By Addanda C. Cariappa
This is the story of Kodagu and its original inhabitants in Kodagu who are facing the threat of losing their unique identity. The story also explains the actions of the powerful people who are the cause for it.
Outwardly, Kodagu appears to be a beautiful, splendid place full of natural richness. But its inner pain may in all probability lead to the disappearance of the district.
In the past, Kodagu was a country, having its own rulers; cultural identity and a population that was distinct from others. Kodagu is a land of warriors, having a rich tradition of bravery and patriotism. Over the centuries, the Gangas, Cholas, Chalukyas, Vijayanagar rulers, Ikkeri Kings, Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan and the British gained control over Kodagu resulting in loot of wealth and religious conversions.
But despite numerous onslaughts, the Kodava culture and the language survived without undergoing any changes. Kodagu is our land. The people of Kodagu, which is the birth place of River Cauvery, continued the age-old tradition of worshipping the Holy River.
It can be said that the British were the first to give a good governance to Kodagu by establishing schools and colleges, apart from cultivating coffee and thus consolidating Kodagu’s economy. Also, the British were the first to ban cow slaughter and allowed Kodavas and some others to carry guns without Government licence. The British, acknowledging the bravery of Kodavas, even set up ‘Coorg Regiment’ in the Indian Army.
After India got Independence, Kodagu was declared a ‘C’ State as per the States Reorganisation Act, 1951 and subsequently a 24-Member Assembly was constituted based on the naadus. The election to the first Assembly was held in 1952 and subsequently C.M. Poonacha became the Chief Minister of Kodagu on 17.3.1952. K. Mallappa became the Home Minister while B.S. Kushalappa was elected as the Assembly Speaker. Many elderly Kodagu people recall that this was the golden era for Kodagu.
But its existence was short-lived as four years later Kodagu was merged with the much bigger State of Mysore on Nov.1, 1956.
As years passed by, the constituency delimitation process began. The three Taluks that the District had, came down to two with the discontinuance of Somwarpet Constituency. Following delimitation, Kodagu became a part of Mysore Lok Sabha Constituency.
What a pitiful situation for Kodagu !
When Mysore State was renamed as Karnataka, political pressure groups emerged in different parts of the State that forced the Government to form new Taluks, following which Vasudeva Commission was constituted in 1973, T.M. Hundekar Committee in 1984, P.C. Gaddigoudar Committee in 1986 and M.B. Prakash Committee in 2007 to look into carving of new Taluks. Finally, the present Congress Government came forward to set up 49 new Taluks and interestingly, Kodagu got none.
Even as the new Taluk formation process was yet to begin, the people of Kodagu had demanded three new Taluks for the district — Ponnampet, Kushalnagar (Cauvery) and Napoklu. But the demand was rejected by the last of the Committees — M.B. Prakash Committee — for petty reasons. The main reasons cited by the Committee for rejecting the demand for three more Taluks was that these towns were very close to the existing Taluk Headquarters and also had less population. Besides, these towns had many Government Offices much like the Taluk centres and the forest area around these towns was vast.
But the fact remains that the Government had no yardstick in announcing the new Taluks. The list of new Taluks announced by the Government a few months ago shows that some of the new Taluks have a population of less than 10,000. Also, the new Taluks are in a distance of less than 25 kms from each other. Besides, some of the Taluks do not find mention in the recommendation by any of the Committees mentioned earlier in this article. The Government, while denying a new Taluk to Kodagu, has cited sparse population and huge forest area. But the demand for new Taluks made by some influential Ministers has been met and the new Taluks were announced by the Government as an election ‘gift.’
Now in Kodagu, Ponnampet had a population of 1,01,388 and is more than 40 kms away from the Taluk Headquarters of Virajpet. Ponnampet has an area of 1,065 sq.kms having control over 21 Gram Panchayats (GPs).
The population of rest of Virajpet Taluk exceeds 1 lakh. Virajpet Taluk has an area of 621.55 sq. kms having control over 16 GPs.
Kushalnagar has a population of 1,11,882 and is more than 30 kms from the Taluk Headquarters of Somwarpet. Kushalnagar covers an area of 467.31 sq.kms and has control over 20 Gram Panchayats while the rest of Somwarpet Taluk has an area of 527.61 sq.kms, covering 22 GPs.
Napoklu has a population of 51,506 and is more than 30 kms from its Taluk and District Headquarters of Madikeri. All these centres have extensive forest areas.
Although these towns are covered by forests, the population is not less as claimed by the Committee. Kodagu is a land of Hill ranges and measuring the distance in terms of kilometres seems to be unscientific. Despite Kodagu having all the criteria to have more Taluks, the District is being denied justice. It may be noted here that the people of Kodagu are only asking for the Taluks that were once in place and not new ones. It is very disappointing to note that Kodagu has been neglected even as the Siddharamaiah Government announced the formation of 49 new Taluks, with no specific yardsticks.