Babasaheb Dr.B.R. Ambedkar Adhyayana Kendra, Bangalore-9
late Sriramappa and other Six Dalits who were burnt alive at Kambalapalli
We sincerely acknowledge the support given by the following DSS/BSP activists for bringing out this small booklet
O. Rajanna, N. Shivanna, Krishna Chinthamani, Dr.L. Hanumanthaiah, Marasandra Muniyappa
Will history repeat itself?
On 26th January 1950, India will be an Independent country (Cheers). What would happen to her independence? Will she maintain her independence or will she lose it again? This is the first thought that comes to my mind. It is not that India was never an independent country. The point is that she once lost the independence she had. Will she lose it a second time? It is this thought which makes me most anxious for the future. What perturbs me greatly is the fact that not only India has once before lost her independence, but she lost it by the infidelity and treachery of some of her own people…
Will history repeat itself? It is this thought which fills me with anxiety. This anxiety is deepened by the realization of the fact that in addition to our old enemies in the form of castes and creeds, we are going to have many political parties with diverse and opposing political creeds. Will Indians place the country above their creed or will they place creed above country? I do not know. But this much is certain that if the parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost for ever. This eventuality we must all resolutely guard against. We must be determined to defend our independence with the last drop of our blood. (Cheers).
~ Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
in the Constituent Assembly
On 25th November 1949.
Burning Alive of 7 Dalits – Genesis
Kolar is one of the 27 Districts of Karnataka State in India. There are 11 Taluks and 12 Assembly Constituencies out of which 3 are reserved for Scheduled Castes. There are 2 Parliament seats in Kolar district – Kolar and Chickaballapur. Kolar seat is reserved for Scheduled Castes and K.H. Muniyappa, a Scheduled Caste is the sitting Member of Parliament. Chowdareddy has been elected from Chinthamani Assembly seat, where the carnage took place.
Out of the 27 districts Kolar has the highest SC/ST population bordering about 30% of the total pupulation of the district. They are agricultural labourers working under the upper caste feudal landlords. A large number of them continues to work as bonded labourers in the house of Vokkaliga landlords. The entire economy of the district and the industrial establishments are under the control of Vokkaligas. Out of the 12 MLAs 7 are Vokkaligas, 3 SCs and 2 Balijigas who are also upper caste. This shows that the Vokkaligas not only posses lands in the district but also wield political power. Thus what ever Vokkaligas say in the district is the law of the district and the writ of the State does not run there. The entire administration including the police force is at their beck and call.
The hopeless state of affairs of Dalits in the district can therefore very well be imagined from the facts given above.
The head quarters of the district is at Kolar. 2 students from Mulabagal Taluk were studying in the Government college at Kolar during the academic year 1974-75 of whom one was from Vokkaliga caste and the other belonged to Scheduled Caste named Munivenkatappa. Both of them appeared for PUC examination together and the Vokkaliga boy failed and Munivenkatappa passed in FIRST class. The Vokkaligas could not tolerate passing of a Dalit with distinction and failure of the student of their own community. Without any hesitation the Vokkaligas murdered Munivenkatappa and packed his dead body in a gunny bag and threw it in the Kolaramma Tank. This incident was the turning point in the awakening of Dalit consciousness among the Dalit students in Kolar district and from them to Dalit masses.
There were demonstrations and public meetings by Dalits who began to group together and started the district unit of Dalit Sangharsha Samithi (DSS) in Kolar. As usual the murder case did not end up in conviction and all the accused persons were acquitted for want of evidence. This was due to the interference of political forces in the investigation of the crime.
The next notable incident was the gang rape and murder of one Chinnamma belonging to Scheduled Caste by Vokkaligas in Doddi Halli village about 5 kms away from Chinthamani Town. The dead body was thrown into a well and she wore injuries on her face, breasts and on private parts. The political forces got her body burried after a fake postmortem. The DSS took up the case, got the body exhumed and got a re-postmortem conducted by a panel of 3 Doctors. But the accused could not be convicted for want of evidence. This also led to the awakening of dormant Dalit forces not only in the district but also in other parts of the state.
During 1975-76 a Scheduled Caste woman was gang raped. Nallagutta Halli village is about 37 kms from Kolar Town and comes under the Chinthamani Taluk. Smt. Nagamma belonged to Scheduled Caste and one day along with her husband went to Nallagutta Hill for collecting fire wood. About 6 rowdys, one belonging to Brahmin and other 5 belonging to Vokkaliga community were enjoying drinks and after seeing the couple went to them tied the husband with creepers and gang raped the wife in the presence of her husband. In this case also there was no conviction. The DSS took active role in organising the Dalits and agitating against these barbaric acts of the upper castes. The agitation was led by N. Shivanna, Gaddam N. Venkatesh and others and an attempt was made by the caste Hindus on the life of N. Shivanna in a hit and run case in which he sustained severe head injuries.
During the 1978 Assembly Elections N. Shivanna contested from Chinthamani Assembly general constituency. The opposite candidates belonged to Vokkaliga community. In that election Chowdareddy won. The upper castes were not happy that a Scheduled Caste person contested in a general seat against Vokkaligas. After a few weeks they organised Vokkaligas, late in the evening forcibly entered Vinoba Colony where the Madigas (SC) were residing. They consisted of more than 200 persons armed with deadly weapons and entered into the houses of Dalits breaking the doors open and dragging the inmates out. There after they set their houses on fire. One Dalit Pedda Patelappa was stabbed to death and about 30-35 Dalits sustained bleeding injuries. Though the police came they were few in number and could not control the situation. The unruly mob attacked the police and the Circle Inspector of Police sustained grievous injuries. This incident led to the unification of various factions created by the Vokkaligas in the Dalit community. A complaint was lodged by N. Shivanna and under his leadership DSS started agitations which led to externment of 4 persons. The Vokkaligas influenced the witnesses and the case ended in acquittal of the accused.
It was during this period one Sambaiah, a Dalit lost his valuable land. A landlord in Chinnapagana Halli, Malur Taluk, Kolar Dist., became a defaulter in payment of land revenue and his land was ordered to be sold in auction. The auction notification was issued and in the auction notification the survey No. of the land of Sambaiah was inserted after striking off the survey No. of the land of the landlord. Thus the land of Sambaiah was auctioned and the same was purchased by the Vokkaliga landlords of the same village with full knowledge of the forgery and fraud.
Sambaiah had no other means of livelihood and during his old age he became a landless agricultural labourer. He filed an appeal against the auction and the case went upto the High Court of Karnataka and after about 20 years of litigation the land was restored to his widow. By that time Sambaiah had died and his son Munivenkatappa was also dead unable to bear the great mental agony. The Lawyer O.Sreedharan, one of the founder leaders of DSS, took the certified copy of the final order of the High Court to the village and handed over the same to his widow and visited the place where the father and son were buried and all the villagers who had assembled there observed two minutes silence.
The Dalits of the village had organised a small function in the evening and the leaders like Muniyappa BSP State Vice President, Mavalli Shankar State Organising Convenor DSS, R. Muniyappa State Executive Committee Member DSS were to address the gathering. Suddenly electric current was cut.
For about 20 years the Vokkaligas enjoyed the land knowing fully well that it belonged to Sambaiah and that they got it through fraudulent means. The attitude of the Vokkaligas towards Dalits can very well be imagined from the above incident.
Novel Protest by DSS
Next notable event was the brutal murder of Kumbara Sheshagiriyappa a person belonging to Kumbara (Potter) community coming under most backward castes and gang rape of his daughter Anasuyamma at Hunasi Kote, Malur Taluk, Kolar Dist. This was one of the watersheds in the onward march of DSS. This incident took place in the year 1979. At that time one Krishnegowda, a Vokkaliga was the Malur Taluk Board President. Kumbara Sheshagiriyappa was brutally murdered by Krishnegowda and other Vokkaligas because he opposed Vokkaligas when they tried to snatch away the piece of land belonging to him. They also raped Anasuyamma daughter of Sheshagiriyappa. The police force was not able to arrest all the accused persons because of the political clout of the Vokkaliga community. DSS took up the issue though Sheshagiriyappa was not a Scheduled Caste. The DSS conducted a 2 days camp and prepared a dedicated set of processionists to take Sheshagiriyappa’s JYOTHI to Vidhana Soudha. The JYOTHI was lit from the grave yard of Sheshagiriyappa in Hunasi Kote Village. It symbolised his spirit and it marched towards Karnataka Legislature which was in session at that time. It represented Sheshagiriyappa going to the Assembly to ask the Government as to why he was not given protection and as to why the culprits were not arrested and punished. The processionists numbering about 500 were lathi – charged when they attempted to go near the Assembly. Leaders like Prof. B. Krishnappa, O. Sreedharan, M.D. Gangaiah, N. Giriyappa Devanur Mahadeva, Siddalingaiah, L. Hanumanthaiah, O. Rajanna, N. Shivanna, N. Venkatesh, H. Govindaiah, N. Muniswamy, Indudara Honnapura, C.M. Muniyappa, K. Ramaiah, Vijayakumar, V. Narayanaswamy and others led the procession. Many sustained injuries in the police lathi-charge and all of them were arrested and removed and cases were booked against two dozen leaders. The Opposition Party in the Legislative Assembly under the leadership of late Devaraj Urs staged a walkout. The 3 days protest march from Hunasi Kote to Bangalore and the latti-Charge at the end resulted in wide awakening particularly among Dalit masses and in the emergence of DSS as a strong force in Karnataka.
H. Nagasandra village in Gowribidanur taluk of Kolar District had a large number of bonded labourers. They were made to eat compulsorily the food supplied by the Vokkaliga landlords under whom they worked. They were not even allowed to cook their own food even during festivities. Though the Bonded Labourers Abolition Act was in force, the authorities took no action to release and rehabilitate them. The DSS took up that issue during 1982-83 and got them liberated and worked for their rehabilitation. An agitation was launched for the distribution of Government land. The release of bonded labourers infuriated the Vokkaligas and they demanded banning of DSS. The Vokkaliga community thought that if the DSS was allowed to function in the state it would bring about a revolutionary change in the existing structure of the society and in the economic and administrative systems. So they created disharmony among the top Dalit Leaders. There after the Vokkaligas formed an organisation called “Vokkaligara Yuva Vedike” and it was inaugurated by Sri Balagangadhara Swamiji. During his inaugural speech he exhorted his followers to liquidate their enemies and whenever their interest was in danger all the community leaders irrespective of their political affiliations should join together and fight against it. After a few weeks a girl belonging to Vokkaliga community tied “Rokky” (rakhi) on the hand of a Dalit boy Venkatashiva, both were classmates in the Government First Grade College Chinthamani, as a mark of her brotherly feeling towards him. This incident resulted in protest by the Vokkaliga students who approached the Vokkaligara Yuva Vedike leaders. The students and the Vedike leaders came to the college, entered into the class and dragged Venkatashiva out of the class room and assaulted him. The victim along with some Dalit students went to the Chinthamani Police Station to lodge a complaint and sat in Dharna in front of the police station demanding the arrest of the culprits. At that time the Vokkaliga students and members of the Vedike went to the PUC Hostel run by the Government at Shidlagatta road with deadly weapons like sickles, iron rods, cycle chains, etc., They destroyed their books, files and furniture and the food cooked for the lunch and the provision including rice etc. They did not forget to remove Bharatha Rathna Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s photo from the wall. They threw it on the ground and trampled on it with their boots and chappals.
Next day the then Social Welfare Minister K.M. Krishnareddy, a Vokkaliga hailing from Chinthamani town called a peace committee meeting and stopped all further prosecution proceedings and hushed up the matter.
Notorious Billandla Halli Incident
Billandla Halli is a village about 30 kms from Chinthamani Town. There are about 200 families of Vokkaligas and 75 houses of Madigas and Holayas (both SCs). The Dalits wanted to celebrate Ambedkar Jayanthi and start a village unit of DSS in the village and cultural programs were also arranged for the function. State DSS leader N. Shivanna and others were invited for the function. Pamphlets were printed and distributed. Vokkaliga Yuva Vedike opposed the starting of a unit of DSS in the village. On 31-8-1997 the then Social Welfare Minister Krishnareddy, Transport Minister Bachegowda, Agricultural Minister Byregowda and Housing Minister and Karnataka Milk Producers Federation Chairman H.D. Revanna all belonged to Vokkaliga community attended a function for opening of a Dairy building at Ragutta Halli village, the neighbouring village of Billandla Halli. The Vokkaliga Yuva Vedike leaders met the team of Vokkaliga Ministers and informed them about the inauguration of a DSS village unit in Billandla Halli and requested them to take suitable action to prevent it.
