By P.T. Bopanna
Are the so-called Kodava leaders demanding ST tag for Kodavas (Coorgs) have factored in a backlash from the existing Scheduled Tribes?
Instead of getting the ST tag, the Kodavas could end up being targeted by Naxals from Kerala who would definitely join any movement by the local ST population to oppose ST tag for Kodavas.
There is no doubt that the Kodava leaders are exploiting gullible Kodavas by promising them ST tag for which they are not eligible by virtue of the fact that they are ‘comparatively’ better off both economically and educationally, though there are a sizeable number of people in the community who are below the poverty line.
On the other hand, the Kodavas ideally qualify for the tag of religious minority. It is better to avail religious minority tag because this gives Constitutional protection for the land, firearms, and ainmanes (ancestral homes) of the Kodavas. And there is provision for educational scholarships and other grants for the community.
Already the existing Scheduled Tribes of Kodagu, including the Yeravas and Kurubas have opposed ST tag for Kodavas as this would deny them the benefits.
Any agitation by the existing STs could draw the likes of Jignesh Mevani who joined an agitation three years ago in Kodagu in support of Diddali tribals demanding rehabilitation in the Devamachi forest area in Virajpet taluk.
Mevani, who has led several campaigns across the country in support of Dalit rights, had flagged off a march of tribals from Diddalli to Bengaluru. He called off the march following a promise from the then chief minister Siddaramaiah. Since Siddaramaiah was close to the late Gowri Lankesh who was also involved in the agitation, the issue could be sorted out amicably.