Just before the Karnataka Assembly election dates were announced, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai declared a slew of changes in the reservation list for Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes. As per the new reservation policy, Holeyas (Right-Dalits) were given 5.5 percent reservation within the SC list and Madigas (Left-Dalits) were given 6 percent reservation.

Moreover, Lingayats and Vokkaligas who fall within the BC list were each given an additional 2 percent reservation. Responding to fresh quota announced by the BJP, the Congress too has promised implementation of Sadashiva Commission report which had recommended sub-caste reservation.

While the overhaul of the reservation list and the debate around it seemed to have been aimed at drawing votes from various caste groups, what seems to have gone unnoticed is caste atrocities faced by Dalits across Karnataka.

As the dance of democracy continues in the state, with polling scheduled to be held on 10 May, The Quint visited two Dalit families in Kolar and Chikkaballapur who have faced atrocities and whose plight seems to have gone unseen till date.

Scheduled Castes form 17.5 percent and Scheduled Tribes form 6.95 percent of Karnataka’s population. Lingayats and Vokkaligas are around 17 and 16 percent of the state’s population. In the state, 36 Assembly seats are reserved for SCs and 15 for STs.

Two Similar Cases of Boycott

In September 2022, two cases of atrocities on Dalits had surfaced from Kolar and Chikkaballapur districts. In both cases, the victims were teenage boys from the Holeya caste.

While both cases had drawn media attention and First Information Reports (FIRs) were registered against the accused, their families have continued to face caste discrimination in their villages. The Quint met these families to know what political leaders from the region should have already taken cognizance of.

Here’s what we saw and heard.

Surrounded by rocky hills, a brick house stands next to a dirt road in Kolar district’s Ullerahalli village. Small dynamite explosions can be heard from nearby quarries.

A 15-year-old Dalit boy steps out of the house in a floral shirt to explain why his family was charged Rs 60,000 as fine by the village panchayat.

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