Dr. Siddalingaiah: A stellar student and a dedicated activist

“What we shared was more than a teacher-student relationship. We were partners in social activism and took part in many movements through the 1970s and 1980s. And Siddalingaiah’s flair for language — be it poetry or prose — came to the fore during many of the agitations,” recalled Kalegowda Nagavar, who taught Dr. Siddalingaiah when the latter was an M.A. student at Bangalore University.

Describing Dr. Siddalingaiah as a brilliant debater, Kalegowda Nagavar said he first came in contact with him in the early 1970s during the “Boosa Chalavali” and they remained in touch during subsequent years. His talent for language and description of the living conditions of the downtrodden was such that the collection of poems Holemadigara Haadu was published when Siddalingaiah was still a student of Dr. Nagavar.

Among the many events that influenced Dr. Siddalingaiah was his interaction with the legendary Periyar E.V. Ramaswamy, who was in Bengaluru a few months before his death in 1973. “But Siddalingaiah was among those beaten up by the right-wing activists of the day who were opposed to Ramaswamy,” recalled Dr. Nagavar, who along with the late writer Poornachandra Tejaswi and other activists had taken the lead in inviting Ramaswamy to Bengaluru.

In subsequent years, the government was keen to appoint Tejaswi to the Upper House of legislature. But Tejaswi turned it down, and as did another Dalit writer and activist, Devanur Mahadeva. But Mr. Mahadeva suggested Dr. Siddalingaiah’s name, saying his talent for debate would come in handy during discussions in the Council, and this was accepted by all, recalled Dr. Nagavar.


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