ND Shiva Kumar,TNN | Dec 4, 2014,

BENGALURU: BJP MP Ramesh C Jigajinagi has been in public life for more than three decades and held several high positions, but does not enter temples of caste Hindus. The reason: the discrimination and humiliation he has suffered because of being a dalit.

The 62-year-old leader was a state legislator from 1983 to 1998, serving as minister under various chief ministers, and has been a Lok Sabha member since then.

“I have suffered a lot of discrimination. It has continued even after I entered politics. People feel offended and they tease and humiliate us. I have suffered immensely. It pains. Why should I endure it? Hence, I decided not to enter any temple,” said Jigajinagi, a post-graduate.

Why can’t he force his rights? “I can’t be on a collision course with people as I am in electoral politics. It’s a compulsion. Some sacrifices are necessary. I have left their god to them. It has made them happy,” he said adding: “No amount of laws will eradicate this discrimination. The only solution is that people should realize themselves and open up their hearts.”

Not all politicians are as candid as this MP from Vijayapura, but they admit that caste-based discrimination still exists. The subjugation is not overt, but subtle and unspoken, they say.

“Discrimination has gone beyond caste, morphing into a person’s skin colour and profession. People can’t overtly display it. Education has helped its practice in a subtle way. We have to swallow the bitter pill. As we are public representatives and our job is to bind people together, it is not appropriate to express our experiences openly,” said Priyank M Kharge, MLA from Chittapur in Kalaburagi.

Of the 224 assembly seats in the state, 25 are reserved for SCs and 17 for STs. Like Priyank, other legislators too prefer to keep their experiences to themselves. They say their position in the society, role in the development process and stringent laws have helped insulate them from the harsh treatment by the dominant castes.

“Due to increased awareness, the practice has reduced by 70-75%. When it comes to us, it becomes inevitable for people to accept us,” said Rudrappa Manappa Lamani, MLA from Haveri.

Some people claim they never faced any partiality based on their caste. “It has not happened with me,” claimed MLC VS Ugrappa, who belongs to the ST community. According to him, the inhuman practice had reduced by 60-70% in the society. “It’s best to ignore incidents like the Kuppegala (the school in Mysore district where upper caste students refused to eat in the school because the cook was a dalit),” he said.