"The villagers were angry not only because a woman entered the temple, but also because she is a Madiga,” human rights activist Subbanna said.

AP Dalit man harassed for taking daughter-in-law to temple while purification was on Image for representation
news Tuesday, July 02, 2019 - 17:25

Forty five-year-old Peddanna from Brahmanapalli village in Gooty mandal, Anantapur district was walking home on the evening of June 27. He was accompanied by his daughter-in-law, who had gone to visit her maternal home for ‘vadi biyyam’, a ritual where a married woman visits her parents and is given several things, including turmeric and rice. 

As an Anjaneya Swamy temple happened to be on their way home, Peddanna and his daughter-in-law decided to stop and seek blessings after the ritual. The temple priest signalled to Peddanna to enter the temple and take some ‘prasadam’ (offering). Peddanna’s daughter-in-law went along with him. The next day, on finding out that a woman had entered the temple, the village elders became furious, humiliating Peddanna and his family in public. 

“The temple had been renovated on May 29. Some purification rituals were performed, and a new Dwajasthambam (‘holy’ pillar) had been erected in front of the temple. It was announced throughout the village that for the next 41 days, women must not enter the temple and the villagers must not consume meat, so that the purification is not disturbed. The priest probably couldn’t communicate this rule to Peddanna and his daughter-in-law, since he has a speech impairment. The village leaders were angry when they found out. They were worried that the woman’s entry into the temple could bring misfortune to the village,” said Kadiri SDPO. 

BN Subbanna of Human Rights Forum, Anantapur said that Peddanna, who belongs to a Scheduled Caste (Madiga), was humiliated by the village leaders in public. “They held a kangaroo court, blaming Peddanna and his daughter-in-law for polluting the temple and bringing harm to the villagers. They said that the purification rituals have to be conducted again, and demanded that Peddanna pay Rs 35,000 to erect a new pillar. Peddanna pleaded that he did not have so much money. They finally asked him to pay Rs 5,000. In a village, where everyone knows each other, such incidents really hurt one’s dignity,” Subbanna said. 

According to Subbanna, the next day, some neighbours saw Peddanna looking distressed and holding a bottle of pesticide. When asked, Peddanna confessed that he wanted to end his life after the humiliation he had suffered. Encouraged by his neighbours and a few activists, he went ahead and lodged a complaint with the police on Sunday against five village leaders who had harassed him. The police have registered a case under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. “Scheduled Caste members in the village don’t usually go to this particular temple. The villagers were angry not only because a woman entered the temple, but also because she is a Madiga,” said Subbanna. 

The police have said that while the case is under investigation, Peddanna seems to be going back on his story and might withdraw the complaint. Subbanna also said that the police had been initially uncooperative when Peddanna tried to file a complaint, and have done so only after local activists and reporters intervened.  

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