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Dalits and Adivasis

‘They asked my caste and beat me up’: Dalit youth assaulted by villagers in Karnataka

A Dalit organization warns of intensifying their protest, accusing the administration of inaction in an assault case of a man from the Madiga community in the Chikmagalur district of Karnataka, for stepping onto the streets (“Golla street”) as part of his work.

The incident occurred on January 1st, around 11 A.M., when the victim, identified as Maruti, visited Geramaradi village to demolish a house that belongs to Ravi and fill the soil, as per the instructions of his employer. “You Dalits are not allowed to enter our premises,” said Ravi as the village residents allegedly stopped his vehicle, assaulted and penalized him, objecting to his entry into a street where the Golla community resides accusing him of “spoiling the sanctity” of the region. 

The owner, allegedly asked him if he belonged to the SC category, and upon learning that he is a Dalit, started abusing and assaulting Maruti. “Suddenly, 30-40 people came and attacked the JCB asking why someone from the Madiga community had come to our street,” Maruti is reported to have said. 

Unable to continue his usual work as a JCB operator due to the objection, he told the villagers that he would stop the work and leave but the villagers collectively stopped his vehicle, dragged him down the JCB, and started beating him up while throwing abusive slurs at him, swearing at his mother, and accusing him of “polluting” the Ranganatha Swamy temple, the villagers and the entire village. The residents took ₹20,000 cash from his pockets as a “penalty”. 

Speaking to The Observer Post, Sunil, Taluk President of the Karnataka Rajya Madiga Samajha Sanghatane (Karnataka State Madiga Community Organization) said that he immediately took action when he heard about the unfortunate incident and has been with Maruti ever since, to help him and the community get justice.

“Maruti lives in poverty and currently he has stopped going to work after the incident,” he said. 

In response to the assault, the Dalit community members carried out a rally in the village on Tuesday, demanding justice. Tension escalated when the protesters insisted on entering a temple at Golla Street. Sunil said that the entry was denied to them despite the presence of the police administration in the place. The protesters remained adamant until elder Dalit leaders, Tahsildar Rajiv and the police intervened, so as not to worsen the already tense atmosphere. 

On the other hand, Golla community leader Hanumappa told Hindustan Times, that the assault on Maruti was on personal grounds and had nothing to do with his caste identity.

He said, “Back in the days, Dalits were not allowed to enter Golla street. However, the situation has improved a lot now, and there is no caste based discrimination anymore.”

Nonetheless, in his complaint to the police, Maruti is reported to have accused the villagers of dragging him out of the street, saying he had to pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh to the temple, failing which he was warned that he would be stripped off his clothes and paraded on the street, as narrated by Sunil. 

Moreover, during the assault, the villagers used “sticks, stones, sandals, sickles and hands & legs”, to beat him up, while a few of them said, “make sure you do not touch him and jeopardize your sanctity.”

“Maruti sustained internal injuries to his stomach, limbs and different parts of the body except his face,” Sunil told The Observer Post

Maruti was reportedly hospitalized for treatment, and later collected Sunil’s number and approached him regarding the incident. Following which, the local Dalit members planned to protest at 12 PM, the next day in the same street questioning “Who dares to strip us of our rights given to us by Babasaheb Ambedkar?”.  

An FIR was registered at Tarikere police station on January 2nd, and the police tightened security in the village after strong protests. 

Approximately 15 people have been charged under the SC-ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 149 (unlawful assembly with common intent), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (intentional insult), 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

However, recent updates from Sunil was that the Police had arrested only one accused, and let the others go after enquiries without detaining them.

“We will not stop with the protests until justice is served and the accused are arrested,” Sunil said, hinting of stronger protests in the coming days. 

We have come to the notice that there is no progress in the case because of pressure from higher authority. “Why aren’t they taking any action and supporting the perpetrators?” he questioned.

“Now, the protesters’ demand is to not only be allowed into the premises, but to be allowed to carry out a pooja in the same temple,” he added.

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