On 1-9-1997 the day of inauguration of DSS unit the Dy. Superintendent of Police Srikantaiah and Circle Inspector Ramachandrappa both belonging to Vokkaliga community contacted N. Shivanna on phone. The Circle Inspector told him that their function at Billandla halli might create law and order problems and might lead to blood shed in the locality and asked him to cancel the program and not to go there. He also told him to contact Dy. SP. Srikantaiah immediately. Then N. Shivanna contacted Dy. SP. Srikantaiah over phone who also informed N. Shivanna to cancel the program and not to go there since large number of hired goondas had assembled there. N. Shivanna agreed and informed about the cancellation of the program to the Dy. SP. The DSS Mungaana Halli Hobli Convener Kodigal Ramesh telephoned to N. Shivanna telling him about the assembly of large number of Dalits to participate in the function and asked him to attend the function without fail. Shivanna informed him that the function has been cancelled on the advice of the police. But the police wanted to go to the village to prevent any untoward incident. Thinking that N. Shivanna and other leaders of DSS would be coming to attend the function with police protection the Vokkaligas had created road blocks with stones and boulders. Sudhakarreddy a Vokkaliga Yuva Vedike activist was sitting on a branch of a tree with loaded gun to shoot N. Shivanna and other DSS leaders. When the police who were coming to the village started removing the road blocks Sudhakarreddy fired at them and one police constable fell dead. Noticing that, the police fired at Sudhakarreddy and he fell down dead. The Vokkaligas who were hiding behind the bushes to attack Dalits ran towards the police and attacked them with deadly weapons during which one police constable was murdered on the spot and another constable was chased and caught and dragged out of a school 1 km away from the spot and brutally murdered in the presence of teachers and students. Many police officers and constables were injured and their vehicles were burnt. No effective steps have been taken to prosecute the culprits. This emboldened the Vokkaligas and they felt that nothing would happen to them if they murder others. Against the murder of their colleagues the police personnel conducted Dharna in the police station. The DSS also protested against the brutal act of Vokkaligas who killed only those police constables who did not belong to Vokkaliga community. A Kolar Bundh was observed by DSS and the general public against the above atrocious act of Vokkaligas.
During August 1997 a flock of sheep belonging to both Vokkaligas and Dalits was stolen from Kambala Palli Village. In this connection a ‘Panchayath’ was held in the village and it was unilaterally decided that Venkataramanappa, Anjanappa and Ravanappa, all Dalits had stolen the sheep inspite of their denial and it was also decided to file a police complaint of theft against them. Fearing police action the above named Dalits left their village along with their families. A police complaint was filed in this connection and during investigation it came to light that the sheep were stolen and taken to Andhra Pradesh and sold for Rs. 9,000/- by K.M. Maddireddy, Anjaneyareddy, Reddappa, Narayanaswamy, Kittanna alias Krishnareddy (waterman) and their followers all belonging to Vokkaliga community of the same village. The sheep belonging to the Dalits were recovered and brought back and handed over to the owners. Dalit Venkataramanappa and his two brothers who had left the village took leading part in the detection of the stolen sheep which resulted in the exposure of Vokkaligas’ conspiracy. Further it also brought contempt and ridicule to Vokkaligas as a whole in the village. They wanted to do away with Venkataramanappa and were waiting for a chance for him to come back to the village.
According to Section 3(1) (VIII) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. 1989 whoever not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe institutes false criminal or other legal proceedings against a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than Six months but which may extend to 5 years and with fine. The police should have booked a criminal case against the Vokkaligas who had filed false complaints against Dalits in the matter under the above provision of law. That would have checked them from advancing further with their criminal activities.
On hearing the delivery of his wife Venkataramanappa came to the village on 5-6-1998 at about 10.30 p.m. On getting information about his arrival Maddireddy, Anjaneyareddy and other 39 persons including Kittanna alias Krishnareddy (waterman) formed an unlawful assembly and chased him to his house and stoned him to death in the presence of his wife and other family members. He was buried under the stones numbering about 50. All the above 41 culprits were released on bail and were roaming in the locality.
