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Balanna and Nagamma, parents of Peddinti Thirupal and his friends say that Thirupal died on 12.10.2001 due to police torture. Even though the police say he committed suicide, the villagers and the parents of the deceased say it is a lock-up murder. Poosuri Ramchandra Ramachandra Reddy, