“It’s been four months, and people still continue to boycott us,” laments Jakulla Mamatha, the sarpanch of Bussapoor village in Nizamabad, Telangana. The Dalit woman, her family, and their associated are allegedly facing boycott from the upper caste and BC families in the village, on a diktat by Guridi Kapu Sangham (a Reddy group) – all because they did not bend to the Kapus’ demand to hand over land to them.
“People continue to not talk to us, we don’t get milk, and nobody comes to work in my field,” Mamatha says. To get justice, Mamatha and her husband have now approached the State Human Rights Commission.
It all started in October 2017, when Mamatha and her husband Srinivas went to renew land records, as per government orders. In the village, there are 11 acres of land used by the Dalits for grazing, that Srinivas says was bought by his grandfather several decades ago. However, when the time came for renewal, the Guridi Kapu Sangham allegedly put pressure on the Dalits to give the land to them.
“Despite us possessing the Patta (land ownership documents), they (the Sangham) argued that the land belonged to them. While we didn’t pay them any heed and went ahead with the renewal, they mounted pressure on us and asked us to sign documents and hand over the land to them. Since we opposed it, they have imposed a social boycott against us,” says Srinivas.
As per the Reddy diktat, the 150 Kapu families, and other upper caste and backward caste families in the village were to refrain from talking to or helping the Dalits involved in the conflict in any manner.
“On October 29, they called a meeting and imposed a social boycott against my family, warning that any family who talks to us or engages with us will be fined Rs 5,000. While this order was specifically against my family, others Dalit families involved are also subjected to this discrimination,” Srinivas adds.
“Not just us, 10 other Dalit families, both Malas and Madigas, involved in the conflict, are being boycotted as well,” he says.
The village has over 1400 families, with a majority of the population from the Kapu community.
TNM earlier spoke to Nagampeta Shekar Reddy, Vice-President of the village, who is accused of imposing the social boycott. Claiming that the allegations of discrimination are false, he had said, “The land belongs to the Sangham and the villagers co-existed peacefully without any caste differences. Although the land belonged to the Sangham, they allowed Dalits to graze their cattle and sheep there without any objection. But Srinivas is trying to convert the land to his name and he knows he is powerful because his wife is the sarpanch.”
Srinivas retorts, “They are making false allegations just to evade arrest. They have particularly targeted my family as we are vocal and know the legal procedures.”
An FIR against Shekar has been registered under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, but so far, no action has been taken. “It’s been more than 40 days since I complained to the police. No arrest or action has been taken against him,” Srinivas says.
Alleging police inaction, Srinivas and Mamatha on Tuesday filed a complaint with the State Human Rights Commission.
The SHRC has asked the police commissioner to respond before April 23.
Mamatha rues that they have been demoralized by the ongoing boycott. “We are not invited to any social events, nor do any of them come to our place to eat or work.”