The Badanavalu Caste Clashes of 1993 in Karnataka

by Prakash Holayar, Chamarajanagar 

[Pronouncement of Court verdicts in cases pertaining to Dalit's murders, massacres and atrocities often takes several years. In this article Prakash recounts the Badanavalu Caste Clashes and the final verdict; we invite writers to share their experience and memory of such caste clashes and participate in the documentation of delays and negation in the process of justice for Dalit victims - Round Table India.

In March 1993, three Dalits were brutally murdered by a mob of Lingayats after the dispute over entry of Dalits into a temple in the Badanavalu village of Nanjangud Taluk, Mysore District. After a long wait of 17 years, justice was delivered to the Dalits of Badanavalu village in November 2010.

Badanavalu, an ordinary village off Mysore-Chamarajanagar state highway, hit the National Headlines when three Dalits in the village were killed by contemptuous Lingayats on 25th March, 1993. The death of the Dalits led to a public debate on the safety of Dalits in the state besides causing deep division between communities, particularly between the Dalits and Lingayats who dominate that region. However, before the wounds of this social-hatred were healed, Dalits went retaliated and set on fire several houses of Lingayats at a nearby village called Ummathur (Ummathur had backed up the killings by supporting Badanavalu Lingayts).

The Special Court had been delaying the pronouncement of the quantum of punishment for the convicts. Of the 23 accused, twenty men were convicted of killing three Dalits during the Badanavalu caste clashes in 1993, and were finally sentenced to life imprisonment on 4th November, 2010. Further, the Sixth Additional District and Sessions Court Judge L. F. Malavalli also sentenced them to three years rigorous imprisonment for causing grievous hurt under Section 326 (A) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and one year for triggering hatred among the two communities under Section 153 (A) of the IPC.

The 23 accused were pronounced guilty of killing B.R. Narayanswamy (School Head master & leader of Ambedkar Yuvaka Sangha), his son Madhukar and their neighbor Nataraj. All the 23 accused were released on bail. But, three of them died during the course of the trial.

{Relatives of the convicts in the Badanavalu Dalit killings case in the court premises in Mysore on Thursday (Photo-Deccan Herald)}

The CBI had also filed the Charge Sheet in the case registered by the Nanjangud Rural Police-Station. The CBI too had charged that 23 persons attacked the Dalits following the dispute over entry of Dalits into the Siddeshwara Temple in the Badanavalu village. CBI Counsel Mr.Sudharshan, while speaking to the media after the announcement of the punishment, said that the prosecution had demanded Death Sentence for the accused.

Recounting the Cruel Killings

The incident occurred about 17 years ago. On 25th March 1993, the Dalits of Badanavalu were returning to their village from Haniyambadi (an adjacent village) after participating in a Cricket Tournament. A mob of Lingayats had hidden in the bushes, waiting to make an attack. On the way to their village the Dalits were suddenly attacked by the hidden mob. Narayanswamy (village school head master), his son Madhukar and their neighbor Nataraj were killed in the brutal assault and the rest were wounded.

 Behind the Incident

Obviously, Badanavalu was a Lingayat dominated village. There was no social interaction or spiritual brotherhood between the Dalits and the Lingayats since ages. It was all due to a temple issue. A temple of Siddeshwara Swamy was located in that village. Lingayats called for funds to renew the temple from all villagers. Dalits of the village turned down the appeal to pay for the temple renewal since they had no involvement with it, and more importantly they were not allowed to take part in the temple’s festivities.

But the Lingayats intended to take a compulsory fund collection from every family of the village. But Dalits put a condition that: They would pay if they were also involved in the temple festivity, or else, they would not pay. At last, they agreed and Dalits too paid for the temple renewal with their condition.

After renewal of the temple, inauguration was set up without inviting village Dalit leaders. Dalits of the Badanavalu wondered and questioned the temple committee with reference to the condition. The Lingayat community opposed the involvement of Dalits citing the reason of Untouchability. Finally, Dalits stopped the temple inauguration by complaining and the temple was locked. To avenge this, the Lingayats had been planning an attack on Dalit youths. In the end they brutally killed three Dalits of Badanavalu, and wounded a few more.

 Massive Dalit Protest

Soon after the killings, Dalit organizations had taken out mammoth rally in Nanjangud town condemning the murder and thousands of people gathered to protest. From Chamarajanagar region which has the highest Dalit population, people were ferried in several lorries to make the rally a success. Meanwhile, Ummathur, another village in the Chamarajanagar taluk turned a safe haven for Lingayats who wished to indulge in clashes frequently. As a Lingayat majority village, it had been notorious for caste hauteur and was suspected to be fueling the commotions. Those traveling by the lorries to Nanjangud via Ummathur raided the village and torched over 50 houses, besides destroying properties of Lingayats. The violence didn’t stop here. When the police of Nanjangud town had got a line that the village Ummathur was set on fire…the officers ordered Lathi-charge on the rally in Najangud town and this further angered the Dalits; the rally became a battle-field, the police opened fire, and finally two Dalits were killed as police firing. At the same time, angry protesters tried to barge into Nanjangud Constituency MLA Mahadeva’s house, because he was suspected to be the backer of Badanvalu killings.

The then Congress MP V. Srinivasa Prasad was representing the Chamarajanagar Lok Sabha constituency. Mr. Srinivasa Prasad had directly held Mr. Mahadev (Nanjangud MLA) responsible for the incident in front of the then Chief Minister Mr. M.Veerappa Moily. He firmly demanded for a CBI probe and suddenly CM Moily visited the families of victims and recommended CBI probe.

Political Implications

These two incidents divided even the politicians of the two communities. The incidents impacted the general elections in the following years. The Dalit leader Mr. Srinivasa Prasad, who had won the Chamarajnagar Parliament (MP) seat since 1980, lost it to the candidate who sympathized with the Lingayats. The Badanavalu Caste Clash is recorded as the most infamous incident in the Dalit history of Karnataka.

~News reports in Dailies~

1.  20 sentenced to life for killing Dalits in Badanaval –The Hindu

2. Netas tread a cautious path- The Times of India 

3. Aftermath of clashes in 1993 – Deccan Herald

Mysore, Nov 4, DHNS:

'My family would have been happy if the court had sent the prime accused in the case to gallows'. This was the instant reaction of Dinakar who lost his father and younger brother in Badanavalu caste clashes that occurred in 1993.

Judge of Sixth Additional District and Sessions Court, Lakshman F Malavalli on Thursday awarded life imprisonment to 20 accused convicted of murder, besides causing grievous injuries to two others and animosity among the two communities.

Dinakar, who was in a pensive mood following the verdict, said the real perpetrators in the incident should have been awarded death by the court, as his father and brother had been brutally done to death with multiple injuries. However, he clarified that he was not against the given order of the court.

“My father Narayanaswamy, who was working as a head master at the government school in the same village was a secular person popular among both the communities. He had been organising the cultural programmes regularly. My brother had been dreaming of joining engineering, after second PUC”, recalled Dinakar working at Taluk Office in Chamarajanagar. Both the communities in the village have good number of learned persons and the verdict would not have any bearing on them, said Dinakar.

5. High Court Rejects Bail Pleas of Lifers in Dalit's Murder

Bangalore, March 30, DHNS:

The High Court of Karnataka on Wednesday rejected the bail applications of 20 persons from Badanavalu near Mysore, who were sentenced to life imprisonment in a triple murder case.

On March 25, 1993, some Dalit residents of Badanavalu village were attacked by 23 people following a dispute over their entry into Siddappaji Temple. The 23 accused were convicted of killing B R Narayanswamy, his son Madhukar, and their neighbour Nataraj. Three of the accused had died during trial and the sentencing was given by the lower court in November 2010. The Sixth Additional District and Sessions Court Judge L F Malavalli also sentenced them to three years’ rigorous imprisonment for causing grievous hurt under Section 326 (A) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and one year for spreading hatred among the two communities, under Section 153 (A) of the IPC. 

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