By Kalengada Machaiah
The state of affairs in Coorg has left me frustrated and I am sure it’s the same with a lot of my brethren. The time has come for us to stop brushing things under the carpet. As responsible individuals, I believe that it is important that we start a conversation now, rather than sit down for a drink 5 years later and regret that we had a chance to correct the course but did not do anything about it.
There are numerous organisations in Coorg that are working on various causes and as much as one hates them or loves them, one cannot agree that they are trying to make a difference. The organisations might not be getting the support from the general public due to a whole lot of issues, be it lack of credibility of certain members or the lack of knowledge on the part of the public. However, one cannot deny that these organisations have tried to highlight issues, bring it out in the public domain and have pulled up the establishment whenever possible. The death knell of most of these struggles has been the indifferent attitude of the Public. We Kodavas in particular are brilliant arm chair activists. We have an opinion on anything and everything, but when it comes to going for a protest or just joining a protest for symbolic reasons, we somehow get busy. It is time to change that attitude.
The criticism of my brethren aside, the biggest let down in Coorg has been that of our Political leadership. Our so called leaders cutting across party lines have failed the district of Kodagu and its people. Of course, we are a politically irrelevant district in terms of numbers with just 2 MLA seats and a half MP seat which is really not going to be of an impact to the fortunes of any political party.
This being said, one cannot deny that the District has been very consistent in its voting pattern. There is no doubt that Kodagu is a BJP loving District. The Congress and the not so relevant JD(S) have almost been pushed to the side-line. But as a consistent BJP voter for the longest time, I am disappointed and let down by my elected representatives. The recent protest against the High Tension Power line is a case in example. The BJP leadership in Kodagu has let vested interests reign instead of listening to the pulse of its people. What is the use of having elected representatives if they do not reflect the aspirations of its people?
Of Course, we might not have had a case legally and the struggle might have started late, or the Courts might have ruled against the protesters, or the BJP leadership might not have seen eye to eye with those leading the struggle but can the BJP leadership deny the fact that a vast majority of its constituents were against the power line. If so, should we continue voting for the BJP which has definitely failed its people? Every party leader will have to toe their party line but that does not mean that they fail the people who have elected them to power. Would this have happened in a place like Mandya?
Here we are going gung- ho about Mr. Modi and the strong leadership at the Centre but does this mean that we forget what is necessary for us. I just wish the BJP leaders with a Kodava majority understand this. The struggle against the power line should have been headed by the elected representatives; instead the BJP showed that its dislike for organisations like the Kaveri Sene and others was bigger than the issue. A simple act of supporting the protesters, meeting them on ground and taking them along to meet the relevant people would have won more accolades and helped the BJP push the other organisations to the side-lines. The BJP leadership needs to understand that while they have to follow the Party Diktat, they can do so with a simple Mantra, “Think Globally, Act Locally”. This does not absolve the representatives of the ruling party in the State from not acting for the interests of the people of Kodagu. Why didn’t the Congress leaders stand-up and protest against the power line? Instead, their leaders prefer to show their assertiveness by interfering in settling Family feuds.
But more than everything else, all our Politicians cutting across party lines and organisations chase vested interests and lose connect with the people. Most leaders in the district somehow seem to think that they have to follow the same old rhetoric, i.e. minority appeasement, opposing one view simply because you are from a different political party etc. If there is any place that needs it political leaders to rise above politics, it is Coorg, Not one political party in Coorg can take credit for its development. Coorg has developed because of its people
Ideally, the situation is ripe for a Kodagu based political party. A party that reflects the aspirations of its people, a party that has holistic development as its nerve centre; A party that balances culture and economic development. Will it work is another question altogether. At this moment, we we need to start representation from the local level, village panchayats, Co-operative society and the Zilla panchayat; A force that every political party needs to appease to win a MLA/ MP election. We need to become a force to reckon with.
But for all of this to even remotely change to start making a difference, we the people of Coorg need to somehow make an economic impact. While we become politically relevant, we also need to start becoming self – sufficient economically. The original inhabitants of Coorg need to start gaining control over land as a first resort. It has started slowly with people of interest coming together and their efforts need to be supported and appreciated. But individuals also need to be responsible. While it is an individual’s right to sell his or her property, it is also one’s responsibility to sell wisely. It is no use twirling one’s mush and claiming to be a true Kodava while selling one’s property to somebody from outside the Community for a few extra bucks. It is time for us to start putting the money back to our Homeland and re- gaining control over our lands.
Tourism is a big Industry and is definitely helping lift the economy of the District; it has given a lot of people an alternate income. But responsibility needs to start at home. We need to find legal and other ways to regulate tourism and maintain the cultural and ecological sanctity of the place.
Before I finish, the other big point is the total lack of PR activity around Coorg. There are so many events taking place in Coorg that need National if not International publicity. Sadly, except for a few articles in the South Indian editions of newspapers and tabloids, none of these events get coverage in the National press. A few Lifestyle shows have managed to capture a few traits/ attributes of Coorg though a lot of them have been done with such bad research that it makes me cringe. The Power line project got a decent amount of publicity due to social media activism especially because of some well-known celebrities sharing and speaking about the protests. It’s disappointing to note that the World’s biggest Hockey tournament does not get featured in any main stream Media Channel besides the local vernacular channels. There are some stalwarts from Coorg who have made a mark for themselves in various fields. Besides, there are people from Coorg who are in key positions in various verticals of Media. It’s time to use their popularity to highlight and promote issues.
I do not have an answer to any of the issues; I just wanted to use this platform to start a discussion with a hope that I as a young Citizen of Coorg make an effort to leave a legacy behind for the future inhabitants of this great land.
I would like to end with the words of Jane Goodall, “Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right”