On June 3, 2019, Pratap, a dalit man and a resident of Gundlupet, was paraded naked in Shyandrahalli village in Gundlupete taluk of Chamaraj nagar in Karnataka. He was being punished for having polluted the village temple by entering it. However the incident came to light only on June 11, 2019, when the video was shared on the internet and went viral.
Pratap, who grew up in extreme poverty, had managed to attain a graduate degree with sheer grit and hardwork. He was also an IAS aspirant. A day before the fateful incident, he had gone to Marimallappa Higher Primary School to write his UPSC exam. However, when he had reached the exam centre he was not allowed to write the exam. Taken aback, he spent some time in Mysore and then decided to ride back on his motorbike to Gundlupet.
His bike broke down the same night in Raghavapura. It was then that he was attacked and robed by a few thugs. Shocked and frightened, Pratap decided to spend the night there. At around 6 o’clock in the morning, while looking for shelter, he reached the Shanimahatma temple in Veeranapura gate and took shelter in the temple. The temple priest, who was present there, questioned him about his whereabouts, further intimidating Pratap.
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Meanwhile, the villagers had assembled near the temple and started questioning him about his background. Soon they learnt that he belonged to the ‘Holeya’ community which fall under the Scheduled Caste category. This was enough to trigger the upper caste people present there to action. Pratap was verbally abused, while being called “son of a lower born, son of holeyas, you have polluted the temple”. He was then reportedly tied up to a coconut tree and beaten up.
Pratap stood helplessly, begging for mercy, to which the priest announced, “This is the chance to teach a lesson to these Holeyas. They have no right to touch our temples.” Hearing this, the enraged villagers started beating Pratap with anything they could lay there hands on. They tore off his clothes, stripping him naked and tied his hands at his back. He was then paraded naked while being whipped in broad daylight, from the temple till the Ooty-Mysore highway.
This yet again proves that the gruesome, inhumane caste system is still alive even as India is pretending to be drowning in the ocean of modernity. It is quite painful to see where we are headed when we learn that there was not a single soul who felt the need to protect Pratap or stop the violence being meted out to him.
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As it goes in most of the atrocity cases, the police has not filed an FIR and all sorts of efforts are being made by the casteist forces within the police department to cover up the case. It is shocking to learn that the villagers have filed a complaint against Pratap saying that he is mentally ill and have accused him of attacking them.
This incident is a violation of Article 17 of the Constitution, which abolishes untouchability. The issue has not even been taken up by the media channels. As soon as the video went viral, dalit organisations staged protests across the state. Under pressure from these protests, the police finally has registered a case under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, IPC section 143 (Unlawful Assembly), 147 (Rioting), 395 (Dacoity), 323 (Voluntarily Causing Hurt), 342 (Wrongful Confinement) and 509 (Intention to Insult the Modesty of a Woman).
Pratap, who had dreamt of being an IAS officer is now traumatised by the brutality of the casteist mindset. He is struggling for his life after being admitted in a private hospital in Mysore.
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“The roots of untouchability lies in the caste system. The roots of caste system is in varna system. The roots of varna is in political power,” these words of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar are being proven right today. Today the world is looking down upon India and India is ashamed. The atrocities against dalits is nothing new, but the ways in which dalits are being murdered, punished, abused have changed and today they have taken more gruesome forms. The world is now disgusted with the violation of rights and loss of humanity in the country.
A culture of violence and inhumanity is in the rise. When the country is being ruled by the communal, casteist forces and those in favour of Manu, the protection of the oppressed and punishing the oppressor is a distant dream.
On one hand, we have our Prime Minister Narendra Modi claiming ‘India Shining’, on the other hand, we have Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, who claims to be part of a casteless party. Is this the India shining they are talking about? What about the caste atrocities railing the Chief Minister’s own state?
The atrocities committed against dalits are on the rise. There is a need to protest and put an end to the efforts of the centre to weaken the SC/ST (POA) Act and the attempts to change the Constitution. It is high time that the governments take steps to ensure that such incidents don’t repeat themselves. Equality, freedom and brotherhood, should not remain just as virtues that are meant to be in books and not implemented, if we want to realise our dream of an equal India.
Huchangi Prasad is a Kannada writer and activist. He currently teaches at the Government First Grade College, Devanagere, Karnatka. He is also the recipient of the 2019 Indian Writers Forum Young Writers Stipend.
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