Karnataka contaminated water case takes casteist turn, riles Dalit groups

The incident was reported from Kavadigarahatti area which comes under Chitradurga Municipality limits in Karnataka.

Bengaluru: Karnataka’s Congress government has come under scanner following Dalit organisations raising suspicion over the water contamination case which resulted in seven deaths and more than 200 persons getting hospitalised.

The organisations are suspecting it to be a case of poisoning of drinking water out of vengeance and caste hatred and decided to take out a protest march from Kavadigarahatti to the residence of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

The incident was reported from Kavadigarahatti area which comes under Chitradurga Municipality limits in Karnataka.

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The Dalit organisations are alleging that Kavadigarahatti area is a Dalit colony and all the deceased and hospitalised victims belong to Dalit community. The water was poisoned as one of the residents married a woman from the upper caste, they alleged.

The Congress government is alleged to be playing a safe game with political calculations. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Home Minister Dr G. Parameshwara, a prominent Dalit leader, are being questioned on their stand regarding the issue.

Bhaskar Prasad, State General Secretary of Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), speaking to IANS, explained that the state government has proved it to be a case of cholera as it would face an embarrassment if the matter of poisoning of water comes out. No action has been initiated against the concerned officers.

“Considering it as contaminated water, why did the contaminated water reach only Dalit colony? Not a single case has been reported from the other areas which are supplied water from the same source where Lingayats and other upper caste people live,” he explained.

“It is shameful that no legal action has been taken against the water man and the local corporator who have disappeared after the incident. Since the government is not able to do justice, it has been decided to hold a protest march from the Kavadigarahatti area, where the tragedy occurred, to the residence of the Chief Minister in Bengaluru. The meeting is organised on Aug 18 to discuss and take a final call on this,” stated Bhaskar Prasad.

Kambalapalli massacre was the most heinous attack on Dalits took place in Kolar district of Karnataka, where seven Dalits were burnt alive when present AICC President Mallikarjun Kharge was the Home Minister of the state on Mar 11, 2000.

“Senior police officers belonged to Dalit community then who were in-charge of the investigation of the case. Still justice was denied to Dalits in the case. Having Dalits or OBC’s at the helm of power is not really stopping atrocities on them,” Bhaskar Prasad explained.

Hariram, State Coordinator of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) explained that waterman Suresh and Corporator Jayanna, for personal hatred, because a girl in their family fell in love and got married to a Dalit boy, they poisoned the water supplied to the entire Dalit colony.

“It is shameful for Home Minister Parameshwar that the evidence is destroyed systematically. The water tank has been cleaned and the pipes which supplied water to Dalit colony are replaced to get rid of traces of supply of poisonous water abruptly in police protection,” he alleged.

“The government and local influential people are hand in glove to hush up the case. This is a government sponsored massacre. Seven people have died in the incident. The government should have safeguarded the pipes and for FSL tests. Police arrest terrorists but they are not able to track the water man and corporator who committed cold-blooded murders,” Hariram stated.

The incident of water contamination was reported on July 31. Many of those who have been hospitalised are in critical condition, according to local authorities. The FSL report of the water sample has confirmed that there was no poisonous chemical found. However, the authorities are claiming that the FSL report has confirmed that the tragedy has occurred due to contamination of water.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has ordered a probe into the incident and directed the district authorities to initiate stern action against the officers found guilty. The authorities have sent a report recommending suspension of AEE R. Manjunath Giraddi and JE S.R. Kiran Kumar, attached to Chitradurga Municipality. Prakash, who worked as a volve operator in Kavadigarahatti was also suspended by the district commissioner.

Karnataka Lokayukta has summoned the top government authorities on August 24 in connection with the water contamination case. Lokayukta Justice B.S. Patil had stated that suo moto case has already been taken regarding the matter and stated that the tragedy is painful. He has expressed concern over the development and sought a report.

The Secretary of Department of Urban Development from Bengaluru, District Commissioner of Chitradurga, Administrative Director of Chitradurga Municipality, District Health Officer, Municipality Commissioner, AEE and Health Inspectors are summoned to the office of Lokayukta. The concerned officials have been asked to furnish complete facts of the case with the report at his office.

The major political parties BJP, JD (S) and Congress are presently busy with the development of row over clearing of pending bills to contractors. Dalit organisations along with BSP and SDPI are planning to take up the matter and launch a huge agitation. It remains to be seen whether justice will be done.

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