In Jaldipally village in Lingampet Mandal of Telangana’s Kamareddy district, the Sarpanch ordered a social boycott of 15 Dalit families, because the community decided to celebrate a festival before the dominant castes, and a man from the Dalit community decided to sit on a chair during a meeting.
With monsoons set to begin, people across Telangana are celebrating the Bonalu festival. In villages in the state, it is common for the communities to have a caste-based pecking order for who celebrates the festival first. Men from the Madiga caste – a Dalit community – traditionally beat the dappu, a musical instrument, following the rituals performed by every community. And in Jaldipally this year, the Madiga community wanted to celebrate the festival first, so that the men could then be free to perform dappu for other communities.
The Sarpanch Kallu Ravinder, who belongs to Mudhiraj caste – a dominant OBC community in the region – did not agree to let the Madiga community celebrate first, and the Dalit community decided to go ahead and celebrate first anyway, before the dominant castes in the village.
Miffed by this, Sarpanch Kallu Ravinder, who was recently elected, held a meeting at the Panchayat office on June 6 to discuss the matter. As everyone gathered, Ravinder’s caste supremacy reared its head once again: he saw a Dalit man – Pothuganti Pedda Sailu – sitting on a chair and discussing MGNREGS wage disbursement, and this enraged him.
The Sarpanch allegedly hurled casteist abuses at Pedda Sailu for sitting on a chair, especially since he was already ‘hurt’ by the Dalits’ decision to celebrate Bonalu first. Following this, a supporter of Ravinder then allegedly thrashed Pedda Sailu. In a complaint to the police on June 10, Pedda Sailu said, “As I was sitting on the chair, he came and asked me to get up and leave the space, and hurled abuses using my caste name (Madiga). Then, at his direction, one Kallu Raju thrashed me and pushed me out of there.”
Kallu Raju, the man who allegedly assaulted Pedda Sailu, is the brother of Sarpanch Kallu Ravinder.
After this, the Sarpanch ordered the boycott of Dalits in the villages, and sent 10 men to the Dalit colony to attack them, Sailu alleged in his complaint.
“Water and power connection to our homes were cut off. He even ordered other dominant castes to not sell groceries to us. He issued a diktat to us to not come to the Gram Panchayat office,” Sailu said in his complaint. Pedda Sailu also alleged that the both accused, Kallu Raju and Kallu Ravinder, have threatened to kill him and go to jail.
This Sunday, on June 9, the Dalits in the village celebrated Bonalu separately, while the dominant castes celebrated separately and made other arrangements for Dappu.
The boycott came to light on June 10, after Pedda Sailu filed a police complaint. On Tuesday, the police registered cases against Sarpanch Ravinder and his brother Raju, under IPC sections 290 and 323 (public nuisance and voluntarily causing hurt) and under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. According to reports Police visited the village and recorded the statements of the Dalit families and restored the water facility to the colony.
Meanwhile, Dalit organisations visited the families in Jaldipally, expressing their solidarity and demanding action against the Sarpanch. Member of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, K Ramulu, visited the village on Wednesday along with District SP Sweta Reddy and other officials.
K Ramulu and the SP spoke with the villagers in a meeting convened by the officials. While addressing the residents, the SP said, “Everyone has the right to equality. The law will protect the Constitutional rights of everyone. Wherever there is such an atmosphere, we will take action against whoever acts against the law and affects someone else’s rights.”
Speaking to TNM, Kamareddy SP Swetha Reddy said that due action was taken soon after the complaint was lodged with the local police. "Examination of the accused is going on, rest of the process will be completed soon," she said.
K Ramulu however told the police officials that police should have taken action as soon as the victims approached them. He also asked the authorities to provide the necessary security to the victims in the village.