Lack of role-models: Leadership crisis in Kodava community
The following article was contributed by journalist P.T. Bopanna for the latest issue of ‘Pomboli’ magazine brought out by the Kodava Students’ & Youth Association of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts:
The major challenge facing the Kodava community today is a crisis in leadership. There are not many role-models for the Kodava youth.
The lack of good leadership is a matter of worry because Kodagu has been a land of the Generals. The first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa, and the hero of many battles, General K.S. Thimayya, were from Kodagu.
It is a well-known fact that the Kodavas are a martial race and fought long wars with the Mysore rulers – Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. The British who annexed Coorg in 1834, recognised the superiority and fighting spirit of the Kodava race and exempted them from the arms Act and allowed them to possess firearms without licence.
Our forefathers were men of vision who saw the value of education. The British started a school at Mercara (now Madikeri) after a delegation of Kodava elders met the British rulers after annexation and requested for imparting modern education. This gave a head-start to the Kodavas who pursued higher education and took up employment in the government service.
The Kodavas who benefited from modern education, excelled in their careers because of certain inborn traits they possessed, including hard work, honesty and straight-forwardness. The members of the community did exceedingly well in their chosen professions. It was not merely in the armed forces, but the Kodavas did well in the civil services also. I must make a special mention of Miss Chonira B. Muthamma, who was born and schooled in Kodagu, was the first woman to appear for civil services examination conducted by the UPSC and passed meritoriously and joined as the first woman career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service.
At present, though Kodava men and women are an educated lot, we hardly hear of any member of the community topping the civil service examination or such competitive examinations in other fields.
It is time for the community to introspect on what has gone wrong and how to reverse the situation. An English poet had once said that “where wealth accumulates, men decay.” Probably this is true of the Kodava community. Their comparative affluence following the steep rise in the price of coffee, has led to an easy lifestyle and blunted their fighting spirit which was the hallmark of the community in the past.
The modern Kodava generation has lost its roots. They have no pride in their language and culture. They blindly ape the Western culture. The Kodava Samajas in major towns and cities have by and large failed to promote Kodava culture and custom. The Samajas have become commercial outfits. Their main agenda seems to be how to make more money by letting out their premises for weddings. In short, the Samajas have become glorified wedding halls. What is worse is the corruption that is rampant during election of office-bearers. Some of them in Bangalore have gone to the extent of throwing liquor parties to win over votes. If this is the state of affairs, then there is no future for the community.
All is not lost. The community has many bright people. They should be nurtured and encouraged.
This writer, who runs a news portal, has been identifying an outstanding person from Kodagu every year by conferring the title ‘Coorg Person of the Year’. This year, the title has been won by the 26-year-old Theetira Vineet Devaiah, who has developed an Android application which focusses on creating virtual tours using 360 degree panoramas.
The future of the Kodava community is in the hands of younger generation. There is bright future ahead if the youngsters imbibe the quality of hard work, honesty and straight-forwardness which in the past had brought fame and glory to the community.