Dalits from Chittojipalle village in Medak district of Telangana were allegedly threatened with social boycott if they celebrated Bathukamma. Bathukamma is a nine-day floral festival that coincides with Navaratri, celebrated mainly by Hindu women in Telangana. During the festival, women make 'Bathukamma' - a floral art - and dance around it.
Women and girls gather in open areas around bathukammas and celebrate by singing folk songs and dancing in circles around the floral arrangement. Earlier, the marginalized communities weren’t allowed to celebrate or partake in the Bathukamma celebrations.
Chittojipalle village is nearly 150 kms away from Hyderabad. The diktat of social boycott was issued by the Mudiraj community, a dominant caste in the village.
The Dalits in the SC colony of the village, comprising nearly 50 families, had for the first time celebrated Bathukamma. However, irked with this, the Mudiraj community asked them not to celebrate the festival. Allegedly, the Mudirajs, who comprise a population of 400 people, visited the SC colony on Wednesday, when the Dalit girls were celebrating Bathukamma.
They protested against the celebration and said that if the lower castes celebrate the festival, the village would suffer ‘ill-fate’.
Dalits from the village who TNM spoke to said that they tried to reason with Mudirajs saying that celebrating the festival in isolation would bring no one any harm.
But the Mudirajs allegedly told them that even if they celebrate the festival in an isolated manner, the Bathukamma (flowers decorated) would still be immersed in the same water body in the village, which they felt was unacceptable.
When the Dalits stood firm on celebrating the festival, the Mudirajs reportedly told them that the entire village would boycott them and not give them any work.
Speaking to TNM, SC colony president of Chittojipalle, Aarupala Posaiah alleged that the Mudirajs would outcast them if they didn’t follow their diktats. “It was the first time that our children observed and celebrated the festival. But, claiming that our celebrations will bring ‘ill-omen’ to the village, they objected to it.”
He added, “They were also considering imposing a fine of Rs 5,000 for observing the festival.”
No police case or any official complaint has been lodged yet. Several Dalit activists from the state have reached the village in solidarity to the victims and are in discussion whether to file a case under the SC/ST atrocities act.
As the Bathukamma will be immersed tomorrow, the activists plan to stay in the village so that no untoward incident happens.
Dalit activist, Sujata Surepally, who has been following the incident, said that the Dalit communities in the village fear that they would be socially boycotted if they do not obey the orders of the Mudiraj’s. “We are trying to pursue the victims to file a police case for practicing untouchability, but it is not that easy. After filing the case, the activists will return to their homes. But it is the victims who will face problems in the village.”