A section of Dalit families that has been taking part in the risky ritual of Sidi during the annual fair at Hariharapur in Holenarsipur taluk has refused to do so this year. The ritual involves men being tied to a wooden pole with the help of a hook inserted into their body and women walking with their mouths locked with iron hooks.
The annual fair of the local deity — Udusalamma (Durga Parameshwari) — has been scheduled for March 24 and 25 this year. Hassan district unit of the Dalit Hakkugala Samiti has submitted a memorandum to the district administration and the tahsildar of Holenarsipur to avoid the “inhuman” ritual during the fair this year. The memorandum was submitted based on the opposition from a section of Dalit families that has been participating in Sidi for several years.
During the festival, normally four Dalit men play the Sidi, where they are tied to a wooden pole, while women members of their families participate in a procession with their mouths locked with iron hooks. Those playing Sidi have to be on fast for at least five days before the festival as it believed to help in piercing the iron hook into their skin. “All these years we have continued with this tradition because our parents did. Now, I wish this is stopped, I don’t want my children to continue with this,” said a Dalit man. He wants the government to intervene to stop the ritual. “Last year, we were expecting officers to stop this tradition. However, by the time officers visited our village, the ritual had already begun,” he recalled.
The Dalits participating in the fair have another disadvantage that they cannot celebrate the occasion like others. “We have to be on a fast for five days prior to the festival, and even on that day, we suffer pain because of the iron hooks pierced into our body. We have to play Sidi for the entertainment of others. For those participating in the fair, it is a reality show entertainment at the cost of our pain,” he said. Even if someone falls unconscious because of having been on a fast, he/she will be blamed for showing disrespect to the deity.
M.G. Pruthvi, district convener of the samiti, told The Hindu , “We have appealed to the district administration to stop the practice this year. We are not opposed to the religious event. However, it should be without any inhuman practice. Last year, a youth died while playing Sidi at Hebbal in Belur taluk.”
The anti-superstition Bill proposed by the State government bans all inhuman rituals. The government, however, has deferred its tabling in the legislature.