I have been searching for a house to rent in the Santinagar and Hemavati Nagar area of Hassan for the last 15 days.
I liked a house that I saw, which was near my daughter’s school. When I called I was asked to come the next day. I informed Manjegowda, Hassan Branch President of Karnataka Sahitya Parishat who gave a recommendation to the owner to rent me the house. Manjegowda was told that as he was recommending there is no issue and I was asked to arrive first thing in the morning.
I had seen around 50 houses and I was excited and happy as I was convinced that Manjegowda’s recommendation would help me in securing the house.
As soon as I woke up in the morning I drove in the car to Manjegowda’s house, woke him up from his sleep and drove with him.
As Manjegowda was with me and the house belonged to a Gowda family I was confident I should get the house at least today.
I said OK to everything after seeing the house.
Coming out of the house I offered to pay the advance.
“What is your caste, sir,” the owner asked directly in front of Manjegowda.
For a second I looked at Manjegowda.
He too was looking at me.
I am not used to telling lies. I do social work and keep appearing on television and one day or the other truth will be out.
I said SC (Scheduled Caste).
Owner’s face shrunk and he said, “Please don’t be offended but I don’t rent the house to SC.”
“Why?” I asked.
“My wife doesn’t like it,” was his answer.
Nayakarahalli Manjegowda had become silent. I was speechless.
I felt humiliated, angry and at the same time my patience had reached its limit.
During this time Manjegowda said, “he is one of us, let him have it boss.”
He replied, “sorry Manjegowdre,” with a straight face.
Who the hell created caste, I cursed silently. I was hurt badly and thought of how I fight for so many people and my situation is no different.
For this, ‘Untouchability practice in renting houses to Dalits’, Karnataka Sahitya Parishat Hassan President became the witness. I was waiting for his words.
”Sir, why do people behave like this? Anyway don’t worry, you will get another one,” Manjegowda tried to pacify when he came out.
I phoned my uncle, Subbu Holeyar.
“I have been humiliated. Can I file an atrocity case to teach these people a lesson?”
“If it isn’t in their hearts nothing can be done. It is their house and they can give it to anyone they like” my uncle said.
I tried to calm myself.
“Who will change their hearts? When will that happen?”
I have seen nearly 50 houses. I am ready to pay the asking rent and advance but I haven’t found a house where the owner doesn’t ask my caste. Let us see…..
Devegowda, Former Prime Minister, is the MP for Hassan.
This article was first posted on Facebook in Kannada by Nagaraj Hettur on 12th May. Translated by Sridhar Gowda.
Nagaraj Hettur is a poet, journalist and activist.