Dalits of Keshanakuru, a tiny village of Polavaram Island, Mandal in East Godavari woke up the shocking news that the Ambedkar statue in the area was demolished overnight. The incident occurred 4 days after the leader's 127th birth anniversary.
According to the police, who are on vigil in the village, the statue was reportedly demolished by certain miscreants on Wednesday night.
Dalits from neighbouring villages have staged a sit-in protest, demanding the culprits be brought to justice.
A team investigating the case along with a dog squad have been brought to the spot to nab the culprits.
Speaking to TNM, SI Durgashekar Reddy who is on the case said, "The dogs which were brought to the scene of crime went to a certain spot and stopped. We are trying to solve the case as soon as possible."
With regard to the demolished statue, the SI said, "We have spoken with concerned bodies and the demolished statue will be restored."
When TNM asked if Dalit organisations or the police were suspecting any specific bodies to be behind the demolition, the SI said, "Even locals are saying that there were no such incidents in the past in the area. We are investigating it from all angles."
SI informed TNM that the case under IPC Section 153 Clause 1, (B) 427, wantinly giving provocation with intent to cause riot, has been registered with regard to the incident.
Police said the situation in the village is under control and Mummidivaram and Polavaram police are on vigil.
Bahujana Rachayatala Vedika, (BARAVE), a writers collective, which has condemned the incident and termed it “a casteist grudge", has demanded that a case under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities ACT 1989 be filed.
Ravikumar, General Secretary of the collective, said, "Because the government is not taking stringent action when Dalits are being attacked, fringe elements are resorting to such acts".
The incident is not an isolated one as, in recent times, Telugu states have seen rampant destruction and defamation of statues of social revolutionary icons such as Ambedker , Savithribai Phule etc.
An Ambedkar statue in Siricilla Rajanna,a district in Telangana was destructed on April 15th, followed by one of Savitribai Phule, in less than a month.
Political outfits such as Bahujana Prathigatana Vedika and Bahujan Samaj party have held protests, demanding that the culprits are arrested.
Why statues are being targeted?
Dr Digumarty Ravi Kumar, a scholar from the University of Hyderabad, said that the issue of demolition of Dalit icon statue "is not an organised act but an intense one.”
Addressing the reason behind statues being demolished, he said, "Dalit assertion is creating a so-called unrest in the dominant sections which enjoy the status quo.Their power is being shaken."
Digumarty also believes that a dangerous amount of hatred against Dalits is being catered through different forms of media (social/mainstream).
When TNM asked if destruction of the statues has become a new normal, he said, "People might destruct/ demolish statues which can only physically erase the symbol. Dalits have immersed Ambedker in their hearts and souls and they will continue to shake the upper-caste dominance".