In many villages like Vaijakur, Burudagunte, Suladhenahalli, Eragampalli, Sitampalli there were social boycotts engineered by the Vokkaligas and a murder was also committed by them in Eragampalli village. All these above incidents clearly show that the Vokkaliga community is uncivilised exhibiting criminal tendencies.
The Chief Minister of Karnataka Sri S.M. Krishna belongs to this Vokkaliga community and he is considered as a leader of Vokkaligas. His assumption of Office as Chief Minister of Karnataka was celebrated by the Vokkaligas.
During December 1999 the Assistant Commissioner of Chikkaballapura Sub-Division conducted a meeting in Chinthamani Taluk Office attended by DSS leaders, Taluk Social Welfare Officer, Municipal Commissioner, BDO, Police Officers and the Tahsildar to look into the grievances of Dalits in the taluk and to find out solutions for the same. During the meeting Dalit Sriramappa of Kambalapalli, the younger brother of murdered Venkataramanappa told in the meeting that they were forced to leave the village by the Vokkaligas who had destroyed their bore well, murdered his elder brother and waiting to liquidate him and how long he could live outside the village and he wanted to go back to his village to lead a peaceful life and sought the help and aid of the authorities. A meeting was fixed on 8-1-2000 to take Sriramappa, his brother Anjanappa, his father Venkatarayappa and mother Ramakka back to the village and settle them there with all protection. Accordingly these said persons were taken back to the village on that day. By noon the authorities wanted a conciliation meeting to be held between the Vokkaligas and the members of the Dalit family. The Vokkaligas decided to hold the conciliation meeting in the temple located at their locality. Fearing reprisal from the Vokkaligas, the Dalits were afraid of going to the area of the Vokkaligas and they requested the authorities to conduct the meeting at ‘Arali Katte’ near their colony. The Vokkaligas did not agree to this for reasons best known to them. So the conciliation meeting did not take place.
On 10-3-2000 at about 6p.m. one Shankarappa and his friend Narasimhappa (both Dalits) were bringing tender coconut to the ailing father of Shankarappa along the Yanamalapadi road. K.M. Venkatareddy S/o. Maddireddy and Ravi S/o Kittanna (both Vokkaligas) were coming in a TVS XL from the opposite direction. Venkatareddy brought the vehicle so close to Shankarappa as if he wanted to hit him with the vehicle and suddenly stopped it. Shankarappa asked when he had so much space in the road what was the need for him to take his vehicle so close to him. To this Venkatareddy retorted why should he (Dalit boy) come by that road. Thus a quarrel ensued between them. K.M. Venkatareddy and Ravi threatened stating that the Hole-Madigas have grown too much and they would see that they were suppressed as they did in the case of police personnel and returned back to their Kambalapalli Village. By the time Shankarappa and Narasimhappa reached their village by walk about half a km Venkatareddy, Ravi and Kittanna alias Krishnareddy (waterman) organised about 11 members with deadly weapons and confronted the Dalits Shankarappa and Narasimhappa, assaulted them, inflicting bleeding injuries on Shankarappa. Those two Dalits ran away from the scene fearing for their life. The above unruly mob of Vokkaligas roamed about in the Scheduled Caste colony broke the houses and assaulted the inmates. Shankarappa and Narasimhappa and others ran to Yanamalapadi Village and contacted through phone the Kencharlahalli Police Station and reported the matter. The Sub-Inspector Venkataramanappa came in a jeep along with a van of police to Kambalapalli village. He visited the Vokkaliga houses talked with them and left the place without visiting the Dalit colony, the houses destroyed and the Dalits who were assaulted, leaving behind the police in the van.
