ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Karnataka : Changing Shape of Caste Conflict

The recent incidence of caste violence in Karnataka forces the dalit movement there to face the issue of internal conflicts and contradictions, especially subcaste politics of identity formation.

No one imagined that Kambalapalli would suddenly come into focus with the killing of seven dalits and one person belonging to a dominant caste on March 11, 2000. It is a sleepy village located about 20 kms north of Chintamani, a taluk headquarters in Kolar district. The news came as a rude shock to the present Congress government, which had received a mandate in the recently concluded election, to checkmate hindutva. The dalits had joined the social formation, MOVD. This incident obviously has the larger consequences on dalit politics, especially when the movement is undergoing severe conflict, divisions and split from within. At the same time the incident brings to fore the consequences of retrieving cultural symbolism in the context of severe challenges from without. It is also true that cultural politics and politics of caste has undergone metamorphoses in Karnataka over the years.

The Kambalapalli incident represents two things: one, the changing nature of caste conflicts at different structural levels and two, new forms of identity formation, mainly among the subcaste groups leading to a vertical split within dalit politics or the movement. In the latter case, Karnataka is now following the path of Andhra Pradesh where the debate on the issue of reservation has vertically divided dalit politics into subcaste politics of Malas and Madigas.

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