Mannamma at Loggerheads with Maramma (This is not a Street Play Script.

It is report of one our ongoing major successes in Tumkur District. Take time, read, relax and enjoy) “Ammaji, we have done it. It is a success. We have stopped the killing of buffalos during the Mannamman Jathre. The police fully supported us and our people are very happy….” Jayamma was shrieking at the top of her voice. “Congratulations Jayamma! I know you people will do it! I know you can achieve this.” Ammaji was as cool as the ice of Antarctica. Her confidence in her Dalit leaders was unshakable as she shared the story of success with her husband still in bed. The Story of success unfolded….. ‘Hey Murthy, send word to the Madhigas (Dalits) to beat the Thamate (Dalit Drum) and announce to the village leaders to assemble at the Pipal Tree at 09 in the morning’. The village caste lord informed his assistant. ‘What is the meeting about? People will ask the reason for the meeting. What shall I say?’ The assistant enquired. ‘Tell them it is to discuss the celebration of the Festival of Maramma (A caste Hindu goddess) in our village” The caste lord’s voice had become quite terse and tense by now. He was not used to being questioned. “Anna, (Master) it seems the Madhigas have decided not to use their Thamate for announcing any news without wages.” The assistant further ventured to test the patience of the lord. ‘What is this new thing in our village?” There was an obvious shock in the face of the caste lord. The ground beneath his feet seemed to be giving way. “They have started a Dalit Panchayat and have decided among themselves that they will use Thamate only for their own functions and not freely as their caste duty, free of cost”. “Hmmm… Kali Kala has started… (bad days). It is ok. You go and tell the people individually to come for the meeting. Madhigas have become very arrogant. When did they gain this courage to decide matters among themselves…?” He was a bundle of confusion and disappointment.

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‘This year we must celebrate the festival of Maramma with more gaiety and pomp. Our village has fallen on bad days. Look at these Madhiga fellows. They have formed their own Dalit Panchayat and have refused to use Thamate for the functions of the village. They have gained courage to go against the age old caste traditions of our village. This is not Dharma (virtue). Last year there was not enough rain. Land is not any more producing adequate grains. One of our fellows died of snakebite. Maramma is definitely angry with our village. We must appease her. That is why I have dedicated a buffalo for her. During the festival we must sacrifice the buffalo according to our traditional rituals. Let Madhigas have good food. Though they have refused to follow our traditions we shall give them good meat. They are our children. Announce it all the sixteen villages that come under our authority.” The Caste lord was nonstop in vomiting what he was used to say every year. There was a big rumbling among the Dalits who had gathered. The women were highly disturbed but the men among Dalits silenced them saying that they could resolve all issues among themselves later. “We have educated ourselves so much about our own culture and history. You know well that buffalo is our ancestor. Why do they want to kill our ancestor in their festival? If they believe that sacrificing buffalo is virtuous they must eat the meat of buffalo during the festival. Why is it that they want only us to eat the meat that they consider polluting? You all know that it is during this festival that we have to perform all types of free caste labour for the caste people.” Jayamma, the Dalit Panchayat leader was vociferous in the meeting of Dalits the same evening. “Akka (elder sister), let them celebrate the festival if they want. We shall not allow them to kill Kadaraiah, our ancestor.” The Dalit women spoke in one voice. (There is a myth in Karnataka that Maramma, a Brahmin girl killed her Dalit husband Kadaraiah and sent his spirit into the body of a Buffalo. He hid his caste identity when both of them fell in love and they married. Maramma mistook him to be a Brahmin. Later when she discovered that he was from Madhiga community she killed him and cursed him to enter the body of a buffalo.) “It is alright that we have stopped killing of buffalo in almost all the villages in our District this year. But this Mannamman Jathre (a big festival where 16 villages assemble together and kill many buffalos) is very big and I don’t know how we can stop this. The caste people will kill us.” Ninga’s voice was shivering a bit as he said this. There were a few others who joined his cacophony. The whole village knew that Ninga was the one who earlier did all free caste labour in