The next day morning i.e. 11-3-2000 Shankarappa, Narasimhappa and other Dalit victims came to the house of DSS leader N. Shivanna at Chinthamani. N. Shivanna contacted the Circle Inspector over phone but he was told that the Circle Inspector would be available only in the afternoon. Then he contacted the Superintendent of Police (SP) at Kolar. He was told that the SP was on leave then he contacted the Additional SP informed him about the occurrences. The Additional SP told Shivanna that the Circle Inspector would be coming in the afternoon and he could send the vicitims of assault to him. The Dalit victims without waiting for the arrival of Circle Inspector and because some of the victims were suffering from the injuries went to the jurisdictional police station and gave a written complaint to the Sub-Inspector Venkataramanappa who refused to receive the complaint and asked the injured to get out from the police station. Then the victims came to Chinthamani to meet the Circle Inspector. When the Circle Inspector came they narrated the incident and told him that the SI at Kencharlahalli had refused to receive the complaint. Then the Circle Inspector contacted the Sub-Inspector over the phone and called him to his office. The Circle Inspector handed over the complaint to the Sub-Inspector and directed him to register the complaint.
The victims came to the bus stand and boarded a private BKR bus to go to their village. One Anjeneyareddy who was supported by Dalits but failed to win the village panchayat elections also boarded the same bus. After seeing the plight of the victims he enquired what had happened to them. The victims explained what happened to them and Anjeneyareddy became furious and felt enraged and told them that it had happened in his absence and he would meet the criminals and ask them why they assaulted them. The bus reached the village at about 7 p.m. By that time the police in the van had already left the place and when the victims alighted from the bus the Vokkaligas had by then collected 40-50 persons and were waiting for the complainants at the bus stop. Those people who alighted from the bus included Sriramappa, Anjanappa, Shankarappa, B.K. Anjenappa, Ravana and Anjeneyareddy and others. They were proceeding towards their houses. At that time the Vokkaliga unruly mob started throwing stones at them. The Dalits ran towards their houses and bolted their doors from inside. Anjeneyareddy went to his house and came back angrily with his Vokkaliga followers, went to the unruly mob and started questioning them as to who were the persons who attacked the Dalits in his absence. In the Vokkaliga unruly mob belonging to one Buchanagari Byreddy who won the election against the Anjeneyareddy, Kittanna alias Krishnareddy (waterman) was also present. The altercation between the two groups started and it developed into a physical fight between two groups. In this scuffle Kittanna alias Krishnareddy (waterman) fell down and died. Immediately afterwards Anjeneyareddy and his supporters ran away from the place. After hearing that Kittanna alias Krishnareddy had been killed other Vokkaligas in the locality rushed to the place of occurrence and joined with the followers of Buchanagari Byreddy. Maddireddy and his son Venkatareddy who were the supporters of Byreddy led the mob towards the houses of the Dalit Teacher Anjanappa and Sriramappa, Kunti Papanna and Subbamma. Maddireddy was the prime accused in the sheep theft case. He is also accused in the murder case of Venkataramanappa elder brother of Sriramappa. His son Venkatareddy is an accused in the case of assault on Dalit Shankarappa. They went to the 3 Dalit houses bolted all the doors from outside and brought straw and covered the houses all around and also inserted straw through chimney into the houses. Then Maddireddy and his son Venkatareddy and others brought kerosene and petrol and poured it over the straw and over the straw inserted into the houses through chimney. They also poured the oil into the houses through the gaps of the doors and windows and set the houses on fire. On hearing the news, the fire tenders rushed to the spot but prevented on the way by the unruly mob from reaching the spot. Though the police had full information none of them came to the rescue of the victims and all those inside the houses were burnt alive.
Dead bodies of seven Dalits Sriramappa (25), Anjanappa (27), Ramakka (70), Subbakka (45), Papamma (46), Narasimhaiah (25), Chikkapapanna (40), were removed from the houses. The Vokkaligas did not permit to burry the dead bodies in the victims’ own lands. The Government ordered a Judicial Enquiry by a sitting Judge of the High Court only to be withdrawn later. No case was booked against the police. No attempts were made to trace the main accused Vokkaligas who are now protected by the Vokkaliga political leaders. The Vokkaligas would not have dared to commit such an heinous crime had they not felt safe under the leadership of S.M. Krishna the Chief Minister of Karnataka. The DSS has therefore demanded the resignation of S.M. Krishna and if he failed to tender his resignation the Congress (I) party should remove him as the party did in case of Orissa Chief Minister when Staines and his two sons were burnt alive.
