Baraguru Honour Killing: Work brought Poverty; Caste led to Murder

A casteist person might be punished. But, do we have a way of punishing 'caste'?

Baraguru is a village three kilometers away from the national highway connecting Karnataka with Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Suneeta is a 19-year-old who had just completed her Pre-University education and stepped into college for her graduation. Daanappa is around 22 years and drives a tractor. Both are from the same village. In terms of caste, Suneeta belongs to the Kuruba community while Daanappa belongs to the Maadiga community.

If they both had stayed by themselves, there would not have arisen a need to write about them. Nobody would have imagined that this would be the case for them committing the ‘crime’ of love. This is what transpired. Their three-year-old ‘love’ story hurt the caste pride of Suneeta’s family. To preserve their caste ‘superiority’, they killed the boy. That is it. Daanappa’s body was found on the farm next to the road outside the village.

Dalita Damanitara Okkoota of Koppala District has initiated awareness rally demanding judicial inquiry into killings and cases of harassement of Dalits and Women

Suneeta’s father Maribasappa is not a zamindar, politician, trader, or employee. He is not rich either. He worked as an agricultural laborer on the fields of villagers who struggled hard to make his ends meet even though he owned around an acre of land. Daanappa’s father Hanumanthappa did not own any land and thereby worked as an agricultural laborer to earn his food. Though Suneeta and Daanappa’s families were similarly placed economically below the poverty line struggling to meet their ends, caste not just divided them but also in the context of love ignited hatred amongst them. Caste turned these laborers into murderers. Father Maribasappa who would have been working on the field, along with his wife Lalitamma and daughter Suneeta is now languishing in jail. Poverty had provided them at least a mud house to live in. Caste has now pushed them to prison.

Post the incident..

Whatever ‘usually’ follows such incidents has happened here too. That is, the police have registered the case. FIR has been filed. Three of the accused are arrested. The police have refused to arrest four others involved in the incident after they were considered as ‘suspects’. Dalits of Baraguru led by Dalita Sangharsha Samiti-Sanghatans led a protest rally at the taluk headquarters Karatagi and have filed a plea with the Tehsildar demanding that these four people too be arrested. Karnataka Maadiga Rakshana Vedike, Karnataka Vidyarthi Okkoota, Karnataka Raita Sangha – AIKKS, Akhila Bharatiya Grameena Krushi Kaarmika Sangha, BVS, Bhim Army, Ambedkar Sene have formed a coalition Dalita Damanitara Okkoota (Union of Dalits and Oppressed) and have initiated Jana Jaagruti Aandolana (People’s Awareness Movement). Progressive organizations have supported this jatha and are planning for a huge protest in the name of Koppala Chalo. K Neela, state leader of Janavadi Mahila Sanghatan and pro-people intellectual met the family of the deceased, consoled them, and also assured them of fighting for justice in the case.
CPIM leaders of Gangavati Taluk have urged the government to arrest all accused. The Department of Social Welfare has handed over a cheque of compensation of Rupees four lakhs, twelve thousand five hundred to Daanappa’s family in the form of an immediate response from the government. The family has been assured that they would receive a little more compensation in the coming days. That apart, the investigation is ongoing.

Dalita Damanitara Okkoota has called for Koppala Chalo Protests on July 19th

As per the FIR:

As per the FIR registered at the Karatagi Police Station, the incident has happened between 11 PM on June 22 and 7.30 AM on June 23. The details of the complainant, Daanappa’s father has been recorded as Kari Hanumanthappa, Farmer by occupation, Madiga by Caste, Hindu by Religion and Indian by Nationality.
In the words of Daanappa’s father “My son was killed, he was badly wounded and his left leg bone was broken. Maribasappa, his wife Lalitamma, his daughter Suneeta and son-in-law Hulugappa joined together and acted ”. In the complaint he states: “ My son managed my family working on the fields. Our family was dependent on Daanappa’s wages. Now that Daanappa is killed, our family has come to the streets”.

The role and the manifestation of Caste that killed Love

Love killed Daanappa is the half-truth or even only a veil to hide the truth. Here, the real murderer is Caste. Maribasappa is only a tool in the hands of caste violence. This poor Maribasappa turned out to be a murderer as he was incited by pseudo ‘honour’ that was created by the conspicuous caste-based social system. It is this caste system itself that instilled a ‘false pride’ that he is above ‘them’. It is because of this false ‘pride’ in his caste that he has not just ruined his and his daughter’s life but is jailed too.

In Baraguru’s regional and social mapping of castes, this Maribasappa though is not highly placed, is ranked higher than the Madiga community! In fact, in this village, Lingayata is placed at the top in terms of caste though there are only four or five houses of the community. There are only seven or eight houses of Nayaks too.  In terms of numerical strength, Kurubas are the most dominant. For they form the majority in numbers, the backward castes are placed higher in the caste hierarchy. However, though less in numbers, Lingayats are not placed lower in the caste hierarchy. Hence, it is the Dalits who are oppressed by the backward castes even though they are almost of the same numerical strength as Lingayats. It is this oppression that has killed Daanappa.

If caste ‘inebriation’ had not hit them, Suneeta and Daanappa would have lived well. But, false pride in caste has killed them. Having lost her partner and been accused of partaking in the violent act of her father, Suneeta too has been trapped within the shackles of caste and is now languishing in jail. Poor Maribasappa is now imprisoned after being crowned as a murderer.

Who is the real murderer here? Is it Maribasappa or is it caste that took over his senses? Maribasappa is now languishing in jail, but then caste sneakingly and unchecked continues to march ahead. A casteist person might be punished. But, do we have a way of punishing ‘caste’?

Oppression of Dalits Continues Unabated 

Apart from Baraguru’s incident of dishonor killing, Koppala district has witnessed many incidents of oppression and murder of Dalits for years now. Incidents of rape on women have been reported in Sri Rama Nagar and Marali villages. Violence against Dalits has been reported in Vajrabandi and Hosalli villages of Yalaburga taluk. False counter cases have been filed against Dalits to harass them in the villages of Guladalli and Mainahalli of Koppala taluk. A few years back, a Dalit woman was murdered in Hosagudda and a case was filed, but the case has been closed now. In Marakumbi village adjoining Gangavati there has been a long struggle against the ban on Dalits from having a shave. In Hagedal village, Dalit youths were hurled abuses at because they had touched a cigarette from the pack when they were asked to get a pack of cigarettes. When they questioned it, they were assaulted. Not just these, but there are a lot of incidents happening every day that are not being reported. The only cause for all these atrocities is “caste”. It is Dalits who are suffering these oppressions.

Poet, Author, and activist B Peer Basha is from Hoovina Hadagali and currently resides at Karatagi in Koppa;  Akka Sita, Naanoo Ninnante Shankita is a popular collection of poems authored by him.  

This article was first published in Nyayapatha. Translated from Kannada to English by Shashank SR 

Also Read: Bengaluru: Caste-based Covid Vaccination Drives, Case Filed Against DCM Ashwath Narayan

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