In a clear case of caste discrimination, a Dalit BJP MP in Karnataka was prevented from entering the Golla Hatti (Yadav settlement) in a village in Tumkuru district on Monday.
A. Narayanaswamy, BJP MP from Chitradurga went to Pemmanahalli village in Pavagada taluk of Tumkuru district. The village falls under his Lok Sabha constituency. The purpose of the visit was to highlight the health and infrastructure issues that people were facing in the village to the officials from Biocon Foundation and Narayana Hrudayala.
“We had visited many government schools and hospitals in the Pavagada region and the plan was to urge these two companies to invest in developing infrastructure and facilities in this area,” says Narayanaswamy.
But the MP was met with shock and disappointment when some people asked him not to enter because of his caste (Madiga) and said it was against their traditions.
“I was adamant that they (residents) should stop this practice but they insisted that the priests in the village did not allow any previous MLAs or MPs from my community to enter the village,” the MP said.
Some members of the village told the local media that according to their tradition, Dalits cannot enter their village. They also claimed that any ‘violation’ of the tradition would result in “something bad” happening.
Following outrage over the incident, Golla community seer Sri Krishna Yadavananda along with other leaders visited the settlement on Tuesday. The villagers resolved to organize an event in the presence of Narayanaswamy on Friday. “It was not right to deny him entry. We must mingle with members of all communities and should not discriminate,” the seer advised.
Narayanaswamy is a four-time Karnataka MLA and was the chief whip of the BJP’s Karnataka legislative party. He also served as a cabinet minister in the Karnataka government. Narayanaswamy, a former Social Welfare Minister and a three-time MLA from Anekal in Bengaluru, says this is the first time he has faced such kind of discrimination in his political career.
The Chitradurga Lok Sabha seat is a reserved category seat meant for members of the Scheduled Castes
Golla (Yadav ) community
While A. Narayanaswamy is a Dalit, the Gollas belong to the Other Backward Class (OBC). Golla community as OBCs in Karnataka is socially and economically backward community. Belonging to a lower caste status in the caste system they also suffer discrimination at the hands of upper castes.
The community is known to be quite conservative and ritualistic in their practices. They follow stringent rules and regulations in their own community, especially for women. The community women during menstruation have to spend three days outside the settlement in a thatched hut and to be brought back to the village after the purification ritual. Pregnant women are also sent to these hutments to deliver babies on their own. Despite such practices being dangerous to women’s lives, the community clings to such practices to date.
Several social organisations, intellectuals, and activists like Bala Guru Murthy have worked on bringing the community into the mainstream and towards eradicating such social practices. Dr. C Dwarakanath, former president of Karnataka state commission for backward caste and tribes also worked towards convincing the leaders of the community to educate the people and shun the superstitious practices.
The caste system as graded inequality
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar has described the Indian caste system as that of Graded inequality. Such a system divides the sufferers themselves based on unequal burdens and benefits. Under graded inequality, the middle and lower classes suffer on one hard from the castes above them but benefit from the castes that are below them in the caste hierarchy. Such a system also prevents the lower classes from uniting and fighting the upper castes.
In a statement today, A. Narayanaswamy has vowed to remove untouchability and superstition in his constituency. He has appealed for collective action from different segments of society. “The government, the mutts, nonprofits, and officials should join hands against this. Let them sit in these villages and win people’s hearts.”