Bageshree S., The Hindu
Bangalore: The alleged “honour” killing of 20-year-old K.R. Deepika for daring to marry out of caste at Thamasandra village on February 27, yet again underlines the fact that, contrary to urban middle class notions, caste structures remain rigid and anyone attempting to break it has to pay a price.
A visit to Thamasandra and Karikalludoddi, the native village of Deepika (a Vokkaliga) and her husband R. Venkatesh (an Uppara), reveals no obvious indicators of violent caste conflict.
Nevertheless, the caste divide is sharp and palpable. Like in most villages, here too the Adi Karnataka (Dalit) Colony is on the outer periphery.
People of the Uppara community are “touchable” and live within the village. However, they are placed socially and economically lower in the ladder compared to the Vokkaligas, and are numerically weaker. Upparas are about 15 families out of the 180 in Karikalludoddi. Vokkaliga families number about 80, and the rest are Scheduled Castes and a Marathi-speaking OBC community.
Political representation from the region provides some indication of the caste equations. MLA from Ramanagaram is K. Raju and MP is H.D. Kumaraswamy, both Vokkaligas. Another powerful politician from Kanakapura in the same district, D.K. Shivakumar, also belongs to the same community. Indeed, whispers abound that Ms. Deepika’s family is close to “powerful people”.
The family of Deepika is not visibly wealthy. They own about 20 acres of land in all. “They own a house in Harohalli too,” said a villager.
An interesting factor is that the couple had enough exposure through education to a world beyond the strict caste hierarchy, but not the wherewithal to get out of its feudal grip entirely.
Mr. Venkatesh is a college dropout, while Deepika had completed her PUC in a college in Bangalore. They did not have the economic means to move entirely out of their social milieu.
Inter-caste marriages are rare in the village, but this is not the first instance. Mr. Venkatesh’s uncle K. Prakash said that there had been the case of an Uppara girl marrying a Vokkaliga about a year ago.
Though it was frowned upon, it did not create the same outrage because the girl was “marrying up”, he said, and his community was not strong enough to oppose. This adds a gender angle within the caste structure.