The two men are missing, and the families allege that they were abducted by a relative of BJP leader Bharat Reddy.

Ground report Fear and denial in Telangana village where two Dalit men went missing
news Ground Report Monday, November 20, 2017 - 07:27

The streets of Abhangapatnam village in Telangana's Nizamabad district wore a deserted look on Sunday, as several residents remained indoors. The village was largely quiet and desolate, and the few people who were on the streets were not willing to speak. Not about ‘that video’ at least.

Two visitors who had travelled to the village, and were trying to engage a few older men sitting by a tree, left in frustration. "We all came here out of concern. Why are you afraid of sharing? How will people know what happened otherwise?" they asked as they left.

Abhangapatnam is the home of Rajeswar and Laxman, the two Dalit men who were humiliated by an upper caste man reportedly belonging to the BJP. While the incident reportedly happened several weeks ago, it came to light recently when the video went viral. The video of a man, believed to be BJP leader Bharat Reddy, ‘punishing’ Rajeswar and Laxman by forcing them to take a dip in muddy waters. 

The BJP has denied it was their man in the video, and soon after the video surfaced, a case was filed against the aggressor. But Bharat Reddy absconded by then – and the other two men in the video, Rajeswar and Laxman, are missing. So what happened to Rajeswar and Laxman? Why were they silent for weeks after the incident? And where is Bharat Reddy?

A village shrouded in silence

When TNM reached Abhangapatnam to piece together the story around 1.20 pm, we were met with silence and denial. Several people in the village claimed ignorance about what had happened – many said that they came to know about what happened only after it was reported in the media. Several others refused to speak, seemingly due to fear.

One such resident who did not wish to be named said, “We suspect that the incident happened a few months ago, but they (Rajeswar and Laxman) did not share anything with anyone. We came to know about this only after it was reported in the media.”

While fear seemed to be reigning large in the village, there was also distress, especially for 56-year-old Narsavva Kempula – Laxman’s mother. 

What happened the day the video was taken?

“They had both gone to attend nature’s call,” Narsavva said. “That’s when Santosh Reddy, the vice-Sarpanch of the village, spotted them.” 

Santosh Reddy’s name is familiar – in the video that is now viral, Laxman and Rajeswar mention Santosh Reddy’s name, only for it to be dismissed by the man who was humiliating them. 

“Santosh told them (Laxman and Rajeswar) to stop a vehicle that was approaching,” Narsavva continued. The vice-Sarpanch, she said, had a personal grudge against Bharat Reddy. But Laxman and Rajeswar were scared of him, and therefore decided to follow his instructions, she added. 

But by the time they stopped the car, Santosh Reddy had vanished from the scene. Instead, Narsavva said, the two men had to contend with Bharat Reddy, who was called in by the driver of the truck. 

“He came on a bike and thrashed the two of them,” Narsavva said.

Laxman and Rajeswar abducted?

Laxman’s family – his mother, his 65-year-old father, his wife and child – are all worried about his safety. He was abducted, they claim, by a relative of Bharat Reddy, along with Rajeswar. But they’re barely getting any help from their village.

"Even people from my own community are not speaking, because they are scared that something will happen to them," Narsavva says. 

Protests elsewhere

While Abhangapatnam is too scared to listen to Narsavva’s cries, barely 3km away, a large number of people took to the streets on the Hyderabad-Basar highway, to protest against police inaction in the case.

Protesters staged a 'rasta roko' and camped outside the Navipet police station, which is investigating the case, and demanded the immediate arrest of Bharat Reddy. 

Members from various groups including the  Madiga Reservation Porata Samithi (MRPS), Kula Vivaksha Vyatireka Porata Sangham (KVPS), Scientific Students Federation,besides students from Telangana University, Kakatiya University and Osmania University, took part in the protest.

Protesters, who raised slogans and held banners, also questioned Nizamabad MP K Kavitha, who is Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao's daughter, and demanded to know how such atrocities could take place in her own constituency. 

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