Karnataka

Hope for Kadu Gollas

Print edition : November 28, 2014

THE “Kadu Gollas” are a Schedule Caste group residing mainly in Tumkur and Chitradurga districts of Karnataka with a significant number in the neighbouring district of Hassan.

A distinctive feature of this group is its strict notion of purity because of which a woman is considered unclean when she has her monthly period or after she delivers a baby. While a woman who has her period has to live outside the village for three to five days every month, a woman who gives birth is not allowed to enter her house for two or three months and has to live in a hovel the size of a kennel with her newborn child without access even to medical care. During this time, the women are not supposed to bathe or eat cooked food.

In this patriarchal and religious society, the routine biological process of menstruation acquires the dimensions of a “curse” that manifests itself in bleeding. The process of birth, which is celebrated in all other societies, is considered an evil act. This notion is so ingrained in the Kadu Golla community that even educated professionals accept it. It is not surprising that there are high levels of hysterectomies among young women from the community who are eager to escape the tyranny of living outdoors during their periods.

In 2012, Frontline reported on the gender discriminatory practices of this community (“‘Unclean’ and outcast”, August 24, 2012), provoking a vociferous discussion among concerned individuals and groups in Karnataka. One positive outcome of this story was that the government seriously considered converting these tribal hamlets into revenue villages to ensure that tillers of the land were also recognised as its owners.

Women and Child Development Minister Umashree took cognisance of this serious crime against human dignity after she visited a few Kadu Golla hamlets and assured concerned citizens of aggressive steps to provide education and social development to members of the community. She also said any person who forced women to conform to these degrading practices would be punished.

Myths about the Kadu Golla community trace its origins to the Yadavas of north India. Kadu Gollas have historically lived in self-contained hamlets called “hattis” on the margins of towns or larger villages or close to forests. A Kadu Golla “hatti” is distinct because of the thorny fence that surrounds it. Nomadic by nature, all Kadu Gollas were cow and goat herders before some of them acquired small landholdings. While the educated among them have migrated to towns and cities, many members of the community still pride themselves on being herders. According to informal estimates by the Backward Classes and Minorities Department, there are 251 Kadu Golla settlements in Chitradurga district with a total population of around one lakh. There could be around three lakh Kadu Gollas across Karnataka.

While the younger members of the community do not endorse these regressive practices, they lack the zeal to end them. While Umashree has taken the right steps in identifying the problem and promising change, the challenge for the government is to help the younger members of the community to make the change happen from within as well.

Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed

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