Bageshree S.

Bangalore: The appalling practice of untouchability seems to only assume new and less obvious forms after it is exposed and causes public outrage. The situation in Kadkol village of Basavanabagewadi taluk in Bijapur district, where 80 Dalit families were imposed social and economic boycott by caste Hindus on July 25, 2006 for daring to draw water from a tank till then reserved for caste Hindus, is a case in point.

According to Chalavadi Ramanna of Karnataka Mula Asprushyara Manava Hakkugala Rakshana Vedike, the tank which is at the centre of the controversy, is now not barred to Dalits. However, in a strange reversal, it is shunned by caste Hindus who allegedly spare no opportunity to pollute it. They routinely leave their cattle to splash around in the tank, which is a source of drinking water, he alleges.

What is even more shocking is that one year and two months after the incident was reported, the authorities are yet to book anyone for practising untouchability and imposing boycott. “The police say it has to be handled by the Civil Rights Enforcement Cell. The cell says that it does not have adequate staff to conduct an inquiry and the police should do it,” says Mr. Ramanna. “As a result, those responsible for the act, including a member of the taluk panchayat and president of Gram Panchayat, are walking free,” he said.

In the meanwhile, the practice of untouchability, banned by the Constitution, continues in various forms. A local barber will not give a Dalit a haircut. “This is not typical of Kadkol. This is the most normal thing in many villages in north Karnataka,” says Mr. Ramanna.

The demands put forward by Karnataka Mula Asprushyara Manava Hakkugala Rakshana Vedike for rehabilitation of the 80-odd families which faced boycott are yet to be fulfilled, barring the demand for housing. Seventy-three people have been identified for giving housing sites. Local political and caste Hindu interests, Mr. Ramanna alleges, diverted the loans sanctioned meant for victims to those who did not face social boycott. The other demands, including sanction of lands and creating job opportunities, are not even under consideration at the moment.

The vedike submitted a memorandum with nine demands to the Deputy Commissioner on October 10, 2006.

“The Government has an obligation to rehabilitate people who face social boycott under sections of the Protection of Civil Rights Act, which was enacted in 1955. The sad part is even the victims of atrocities are often not aware of this,” says Mr. Ramanna.