Two families in Karnataka are facing caste-based discrimination and violence in two different districts of the state.
While the first incident took place a year ago, in September 2021 in Koppal district, the other and more recent one took place on 8 September 2022 in Kolar district.
In both the cases, a minor had entered the village temple, due to which Dalit families were asked to pay the fine by the panchayat which later socially boycotted them. The families continue to face social discrimination and are living in fear.
More Than A Year Since the Dalit Family in Kushtagi Left Their Home
On the evening of 4 September, Chandrashekhar Shivappa Dasar, a Dalit farmer and his 3-year-old son went near the Hanuman temple in Kustagi's Miyapur. As it started raining, the child went inside the temple premises for taking shelter. Witnessing the Dalit boy entering the temple, the Hindu-caste group belonging to the Ganiga community demanded a fine of Rs 25,000. They threatened them of dire consequences if the family failed to pay the fine.
However, the government intervened and ensured the entry of Dalits inside the temple. The police arrested five people from the village and filed a case of caste discrimination and atrocity against Scheduled Caste persons. As of now, the chargesheet has been filed and the trial has begun. But, the accused are out on bail.
Unable to bear the boycott and lack of livelihood, Chandrashekhar Dasar with his pregnant wife left his village for Kushtagi town to live with his in-laws. However, the family says it wishes to move back, but finds no opportunity and fears social boycott
Speaking to The Quint, Arunagshu Giri, Superintendent of Police in Koppal said, "We have filed the chargesheet and the date of hearing is next month. We ensured that the family was not fined and also extended security in the village. We also have a very strong case at hand and the accused will be punished."
Sources in the police department also said that the number of cases related to caste-based violence and discrimination has increased in the district in the past one year.
"Just a few days after the Miyapur incident, another Dalit man was fined in Karatagi taluk's Naganakal village for having entered the temple. While the gram panchayat members demanded Rs 5 Lakh, he paid them Rs 11,000 for 'purifying the temple.' We arrested eight people and registered a case as per the SC-ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act 2015 and section and 149 (unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code," added the source.
Meanwhile, Chidanandappa, the deputy director of the Social Welfare Department, told The Quint, "Effort are being made to help the family. They chose to move to the town and we have ensured that the child is admitted to a Vijaya Chandrashekara Public School in the town. We have given an amount of Rs 75,000 till now to the family."
The family is also being sanctioned a loan of Rs 5 lakh for building a car wash centre with a subsidy of Rs 1 lakh. When asked when the process would get completed, the department did not give a definitive date.
Ambedkar Replaces Hindu Deities After Dalit Family Fined For Entering Temple in Kolar
A family of a 15-year-old Dalit boy was threatened and slapped with a fine of Rs 60,000 by village panchayat members, after the boy entered the village Bhootamma (a village deity) temple and touched the holy pole next to the deity. The incident took place in Kolar's Ullerahalli village.
The boy was allegedly heckled after the incident, which took place on 8 September, and the village council convened two days later demanding the family to pay the fine as they had 'defiled' the temple.
"I had never entered the temple all my life. We usually stand outside and pray. When my son unknowingly entered we were asked to pay a fine by the Gowdas of our village. We were really scared but the police helped us immediately. However, we have realised the importance of Baba Saheb and will try to walk in his footsteps."Ramesh, Survivor of Caste Discrimination
The police filed a case under provisions of SC-ST (Prevention of Atrocity) Act and arrested eight people for trying to penalise the Dalit family. Soon, the MLA of Malur visited the village also took the Dalit family inside the temple and assured them security.
Just two weeks after the incident, the Dalit family replaced the images of Hindu deities in their house with the photograph of Dr BR Ambedkar and an idol of Buddha.
In an attempt to assert their identities and be a part of the caste fold, the family said that it would wish to embrace Buddhism like BR Ambedkar.
"Today, they (caste Hindu villagers) have been arrested and our political representatives ensured our entry to the temple. But, I am certain that the way forward is to abide by the constitution and eventually get rid of the caste system."
A similar incident was also reported in May, after a Dalit family was initially barred from entering the temple, but later entered the shrine with police protection in Yadgir's Amlihal village. The opposition to the family's entry was steeped in local caste politics that the police had to impose prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC.