Bengaluru: In traditional ancestral homes of the Kodava community in Kodagu district, one is likely to find a host of weapons like the Odikathi, a small broad-blade sword, and the Peechekathi, a type of dagger. Alongside these knives is another kind of weapon that has become a source of conflict among communities in the district – rifles.
The Kodavas, an ethno-lingual community living in the district, is one of the few communities in India allowed to possess and carry these rifles without a license in Kodagu. The community considers itself to be a martial race, with rituals based around these weapons.
The community’s special privilege to own firearms without a license has come under the spotlight again following a PIL which questioned the Constitutional validity and legality of the exemption granted to Kodavas from the requirement to obtain licence to carry and possess firearms, as required under the provisions of the Indian Arms Act.
Hearing the petition filed by an ex-Army officer on the grounds that exemption is unconstitutional, as it creates differentiation based on race/caste and ancestral land tenure, a division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Suraj Govindaraj issued the notice the State and Central Governments.
Capt YK Chethan (retd) of Galibeedu village of Madikeri taluk, questioned the notification dated October 29, 2019, issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs exempting “Every person of Coorg race and every Jamma tenure-holder in Coorg” from some of the provisions of the Arms Act, 1959, till October 31, 2029.