By P.T. Bopanna
The month of November will be a black month for Kodagu (Coorg) for two reasons. On November 1, 1956, Kodagu was wiped out from the Indian map following the linguistic reorganization of states and the erstwhile Coorg State was merged with Karnataka.
The second tragedy for Kodagu was the imposition of Tipu Jayanthi on the people of Kodagu by the Congress-led Siddaramaiah government on November 10. Tipu Sultan, the 18th century Mysore ruler, had massacred and ordered mass conversion of Kodavas (Coorgs) into Islam.
To appease the Muslims, Siddaramaiah has decided to make the controversial Tipu Sultan Jayanthi an annual affair. Two persons were killed, including VHP activist D.S. Kuttappa, two years ago when violence broke out in Kodagu during the Tipu Jayanthi.
It is still not late for Siddaramaiah to do away with Tipu celebrations in Kodagu, to respect the sentiments of the people, in view of the atrocities committed by the Mysore ruler.
If Kodagu had remained a separate state, there was no scope for Tipu Jayanthi. The fact that Kodagu merged with Karnataka, the local peoples sentiments are being bulldozed by the Karnataka government.
Though Coorg had remained an independent entity for centuries, the once bountiful Coorg State has been reduced to the status of a colony by the rulers of Karnataka since its merger with Karnataka. With Kodagu represented by just two MLAs, successive governments in Karnataka have neglected the development of the district.
Though the hill district of Kodagu, the highest producer of coffee in India, contributes enormously to the state exchequer, the revenue generated from the district has not been adequately ploughed back for the area’s development. The self-serving politicians of Karnataka have been backing the timber lobby in looting the forest wealth in the hill district located in the Western Ghats.
The timber merchants, mostly hailing from the neighbouring Kerala State, did not spare even the Devara Kadus (sacred forests), the forest buffer maintained by Coorg clans for centuries.
Though Kodagu is the main catchment area of the river Cauvery, the life-line of people living in southern India, the rulers sitting in Vidhana Soudha, the secretariat of the Karnataka government in Bangalore, have actively backed the timber lobby in denuding the forest wealth in the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats. This could spell an environment disaster in the coming years. A time may come when the flow of Cauvery waters in the taps of Bangalore and Mysore households may stop altogether.
Even though river Cauvery takes its birth at Talacauvery in Kodagu, the people of Kodagu have not benefited from the river. Powerful politicians from the neighbouring Mysore district in the past have prevailed on the Karnataka government to divert the water for irrigation to the fields in their Assembly constituencies to woo the voters. The backwater of the Harangi dam built across the Cauvery near Kushalnagar has inundated thousands of acres of land in Kodagu.
There is an acute shortage of drinking water at Madikeri, the district headquarters of Kodagu. While hundreds of crores of rupees have been spent to take the Cauvery water from Kodagu to the neighbouring districts, successive Karnataka governments have failed to implement a viable drinking water scheme to supply adequate water to Madikeri town.
Prior to its merger with Karnataka, corruption was unheard of in Kodagu. Now, it has taken deep roots. The local people of Kodagu, known for their honesty and straightforwardness, have been forced to indulge in corrupt practices to get their work done in government offices.
The land mafia from Bangalore has bought huge tracts of land in Kodagu to indulge in speculative land deals. The entry of underworld figures into Kodagu has affected the tranquility of the district.
There has been a growing demand for restoring statehood to Kodagu. Besides, the demand for greater autonomy in governance has been voiced by some of the local organizations.
Unless the Karnataka government takes remedial measures to stop the alienation among the people of Kodagu, the situation could escalate into a serious law and order problem in the region in the coming years.
Source: ‘Rise and Fall of the Coorg State’ by P.T. Bopanna. Published by Rolling Stone Publications, Bangalore, 2009.