All communities agree to voluntarily impose prohibition on liquor

Saturday turned out to be a special day for the residents of Nimbal, a village in Aland taluk of Gulbarga district and home for the Shantalingeshwara Virakta Math, when the math chief, Mounayogi Shantalingeshwara Mahaswami returned after a gap of three full moon days, after the people conceded his demand for imposing voluntary prohibition.

The entire village was decked up with festoons and buntings to welcome the revered swami, who maintains silence throughout the year, except while giving a religious discourse on the Ugadi Day (Kannada New Year day) every year. Rest of the time, the swami uses a pen to send messages to his followers on important occasions.

The swami, known for his simplicity, has a wide following in Karnataka and neighbouring Maharashtra. He was instrumental in converting Nimbal into a modern village with all facilities, including underground drainage system and potable drinking water to all houses. More than 50 per cent of the houses have individual toilets and at the initiative of the swami, the work is on to construct toilets in all the remaining houses.

Before departing from the village to his hermitage in Gulbarga three full moon days ago, the swami had expressed his desire to his devotees that the village should be free of liquor and had asked the residents to impose a voluntary prohibition.

The villagers too decided to impose prohibition on Vijayadashami day. But the decision ran into rough weather after a Dalit youth was found drunk and beaten up by a few persons.

Taking exception to the incident, a section of Dalits preferred a complaint with the police and a case, under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Atrocities (Prevention) Act, was registered against those who had allegedly beaten him, after which tension prevailed in the village.

Meanwhile, the swami reportedly expressed his displeasure over the developments in the village and announced that he would not return unless there was a rapprochement between the Caste Hindus and Dalits and with the concurrence of all communities and castes, total prohibition was imposed in the village.

The villagers formed a five-member committee, comprising leaders from all communities, including the Dalits, and took a unanimous decision to impose prohibition in the village. They declared that all the people would follow the prohibition voluntarily. This decision was later conveyed to the seer, after which he ended the boycott and returned to the village.

The swami, in his written message at the math, said that prohibition in the village was not intended to attract media attention but for the overall benefit of people and converting Nimbal into a model village.