As Hindutva comes calling, Catholic church struggles with caste in Karnataka

DK Shivakumar Jesus statue Kanakapura
Congress leader DK Shivakumar at the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Christ statue in Kanakapura in Karnataka | Photo - Twitter

Catholics belonging to the politically influential Vokkaliga and Golla castes have ruled Harobele village in Karnataka’s Kanakapura with an iron hand for centuries. They’ve enforced a strict caste-code ever since the first parish was established here in the year 1675.

When this writer visited the village first in January 2015, a tense situation prevailed as a fallout of a riot led by the Vokkaliga and Golla Catholics against Dalit Catholics.

Nobody had dared to stop the men as they blocked all entry points in the village for more than a week during which they did as they pleased. Police stood back lazily as the Vokkaliga men patrolled the streets on motorbikes and jeeps, armed with sharp weapons and lathis.

Despite being Catholics, the dominant castes of Harobele enjoyed a strong filial and political bond with their Hindu counterparts, particularly the Vokkaligas, who hold sway over politics in most parts of South Karnataka.

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