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Why Kodavas, who once blazed through the hockey pitch and Army battles, are abandoning both

BENGALURU: In the tiny district of Kodagu, south-west Karnataka, which is home to the martial race of Kodavas, there goes a saying: If you throw a stone, it's going to both hit a soldier or a hockey player.

Located about 250 km from Bengaluru, Kodagu (previously referred to as Coorg) has produced not simply the best blends of Arabica and Robusta coffee, but its inhabitants, the Kodavas, have given India some of its most embellished Army officers, notable among them Field Marshal Okay M Cariappa and General Okay S Thimayya. Talking about the Kodavas, how can one omit hockey, the sport that turns out to run in their blood with many from the community leaving their mark within the national game. M P Ganesh, the primary Kodava to captain the national staff, tops a listing that also features ace players M M Somaiya, C S Poonacha, A B Subbaiah and Len Aiyappa.

“There was a time when six to 8 Kodavas were playing for the Karnataka staff and no less than 3 were within the national facet but as of late there are very few within the state contingent and none in national,” said T J Bopanna, a veteran hockey player and trainer from Kodagu.

Kodavas have all but disappeared from the military as smartly. Kodagu was as soon as referred to as the "land of generals" and each and every Kodava family could proudly list several of its men in uniform. “At one point of time, the selection of Kodavas serving the forces some distance exceeded the percentage of serving Armymen from every other community or area in India,” said S Okay Beliappa, a former military officer. Kodavas had their own regiments – the Coorg Rifles, established by way of the British, and the Coorg Regiment, which H D Devegowda advocated when he was Prime Minister in 1996, as a popularity of the community's carrier to the rustic. Both regiments had been merged with the Madras regiment. Today, the highest-ranking Kodava officer is a lieutenant-general.

At the Bangalore Army headquarters, which caters to Karnataka, Kerala, Mahe and Lakshadweep, about 100-150 Kodavas were recruited once a year within the 1990s. The determine has now plunged to about 10.

Experts say that dwindling population, migration and government apathy towards the community with a particular culture has impacted the social and cultural cloth of the Kodavas, a fallout of which has observed them moving clear of traditional occupations and possible choices.

N U Nachappa, president of the Codava National Council (CNC), a socio-political organisation fighting for self reliant area status for Kodagu, said the Kodavas had been not noted since the time the independent state of Coorg was merged with Karnataka in 1956. Today, Coorg district is a part of Mysore Lok Sabha constituency with best two MLAs to represent it within the state assembly.

The Kodavas have also been demanding ethnolinguistic minority tribal status and quota in education and jobs. The Karnataka government has commissioned an ethnographic and socio-economic survey to look whether the community qualifies for tribal status.

“The Coorgs had been decreased to mute spectators as major political events feel we represent a negligible vote bank. Therefore, we've got been demanding that the state and Centre grant ethnolinguistic minority tribal status for Kodavas and lengthen reservation amenities,’’ Nachappa said, including that the community is undergoing a transition spurred by way of thinning population and mass migration.

The 2011 census printed that the population of Kodavas had declined from 1.five lakh in 2001 to at least one.25 lakh. Divya Najappa, a Kodava scientific physician, said that late marriage in the neighborhood because of limited selection of brides and grooms has adversely impacted fertility.

S Okay Belliappa, a former military officer, added, “The Kodava population has been dwindling through the years largely because of self-imposed family making plans practices. Also, earlier, a family would inherit large coffee estates but now joint families have given option to nuclear households, because of this less land for everybody. Many have therefore migrated on the lookout for higher opportunities.”

Congress leader and Supreme Court recommend Brijesh Kalappa said that Kodavas at the moment are higher educated and like taking on white-collar jobs. “When it involves sports activities, cricket and tennis at the moment are the preferred choice,” he added.

Twenty-year-old Sachin Muthappa, a budding cricketer from Kodagu, agreed with Kalappa. “I cherished hockey as a child but I was forced by way of my parents to take in cricket since the national game has misplaced popularity and it is not as profitable as cricket. Hockey can not guarantee you jobs now as many corporates and public sector companies have discontinued their leagues or stopped recruiting new talents.”

Girish Muddaiah, a 43-year-old Kodava who lives in Bengaluru and plays hockey professionally for a public sector company, regrets taking it up. “I think I made a mistake by way of choosing hockey as a profession over cricket. I was a excellent cricket player in faculty. But hockey was the legacy of my forefathers and I didn’t consider carefully prior to opting for it professionally. Today, I’m suffering to make each ends meet.”

Hockey would possibly now not be a sought-after profession option for Kodavas, but their mythical skills with the stick can still be observed on display at the yearly Kodava Family Hockey Festival. The month-long event initiated in 1997 by way of Pandanda Kuttappa in Kodagu still sees clans struggling with it out for the trophy each and every summer time. Vivek Aiyappa, who organised the development this yr in May, said, “There is no bar on age or gender. The best rule is that each and every staff must represent a family.”

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