Young Dalit writer attacked in Davanagere

Attackers said his writings were anti-Hindu as he talked about the caste system

October 23, 2015 12:59 am | Updated November 16, 2021 04:18 pm IST - Bengaluru

A young Dalit writer was attacked by a group of men for his writings against the caste system perceived to be “anti-Hindu” at Davanagere in Central Karnataka on Thursday.

The attack comes barely three months after the shooting of writer M.M. Kalburgi – barely 100 km away – and at a time when numerous writers across the country have raised their voice against rising intolerance.

According to a complaint filed by 23-year-old Huchangi Prasad, a journalism student at Davanagere University who had published a ‘controversial’ book a year ago, an unidentified man came to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe hostel at the university in the early hours, claiming that Mr. Prasad’s mother had been hospitalised following a heart attack. Apparently in “shock”, the student followed the man who promised to take him to the hospital. Midway, in an isolated corner of APMC Yard, a group of eight to ten people ambushed him.

“They surrounded me and started to push me around. They said my writings were anti-Hindu as I talked about the caste system. They even put kumkum all over my face. They pulled out a knife and said they will cut my fingers off so I can never write again,” Mr. Prasad told The Hindu .

He pushed his way through the group and ran into the nearby woods, where he hid. Hours later, when sure that the group had left, he fled to the hostel. He later filed the police complaint.

Following the attack, police have registered a case against “unknown persons” under attempt to murder (IPC 307) and under sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The student had published his first book in April 2014 and had since then faced threats.

The book comprised prose and poetry revolving around treatment of Dalits in the country.

Right wing ire

At the book launch, Kannada writer K.S. Bhagwan — who has recently received threats — spoke inviting the ire of right-wing organisations who had filed a complaint for provocative speech at the local police station.

Mr. Prasad had been threatened since then.

‘Attack has only strengthened resolve’

Hours after being accosted, threatened and assaulted by a group of more than eight men in Davanagere, Mr. Prasad, a journalism student at Davanagere University, talked to The Hindu on his trysts with Dalit activism as well as the threats from right-wing groups that have come along with his works.

How did you get into writing? And particularly, writing strongly about Dalit issues?

I come from a small village (Santebennur in Davangere district) where my parents still work as daily wage labour. I was not sent to school, and was made to go into bonded labour at an early age. I have seen and faced caste discrimination and the violence around it. It was only when I was rescued and put into Chinnara Angala (school for rescued children) that I received proper education. My writings reflect this pain of the caste system.

Why do you think you were particularly targeted on Wednesday night?

After the release of my book, Odala Kichchu, in April 2014 which talks about the caste system and its origin from Hinduism and its ill-effects, I had received threats for nearly a month. They even filed a complaint for provocation and incendiary writings. Since then, my writings and even posts on social media have ruffled feathers.

Did the attackers identify themselves as being from a right-wing group?

They did not, but it was obvious by their behaviour. They put vermillon (kumkum) all over my face, and asked me how I dared to write about Hinduism when I do not have belief in it. They said I had sinned in my previous birth and that’s why I am born a Dalit. They seemed to know me, and the whatsapp messages I had sent about recent Dalit killings.

When they threatened to chop off my hands to stop me from writing, I knew I had to somehow escape.

Following the attack, do you fear for your life?

Yes. I’m still recovering, and I have asked the police to provide me protection.

Will the attack deter you from writing? Or even, induce hesitation to take up topics that may irk right-wing groups?

On the contrary, I am enthused, determined and seem to have somehow gathered courage and will to continue writing. I do not want them to know that the attack has had any effect on my will to write.

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