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the house of the caste lord and many decisions of the Dalit Panchayat were leaked out through him. “Ninga, even if we stop killing of buffalo in the entire District but allow it to take place in Mannamma Jathre all our efforts will be nullified. This is the most famous place where 16 villages together sacrifice buffalos and it is here that we should stop it. If we succeed to stop it here then we can say that we have become very strong in this District. If we do not stop it here, next year once again other villages are going to start the festival.” Jayamma was making sense in her argumentation. Ninga became silent. His brother Kariyanna took up the cudgels. “Our local MLA will give support to the caste people as he belongs to them and make this festival happen. We cannot stop this. It is such a powerful place. Who will stop this?” He cast an umbrella of pessimism. It hovered over the heads of all Dalits assembled there as the fast moving summer clouds. Jayamma just blew in the air and dissipated the clouds. “Do not worry about it. The police department in the District including the top cop has assured us of their full support. You know that they came to all the villages and were with us in stopping the killing of buffalos. It is an insult to our community to do anything that will perpetuate free caste labour. It is unconstitutional. It is against the SC/ST Atrocity Prevention Act of 1989. The police have to support us in this. Fortunately we have officers who are very supportive of our efforts. Therefore, do not have any fear. If you stay together and mobilize our Dalit Panchayats in neighbouring villages, then we can succeed in this even against the MLA”. She put all her trainings in REDS to best use at the right time. She patted herself at the back for being so smart. “Do not try to do everything by yourself, Jayamma. Take also help from your colleagues in other taluks. You are calling up the Superintendent of Police in your mobile. It will not work all the time. Let us form a team only for this one festival and all of you go together to meet the top cop and apprise him of all related dimension. He is quite new in the District and he should know about our Movement…” “Ammaji, you are right. But do not think that the SP does not know about us. Every time a top bureaucrat comes to our District newly the first thing they do is to enquire about us as they already have heard about us elsewhere. Moreover, the caste leaders and some of our own Dalit leaders go to him on the first day itself to spread all sorts of canards about us. But fortunately the officers depend on their intelligence reports that speak well of us”. Narayanappa displayed his political acumen without any hesitation.

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‘Ok, ok! I shall send a police force and we shall stop killing of buffalos in that village. But your people must stand together and not speak in different voices on that day. Please make sure of that. Also our men cannot and do not want to do it alone. You leaders must stand with them on the day of the festival and for two subsequent days to prevent any untoward incident.” The SP displayed a human sense that stood above his ‘police’ sense. “Oh, yes! I know your Appaji and Ammaji. Wonderful people! Go and do your duty well!” he gave them a piece of advice and disposed them off. Ammaji (read Jyothi) mobilised a big force of leaders and was in uninterrupted communication with them. Booshakthi Kendra was reverberating with mobile sound throughout day and interrupted her sleep occasionally at night. “Ammaji, we have stopped the festival. There was no killing of even a single buffalo. A big success for us Ammaji! The caste people came and pleaded with us that we should allow them to at least kill a goat or a chicken and celebrate. We said that they have all the freedom to celebrate the festival without killing buffalo. It was a grand success, Ammaji.” Jayamma was in a hype. Mobile calls followed from all corners. “Ammaji, a lot of other Dalit leaders came in motorbikes only to check if we ultimately succeeded. They left without even a whisper. We are still staying with the police.” Srinivas was excited. “One of our Dalit leaders challenged me Ammaji and said that we are depriving our Dalit people of buffalo meat. I told him that we are encouraging our people to buy beef from the shops and eat. I told him that we shall even allow the sacrifice of buffalo if caste people would agree to eat the same meet along with our people. They will not do it. They know well that if they eat buffalo meat with our people the next step in society will be that their and our young people will pick up courage to love one another and it will end up in inter caste marriages. This is what they are afraid of most.” Malinga was unstoppable. ‘What did he say for that!” Ammaji provoked him further to talk. “He closed his top and bottom openings and went away in his motorbike, Ammaji.” In his excitement Malinga used his village slang without any inhibition with Ammaji. All leaders of the Dalit Panchayats gathered in Booshakthi Kendra after two days to have a jolly good time of sharing the sweet story of their success with also Appaji (read M C Raj) who was

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recuperating from Herpes attack. It was a good antidote. Village after village, the Dalit people have stopped this ignominious celebration of the slavery of Dalits to caste forces. A people who find it difficult to make both ends meet have decided to infuse a sense of dignity in their children even against heavy odds. Life for the leaders is not any easy. At least on two occasions in one week, police had to rush to villages with two jeeps to rescue our leaders as the caste people in the areas started blocking their way and damaging their vehicles. Ordinary and simple local people they are, their rise to leadership is phenomenal. There is nobody from outside the District to do this very onerous struggle. It has been highly energy demanding and energy draining. But we have an enormous source of replenishing our energy, our indomitable Dalit women, the eternal source of our energy. Jyothi and Raj Dalit Panchayat Leaders TEAM REDS

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