Jyothi and I would rate this as one of the great success stories of our Adijan Panchayat Movement. It is personal too, as we were the personal targets of those who played games against our Organization and both of us. We are referring to our recent success in preventing the sacrifice of buffalo during the festival of Maramma. Our struggle is long and started from the first year we stepped into Tumkur District. Nelahal where we stay now was one of the first villages to start our work. In this area we became rather too popular in a short time because of our affable nature and readiness to help people. People simply loved us. When our image became public the poor started isolating the landlords and the caste lords. The person in Nelahal was particularly aggressive against us from the beginning as he wanted to be the undisputed leader in the village and he garnered the support of the local MLA. If he had talked to us all the problems would have been solved as we did not work with any ego. But he and the MLA refused. When we went to meet the MLA he even asked us to get out of his house without giving a hearing to us. Finally we had to convert our organization of people into voting strength and defeat the MLA. Then he came running to us and asked for our friendship, which we gave and he won the elections as a Member of Parliament. The request for friendship came only after many threats to by this local leader.
We remember vividly that one day the threat was real. We took our little baby to Bangalore to leave her with Jyothi’s parents and rushed back to the village. Our people had sent message that we should reach the village around 11 in the night. We did that and as soon as we got down from our motorbike we were surrounded by weapon wielding thugs. But we kept out cool and walked around amidst them. Perhaps they did not anticipate such courage from us. One by one they left the place and then our people surrounded us in joy. “We were watching you. We wanted to know how you will face this situation. Now we know that you will give your life for us anytime. But we were sure that they could not touch even one hair of yours.” This is an ancient story. From then there was no daily conflict between the local leader and us.
In 2003 when we shifted ourselves to Nelahal village, the entire village welcomed us with an unprecedented euphoria. More than 6000 people assembled from all over to celebrate. Our local leader who had shifted his family to Tumkur city came back to the village within a few years. We made some attempts to meet him in his house. We did. But the animosity did not subside. There was no actual conflict. However, there has been a sort of indirect social boycott of both of us in the sense that we would not be invited to any village meeting and function. Gossip had it that there was also a command from the leader that no one should go to the Ashram. Over a period of time, especially in the recent past this changed and for the first time the leader came to our Ashram to invite us for the marriage of his daughter. We attended the marriage and he was happy.
In the meantime Booshakthi Kendra has become very famous and sort of ‘powerful’ with support of the State Government. There are also a few cronies of his who want to teach us a lesson. They know well that we have stopped sacrifice of buffalo almost in the entire district and we were surprised that after five years they decided to revive the same in our village. As soon as the village festival was announced our leaders met the top guy in police department and got an assurance that they would stand by us in an eventual struggle. Our local leader also had powerful connections in political parties and therefore, we were quire apprehensive about our eventual success.
It was a big surprise for us that all the Adijan people in the village came together to Booshakthi Kendra to request us permission for buffalo sacrifice. They phoned him up and he was with us in a few minutes. When he fell at our feet twice to get our blessings we became suspicious about his motives. We thought our struggle was starting again. And it did. In front of him we told our people that we were ready to inaugurate the festival provided they gave in writing that they would not sacrifice buffalo. They said neither yes nor no. Things were beginning to fall in places. They went ahead with preparations for buffalo sacrifice and our Adijan Panchayat Movement went ahead with efforts to prevent the sacrifice. Buffalo was already bought and brought to the village in public glare.
We were pleasantly surprised to know the Superintendent of Police mobilized all his officers and was ready even to send a battalion of the Reserve Police to the village to prevent the sacrifice. On the night they were supposed to sacrifice there were more than thirty policemen and policewomen. Added to that were our Movement leaders who were all mistaken as police by the village people. Leading the police was our Police Inspector, himself sitting in the police vehicle for the entire night. This was exemplary.
We have finally and successfully prevented the sacrifice. In the meantime we heard rumors that after the festival the village was planning to attack both of us. Our leaders are camping at Booshakthi Kendra. Knowing the people of Nelahal we are sure that nothing like this will happen. They would speak like this in their utter frustration. Moreover in a work like ours we have to be prepared for anything at anytime. Both of us have never been afraid of death and that is a reason why we are still living with gusto in the revolution that we have initiated for dignity and rights of our people.
Why Stop the Buffalo Sacrifice?
Friends have been asking us the reason for preventing buffalo sacrifice in this festival. One must understand that in many Hindu festivals the ancestors of till now known Dalits whom we call Adijan are derided and often killing them is celebrated as festival. In this story Maramma is a Brahmin girl in whose house Kadaraiah, a young and robust Dalit boy is working. Both fall in love with each other. Without knowing that he is from the Dalit community she wants to marry him. Both of them marry and have many children. Only much later does she realize his true identity and she becomes terribly angry with her husband. First she kills all her children one by one and later sets out to kill her husband only being a Dalit. Kadaraiah runs for his life and takes shelter in the body of a buffalo. Now like all indigenous peoples of the world Adijan (Dalit) people of India have animals as their ancestors. Finally Maramma curses her husband and kills the buffalo saying that every year people would celebrate her for this brace act and would kill him. They would keep the head and legs of the buffalo at the entrance to the village so that all people may know that no Adijan (Dalit) should fall in love with a Brahmin (Caste) person.
As it has come today, this sacrifice has become an occasion of the indignity of our people and perpetuation of the practice of ‘free caste labor’ that is rampant in India today. The caste landlords dedicate a buffalo to Maramma in the beginning of the year. Adijan people know that when it is sacrificed they will have enough meet in their house for many days. Making use of this the caste landlord demands all the traditional free caste labor from Adijans for the village.
It is this particular dimension of indignity and free caste labor that disturbs us and we tell our people to buy meat and give to their children on the festival day and give up free caste labor. We are happy that we have managed to do this in almost all places in Tumkur District. We still have to be alert all the time.