Telangana: Mob chanting Jai Shri Ram attacks Dalit Christian church, several injured

A mob of around 200 men allegedly belonging to the dominant Yadav and Mudiraj castes attacked a church belonging to the Dalit Madiga Christians on the evening of February 13.
Telangana: Mob chanting Jai Shri Ram attacks Dalit Christian church, several injured
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At least 20 Dalits, including two children, were injured in the communal attack that took place in Janwada village of Telangana’s Rangareddy district on Tuesday, February 13. A 200-member mob comprising men from the dominant Yadav, Mudiraj, and other Backward Class (BC) groups , allegedly belonging to the Hindu extremist group Bajrang Dal, attacked Dalits from the Madiga community over a road widening dispute. The attack took place while Dalits were praying in a church. Raising slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’, the attackers destroyed the crucifix, chairs, and the roof of the church, the victims said. 

According to the police, the Dalit Christians in the village and dominant castes had disagreements over widening a road in the village. According to the Dalits, the road was being laid by encroaching a portion of the church’s land. 

On Wednesday, around 7 pm, the concrete cement road (CC) was being laid near the main junction in Janwada village. At the same time, some members of the church, who were praying inside, objected to it saying that the road laying must remain within the existing width. 

Provoked by this, Talasari Maisah, former Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituency (MPTC) member of the Congress, who is in charge of road laying works, allegedly used casteist slurs and abused the Dalits. Soon, the situation escalated and about 200 men belonging to the dominant caste groups attacked the church, raising slogans of Jai Shri Ram. They picked up the stone gravel used for road construction and threw them at the Dalits in the church, the victims said. 

Videos of the attack show that the situation was tense, with a mob seizing the church and women crying out for help. The few policemen at the scene seemed unable to control the situation. 

The Mokila police registered a First Information Report (FIR) based on a complaint received by K Balaiah, the head of the church who suffered injuries in the attack. As per the FIR, a total of 29 members were booked for rioting with deadly weapons under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) section 148 (rioting armed with a deadly weapon) read with 149 (member of unlawful assembly guilty of offense committed in pursuance of common object). Other charges include criminal trespass (447); mischief causing damage (427); deliberate act intended to outrage religious beliefs (295-A); voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means (324); intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace (504); criminal intimidation(506); and unlawful assembly (143). The police also invoked the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

According to B Veerababu, Sub Inspector of Mokila police station, six persons including the main accused Talari Maisaiah and Goudicharla Narsimha were arrested, while the remaining are absconding. 

Following the attack, the Dalit Christians protested by blocking the road for a few hours on February 14. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader RS Praveen Kumar joined the protest and questioned why the arrests did not take place until after nearly 18 hours. 

Janwada village, located in Shankarpalle mandal in Chevella, has a population of about 4000, dominated by Yadavas, Mudiraj and other BC castes. There are 700 SC Madiga members who live in three colonies, out of which Madiga Christians live in two colonies. There are three churches in the village. 

According to the residents, the church elders had informed Talasari Maisah and Goudicherla Narsimha that the road must not be laid through the church’s property on the day before the attack. 

The Dalit Christians named several dominant caste men who were allegedly behind the attack. This included Veedulakanti Gopal, a Yadav man and a leader of the Bajrang Dal in the village; Goudicherla Narsimha, the husband of former sarpanch Lalitha of the opposition Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS); Talari Maisaiah of Mudiraj community; BJP leaders Mothkupalli Krishna and Mokthupalli Srikanth of Yadav community; and BRS leader Srinu from Kummari community are behind the attack. 

BSP leader Vijay Arya called the attack pre-planned. “About 200 members were involved in the attack. It is an organised violence. The BC caste group members used casteist slurs and are filled with hatred towards the Dalits practising Christianity. What irked them more is that most of the Dalits are salaried employees working in the IT sector and living a comfortable life.” 

“Though former sarpanch Lalitha won with the support of BRS, her husband Goudicherla Narsimha is associated with the BJP. He has the support of Bajrang Dal members in the village,” said Mahesh*, a Dalit resident who works in the IT sector. 

“This is not the first time that they have attacked the Dalits,” Mahesh said, adding, “Two Dalit youth married women from the BC castes in the village five years ago. Things got sour. They (BC caste members) were waiting for a chance. When three Dalit youths were involved in an accident, their families were socially boycotted and the youth were not allowed to enter the cricket ground,” Mahesh said. He also said that Dalits have never been allowed to enter Hanuman temple in the village. 

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