On 18th March 2000 hardly a week after the shocking incident the shameless Congress (I) Government of Karnataka wanted to go ahead with their “Samatha Sambhrama 2000” a two days festivities of performing art. Artists from all over the State assembled in the Ravindra Kalakshetra, Bangalore. Rani Satish, Minister for Kannada and Culture, Government of Karnataka came to inaugurate the function. The inaugural function was about to start. Noted poet Dr. L. Hanumanthaiah, Kamala Hampana and other Dalits got up and went to the stage and prevented the organisors from inaugurating the function. They told the organisors about the incongruity of conducting a festival within a few days after burning to death of 7 helpless human beings when the memory of the incident was still fresh in public mind and started shouting slogans. After finding that the audience present were sympathising with protestors the Minister who came to inaugurate the function changed the “plate” and said that she had come to announce the cancellation of the function. Many of the artists who had assembled there said they were busy with their rehersals and were not aware of the incident and if they had known it earlier they would not have come to participate in the festivities organised by the Government.
The burning alive of 7 Dalits to death did not shake the conscience of the people of Karnataka ruled by the Congress (I) Party nor did it stir the conscience of the nation ruled by Bharathiya Janatha Party. There was no call for a Karnataka Bundh or National Bundh. Bhagavat Geetha has taught us to remain unperturbed amid sorrows and pleasures. One has to withdraw his senses from all sense – objects like a tortoise which draws in its limbs from all directions.
Yada samharate cayam kurmonganiva sarvasah
indriyanindriyarthebhyastasya prajna pratishita
True to the teaching of Bhagavat Geetha Indian intellectuals have withdrawn from this sorrowful event. Buddha, the compassionate one alone would have shared the sorrow of the bereaved. After Pokhran tests the mischievous Brahmin intellectuals said “Buddha smiles”. Buddha never waged any war. It was Sri Krishna who was involved in Kurukshetra war in which bows and arrows were the weapons used. Therefore after Pokran tests Sri Krishna and Sri Rama who also fought with bows and arrows during Lankan War would have smiled but not Buddha.
A large No. of political leaders visited the place of occurrence. Smt. Sonia Gandhi, the Congress (I) President and Opposition Leader in the Lok Sabha too visited the Kambalapalli Village on 18-3-2000 and met members of bereaved families. She also met the Dalit families who had left the village fearing further attack on them by Vokkaligas, during her visit to Chinthamani Camp.
A delegation of DSS led by N. Shivanna met her at Raj Bhavan on the same day and a 15 page Memorandum was presented to her containing various demands including the resignation of the Chief Minister S.M. Krishna. The delegation explained to her the various incidents of atrocities committed by Vokkaligas on them and as a person belonging to Vokkaliga community and as a leader of the community at least he should have owned the moral responsibility for burning to death of 7 Dalits and resigned.
The demand of the DSS for the removal of S.M. Krishna from the Chief Ministership was rejected by Smt. Sonia Gandhi. Further emboldened Vokkaligas organised a Bundh in Chinthamani on 22-3-2000. They shouted slogans against Bharatha Ratna Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and DSS and its leaders. They demanded banning of DSS and externment of N. Shivanna. They forced Bundhs in a number of Cities and Towns in the state and they continue to do so. It should be noted that the Vokkaligas are doing so not to protest against the burning alive of 7 Dalits but against stabbing to death a Vokkaliga during a scuffle between two rival political factions. Central Ministers Ram Vilas Paswan, Hon’ble Minister for Communications and Sharad Yadav, Hon’ble Minister for Civil Aviation also visited the place on 25-03-2000. The DSS submitted the memorandum to them also.
Condemning the brutal act of Vokkaligas the DSS under the leadership of M. Jayanna, Mavalli Shankar, Sridhar Kaliveer, N. Shivanna, Verupaksha, M. Devadas etc. had organised rallies, Dharnas throughout the state.
The memorandum submitted by the DSS to the Chief Minister of Karnataka on 13-03-2000 in the matter is given below :
Memorandum Consequent on the burning to death a large number of Dalits in Kambalapalli Village Chinthamani Taluk, Kolar District, the DSS demands that :
1. The sites and houses where Dalits were burnt alive by Reddys (Vokkaligas) should be preserved as it is as a monument of National Shame. It should be declared as protected monument immediately.
