By P.T. Bopanna
The gay wedding involving a Kodava (Coorg) man in the United States has exposed the fault lines in the Kodava community rooted in Kodagu (Coorg) district of Karnataka State.
The same-sex marriage has also provided an opportunity to the Kodavas to introspect on the strengths and weaknesses in the community and also given an opportunity to emerge stronger.
Dr Sharath Ponnappa, a Kodava, married Sundeep Dosanjh, a Punjabi American, last month. In one of the wedding ceremonies held on September 26, the couple wore traditional Kodava attire.
Reacting to the wedding, the president of the Kodava Samaja at Madikeri in Kodagu, K.S. Devaiah (in picture below) said: “This wedding, where the couple wore traditional Kodava attire, is an insult to the entire community. Hence, after a meeting the members of the Kodava Samaja, we have recommended ostracisation of Sharath Ponnappa from the community.”
The action of the Kodava Samaja has apparently not gone down well with members of the community, going by the debate on social media. An article written by K. Natasha Ponnappa, a corporate lawyer, faulting the community leaders for their boorish stand on the issue, evoked widespread response in the social media.
Natasha wrote: “Although I believe that we are all entitled to our opinions, it is equally important to tell our respectable elders and peers where they are wrong and most of all educate them on issues that put us behind on a humanitarian perspective.”
The Madikeri Kodava Samaja, a toothless body, has apparently exceeded its limits in calling for ‘ostracization’ of Sharath from the Kodava community. The action of the Samaja shows they are living in a bygone and feudal era.
During early 20th century, there was the practice of ‘ostracizing’ (porambadi) a member who went against the diktat of the clan. With the breakup of the joint family system in Kodagu and the country gaining Independence, the concept of ostracization disappeared and was replaced by rule of law.
This kind of feudal mind-set is not confined to Madikeri Kodava Samaja, but involves most of the Kodava Samajas across Kodagu.
The Kodava Samaja at Balele in Kodagu had recently passed a resolution not to rent their premises for weddings to Kodavas who marry outside the community.
The ongoing debate has provided an opportunity for the community to introspect on its shortcoming. There is need for bringing together all the Kodavas on a single platform.
Though a federation of Kodava Samajas exists on paper, it is at best a ‘private limited company’.
The Kodavas deserve an apex body of enlightened leaders, elected by the members of the community, to guide and represent the community.