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Karnataka: Dalit Family Fined Rs 60,000 After Boy Touches Hindu Diety’s Idol

“If God doesn’t like our touch or if people want to keep us away, what is the point of us offering prayers?... Hereafter, I will only offer prayers to Dr B R Ambedkar,” says boy’s mother.
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New Delhi: A dalit family has been fined Rs 60,000 after a 15-year-old boy allegedly touched a pole attached to an idol of a Hindu deity during a procession and village elders ruled that the idol had turned “impure” due to the touch of an “untouchable”, Indian Express reported.

The incident took place in Ullerahalli village in Karnataka's Kolar district.

On September 8, the villagers were holding the Bhootayamma fair and dalits were not allowed to enter the village deity’s temple. During this, Shobhamma and Ramesh's 15-year-old son touched a pole attached to the idol of Sidiranna, a prominent village deity.

Venkateshappa, a villager, noticed it and alleged that the boy had violating the code of conduct of the village. Then the family of the boy was summoned to appear before the village elders the next day.

The “offended” villagers alleged that dalits touched the pole and now it was “impure” and they must repaint everything. The village elder Narayanaswamy fined them Rs 60,000 by October 1 for re-painting. The family was even warned that if they fail to pay the fine by October 1, the entire family would be ostracised.

Shobhamma, the boy’s mother, is the only breadwinner of the family and makes about Rs 13,000 a month working as a housekeeping staff in Whitefield in Bengaluru. Her husband is mostly ill and cannot contribute to the family income, said the report.

After the incident, Shobhamma told the Indian Express: “If God doesn’t like our touch or if people want to keep us away, what is the point of us offering prayers? Like any other person, I also have spent money, offered donations for God. Hereafter, I will not do any such thing and will only offer prayers to Dr B R Ambedkar.” 

According to the local residents, the village consists of nearly 75-80 houses, and most of the families hail from the Vokkaliga community. The village has around 10 Scheduled Caste families. Shobhamma’s house is on the outskirts of the village and her son is a student of 10th standard at a school in Tekal village.

The family filed a police complaint after a local activist named Sandesh came to know about the incident. Sandesh runs Ambedkar Seva Samithi.  “I went to their home and helped them file a police complaint. Even after 75 years of independence, if such social evils are still in practice, where will the poor people go?” he questioned as reported in the Indian Express.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Kolar Deputy Commissioner Venkat Raja said he visited the village Wednesday and met the family. “We have given them a plot to construct a house and have paid them some money. We will provide a job for Shobamma in the social welfare hostel as well. I have also informed the police to arrest the accused at the earliest and they are at it,” Raja said.

Meanwhile, the police invoked provisions of the Protection of Civil Rights Act against former Gram Panchayat member Narayanaswamy, Venkateshappa, the husband of the Gram Pradhan, panchayat vice-president and a few others.

However, such incidents in Karnataka are not new. Last year, in Miyapur village in the Koppal district, a dalit family was slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 by the village leaders for a boy’s “offence” of entering a local temple. The government, which had taken up the issue, launched a programme named Vinaya Samarasya Yojana, an awareness programme meant to eradicate untouchability. Yet, caste discrimination continues unabated.

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