2. The DSS considers these murders as the result of defective police policy of the Government. Withdraw forthwith the Secret Circular issued by the Government not to book cases under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. 1989 filed by Dalits before investigation. Implement the Act with all its vigor and force. Failure to book cases when atrocities are reported should be declared an offence and should be entered compulsorily in the confidential reports of police officials and such officials should be barred from promotion. Introduce special courses on untouchability and the disabilities arising out of it in police training curriculum.
3. Book cases under Section 302 of IPC against the Superintendent of Police, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Circle Inspector and Sub-Inspector and keep them under suspension forthwith.
4. Withdraw the entire State Police Force from the area as we have lost faith in Karnataka Police and post Central Forces in the area.
5. Hang the enlarged photos of the burnt houses at conspicuous places in Raj Bhavan, in the chamber of Chief Minister and all other Ministers and on the walls of Legislative Council and Assembly and in all Police Stations.
6. The State should observe 5 days state mourning.
7. Constitute State Human Rights Commission forthwith with persons of proved integrity and ability having concern for human values.
8. Punish the officials who are responsible for not utilising funds allotted for the development of SC/ST.
9. Form Village Defence Forces recruiting unemployed Dalit youths.
10. The investigation should be entrusted to the CBI since the State Police is partial and this horrible incident occurred due to their fault and they are likely to spoil the investigation for helping themselves.
11. Owning responsibility Sri S.M. Krishna, Chief Minister, should submit his resignation forthwith.
No demand for a Judicial Enquiry was made because the Government of Karnataka had already suo moto ordered for it. The Judicial Enquiry was later withdrawn on the false notion created by Vokkaligas that every thing would come out during the CBI investigation. There are clear distinctions between a Judicial Enquiry and a CBI investigation. In the case of assasination of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi both Judicial Enquiry and CBI investigations were there. In Karnataka in the case of murder of Chittaranjan, a BJP MLA there were both Judicial Enquiry and CBI investigation. Burning alive to death of 7 Dalits abundantly qualifies for both Judicial Enquiry and CBI investigation.
There is a political dimention to the occurences in Kambalapalli. Krishnareddy was the Social Welfare Minister in the Janatha Dal Government. It was he who hushed up the attack of Vokkaliga Yuva Vedike activists on Venkatashiva and the distruction of PUC College Hostel and desecration of photo of Bharatha Rathna Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. It was he who took action to prevent Dalits from holding their cultural function and opening a DSS village unit at Billandla Halli. He was known for his anti – SC/ST behaviour. He contested to the Legislative Assembly during last general elections on Janatha Dal (U) ticket but lost. He wanted to be in the ruling party always. So he joined the Congress (I) when it came to power.
Chowdareddy was a Congress (I) Minister. When he was refused Congress (I) ticket to contest the election to Legislative Assembly during last general election he contested as a rebel candidate and won the election. It is said that Chowdareddy is not so harsh as Krishnareddy towards Dalits. It was the followers of these two political leaders who faught the street battle on that fateful night. Anjanareddy who was supported by Dalits in the Panchayat Elections but lost, is the follower of Chowdareddy while Buchannagari Byreddy who won the election is the follower of Krishnareddy. If it were only a battle between two political parties the followers of one party should have burnt the houses of the followers of the other political party irrespective of their caste or atleast the houses of the followers of both the parties should have been burnt. That is not the case here. The attackers had chosen those houses of Dalits who had returned to the village on the advice and the assurances of the local authorities. It was clearly an attack by the powerful Vokkaligas on the weak Dalits. By committing this heinous crime the Vokkaligas have proclaimed that they are barbarians. Now the question is how these two communities can live together in a locality or village. One suggestion is that the Dalits should leave the villages where they are in a minority to cities or towns or to places where they are in a majority. This will no doubt reduce tension between the two communities. But at what cost? The other effective solution is a political one. Instead of supporting one political party of upper castes against another and incurring its wrath, the Dalits can have their own political party. They need not go for a new party. There is the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Kanshi Ram and Mayavathi. It is a National Party of the Dalits, by the Dalits and for the Dalits. Political Power and Political Power in the hands of Dalits alone can solve their problems.
[Courtesy: ambedkar.org, November 1, 2014]