In the olden days, Badagas lived a very simple but highly cohesive life. Evey village -hatti, consisted of one or two ‘families or Kudumbas’. Each kudumba, as the name indicates, consisted of brothers and they usually lived in the same street – ‘thara’. The ancestral home was given to the youngest son and, due to space constraints, the elder brothers moved out to build separate houses.
The youngest son [when married] was expected to take care of the elderly parents. The sister(s) married off to other hattis were always welcome to the parents house and for the children of the these females, their parents house was a source of great safety and security and the brother’s house was a sacred house known as ‘GURU Manay’. Though the property was given ONLY to sons, the married daughters could come back to the parents house anytime in case of any matrimonial discord. The daughters were given all the respect and they never felt neglected. Mind you, this was a time when girls were married off at a very young age and in most of cases, not educated.
Every family lived a contented life with total cooperation. This, of course, was the time when the undivided Hindu family wealth and property was given to only sons in our Country.
But all that changed over time. Material lust took control over conventional matters. The daughters, more often than not, were not welcomed by the brothers (generally due to their wives pressure). This combined with lack of education and absent of other alternatives, forced many daughters to suffer in silence. If they had children and a wayward husband who indulged in wasteful life with drinking being an eternal curse, the life was not only miserable but unbearable. Like in all other communities in our great country, the girls were forced to live a condemned life.
This is the time visionaries and forward looking Badaga leaders like Rao Badahur Ari Gowder insisted that the girl child should be educated and equal rights and property be given as the boys among Badagas. Empowering women. Now, even the laws in our country has been amended wherein the boys and girls have equal rights on the property of the parents.
Sadly, even in this day and time, in many hattis, the property is recommended to be given ONLY to sons by the so called hatti ‘elders’ in what can be termed as ‘kapp’ panjayats to sort out property disputes. As you may be aware KAPP panjayats are popular male dominated forums in Hariyana and wester UP who had given the ‘OK’ for honour killings, acting as extra constitutional authorities and are in trouble as Supreme Court is looking into their actions.
The problem is, in olden days a complaint was made to the common wisdom of hatti elders when the disputes could not be solved within the family – Kudumba. The Badaga proverb – doddaru shloka – ‘manay ya maathaadi, mandaga hogu’ aptly describes this. Also, in olden days, the options of going to the court or seeking remedy through legal channels were not easy. Tthe ‘core committee’ of elders looking into complaints was made up of non partisan, experienced and where available educated people and their rulings were acceptable to all.
These days, in most of the hattis the ‘Gowda’ chosen is the one who does not have a permanent or regular job as he has to attend to a lot social functions both in his as well as in other hattis. Other members of the ‘problem solving’ group are youngsters selected for collection of tax – wari and to organise temple festivals – habbas etc. By no stretch of imagination, they can can be considered as competent or qualified and least of all experience which is a must.
And, most importantly, when it comes to property allocation to daughters, how can these panjayats go against the law of the land? The feeble argument that only a son can be called a ‘WARISU’ is blatantly brutal, one sided, gender biased and ‘anti-female’ like many other social issues in our society.
A personal note:
We have a son and a daughter. We have educated them in the best of schools like Lawrence School, Lovedale and both have done their Masters from Canada and USA. Our [two] flats in New Delhi and Bangalore along with our property in the Nilgiris and Mettupalayam have been equally divided between these two. Rao Bahadur Ari Gowder, the only Badaga leader who is still remembered even after forty years of his death, gave his property equally to his two grand daughters and one grandson along with their mother. Being his nephew and grand daughter, I and my wife would like to follow his footsteps.