People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 25

June 24, 2007



A Big Rally On Dalit Issues



Balakrishna Shetty


A BIG rally of more than 4000 people was held on dalit issues at Bannappa Park, Bangalore on June 13, 2007. A large contingent of dalits mainly women, came from more than 12 districts of Karnataka. The Karnataka state committee of CPI(M) has organised this rally focusing the dalit issues in the background of the all India convention on dalit rights held at New Delhi on February 22, 2006.


A 15-point charter of demands was submitted to the government. The demands include eradication of untouchability, caste oppression, giving two acres of land to landless dalits, improvement in the hostel facilities for the dalit students, re-enquiry and retrial of the accused in the case of brutal massacre of seven dalits who were burnt alive at Kambalapally in Kolar district on March 11, 2000, eradication of inhuman devadasi system among others.


In the Kambalapalli case, after the witnesses turned hostile due to lure and threat, the second additional sessions court of Kolar district acquitted all the accused on the grounds of lack of evidence. In fact, except CPI(M), nobody raised the issue seriously. The BJP and JD(S) combine who are heading the government did not utter a word because of their proximity to upper caste rural rich.


At this crucial juncture, the CPI(M) intervened and held the convention involving various dalit leaders and organisations demanding re-enquiry and re-trial after issuing fresh charge-sheets. Few days after the convention, a jatha of five days was organised from Kambalapalli to Bangalore.




Even though the Act abolishing devadasi system came into effect from 1982, the system is still prevailing and the land owning classes are encouraging the same in one or the other way for their vested interests. They are spreading propaganda in such a way that ‘if a girl does not become devadasi, the God will be angry’. In such an inhuman situation, the Karnataka Rajya Devadasi Mahileyara Vimochana Sangha (Karnataka State Devadasi Women Liberation Organisation) was formed and a 12 point charter of demands was placed before the government. Various agitations were launched including massive dharna of more than 2000 devadasi women on June 12, 2007 at Bangalore, preceding the rally on dalit issues. The state government conceded some of the demands partially including a pension of Rs. 400 to all devadasi women. Further the Social Welfare minister who came to receive the memorandum at the dharna assured to remove the age clause for payment of pension. As the devadasi women were also the part of dalits, the Sangha joined the rally on June 13.


Inaugurating the rally, K.Varadarajan, Polit Bureau member of CPI (M) congratulated the Karkataka Party for championing the dalit issues with all seriousness. He further stated that the benefits of various schemes implemented by the central and many state governments are reaching only 10 percent of the actual dalit beneficiaries. The attacks on dalits are continuing daily and they are still not free from the clutches of the evil practice of caste discrimination even after sixty years of independence, he said. The CPI (M) has been fighting such attacks on dalits in many parts of the country. He recalled that recently in Chennai a dalit rally of more than 25,000 people was held and many dalit leaders participated. The speakers in the public meeting expressed that among all the political parties, only the CPI (M) was serious about taking up the dalit issues.


Varadarajan demanded that the pension of Rs. 400 to devadasis as announced by the Karnataka government should be hiked to atleast Rs. 750 per month immediately as they have no other source of livelihood. He deplored the attitude of chief minister Kumara Swamy in responding to the delegation of the devadasi union when they met him. It is the democratic right of the people to protest and agitate against the injustice meted out to them, Varadarajan said.


Maruthi Manpade, state secretariat member of the Party and president of Devadasi Mahileyara Vimochana Sangha presided over the meeting. He explained that after BJP-JD(S) combine came to power, attacks on dalits increased. As per the Human Development Index released by the government, the dalits in the state get 300 grams of rice in comparison to non-dalits who get 500 grams a day. We are not against non-dalits getting more food but the dalits are less fed, he said. He gave an account of untouchability in rural areas citing that even for getting hair-cut done, dalits had to travel about 30 to 40 kms. The pace of economic upliftment of dalits is also tardy, he said.


The state secretary of the CPI (M), G N Nagaraj urged the state government to distribute land to landless dalits. Thousands of acres of land is being held by some landlords and upper caste people in violation of ceiling limit, even the government is having lakhs of acres of land which can be distributed , he said.


The CPI (M) MLA G V Sriram Reddy informed the gathering that there are several dalit ministers and MLAs in the Assembly. But the dalit issues are never raised or discussed in the House. Now-a-days many political leaders spend a lot of money during the elections which they collect from landlords and industrialists and after getting elected, they serve the interests of the rich and are not concerned about the dalits who are poor, he said.


Prasanna Kumar, secretary CITU, Malamma, president of State Devadasi Mahileyara Sangha, Nagaratnamma, Bellary district committee member of CPI (M) also spoke.


The rally concluded with the firm determination to continue the fight against untouchability and caste oppression besides fighting for the upliftment of the dalit masses.