

KADKOL (BIJAPUR DISTRICT): Seven year-old Chaitra and her younger sister Anjali have rashes all over their bodies. Their parents Sangappa Kanal and Yallavva believe the children have measles.

Asked why they had not consulted a doctor, tears fill their eyes. "We hardly have enough food to feed them, how can we arrange money for medicines? They will survive if their fate is strong," says Sangappa.Sangappa's is one among around 80 Dalit families in Kadkol village of Basavanabagewadi taluk in Bijapur district against whom there is a social and economic boycott by caste Hindus.

Farm workers

Most of the Dalits are agricultural labourers. They worked under the village landlords till the boycott was imposed on them on July 25, the day they dared collect water from the village tank.

Before that they had no access to the tank, and non-Dalits used to pour water from it into their vessels. When at last they fought and gained access to it they lost all means of livelihood.

The landlords, mostly caste Hindus, stopped giving them work.

Shops and flourmills were shut for them. An undeclared restriction came into force at the doors of fair price shops under the public distribution system.

Steeped in poverty

"Now, even if they open the shops and flourmills to us, we don't have either money to purchase essential commodities or cereals to grind," said Yamanavva, an elderly woman.

Muniappa Yallappa Akkalkot, well into his 70's, said, "I have worked as a bonded labourer in Siddanna Saukar's family since my childhood. It became my home. Leave alone the district headquarters of Bijapur, I have not seen even the taluk headquarters of Basavanabagewadi, 30 km from Kadkol. However, my service went in vain. I was simply asked to go out on that day (July 25)".

Panel's assurance

The Dalits of Kadkol village narrated their woes to A.J. Sadashiva, head of the commission appointed by the State to look into the lapses in providing constitutional rights to Schedule Castes, who visited Bijapur on Monday last. He assured them justice and asked Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Mohsin to initiate steps to bring back normality in the village.

However, when this correspondent visited the village on Thursday, nothing seemed to have changed.

Except for a police force, which has been camping there for a week, no taluk or district-level official visited the village, said the ostracised Dalits.

Children starving

"Initially our relatives in other villages and sympathisers gave us some money and foodgrains. How many days can we depend on them? Nowadays, we are able to feed our children only once a day. We don't want anything free, but give us jobs. This is our humble request to the Government.

Or, rather than allow us to starve, give us some poison," said Chayappa, who was allegedly beaten up by caste Hindus in the recent conflict.

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