The ongoing fued between the Gond advasis and the Banjara Lambadas in Telangana took a violent turn on Thursday, as activists of the Adivasi Joint Action Committee vandalised an Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) office.
The Gond Adivasis are demanding that the state government remove Lambadas from the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list.
The incident occurred in the remote Medaram village, which is considered the abode of tribal deities, and hosts a tribal shrine.
Protestors also smashed the window panes of cars parked outside the endowments office, including that of tribal welfare minister A Chandulal’s son.
According to reports, trouble began after the endowments department constituted a Medaram festival trust board with 15 members, of whom three were Adivasis and two were Lambadas.
Trouble started when Adivasi activists protested the presence of two Lambada members in a 11-member Medaram festival trust board appointed by the state government for the conduct of popular Sammakka Saralamma temple festival.
The Gonds, who did not want the Lambadas to be included, blocked the vehicles, and pelted stones.
“The Lambadas are least bothered about our traditions and customs. Their only aim is to make money in the name of the temple. This exploitation of adivasis must stop immediately,” Thudum Debba state president Vattem Upender was quoted as saying.
Speaking to media persons, Mulug DSP Raghavendra, said, "There was some trouble during the board meeting. People belonging to a particular community ransacked the ITDA office and even damaged a few vehicles including the vehicle of minister Chandulal's son. We have brought the situation under control."
This comes two days after close to one lakh Banjara Lambadas gathered in Hyderabad's Saroornagar Indoor stadium, to defend their right to reservation as a Scheduled Tribe in Telangana.
The Gond community is one of adivasis, originally believed to have spread from central India to parts of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. They have a sizable population and a long history of settlement in Telangana. The Gonds primarily speak Dravidian languages.
The Banjara Lambada community is originally from Rajasthan but are now spread across the Indian subcontinent. While they are listed as Backward Class (BC) or Other Backward Class (OBC) in some states, they are listed as Scheduled Caste (SC) or ST in other states.
The Gonds have been pointing out that the Lambadas were included in the ST list only in 1976 in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, and have dubbed it a 'backdoor entry'.
The rivalry came out in the open after an incident of vandalism took place at the tribal museum at Jodeghat in Asifabad district on October 5.
The Lambadas allege that some Gonds damaged the statue of a Lambada woman kept at the museum, claiming that the Lambadas did not participate in the uprising against the last Nizam of Hyderabad led by Komaram Bheem, a Gond, in the 1940s. He died in the battle and is hailed as a Gond hero.
Jodeghat bears significant historical importance for the Gond community. It was the struggle against the then Nizam Osman Ali Khan's police force that gave them the slogan of "Jal, Jungle, Zameen" (Water, Forest, Land).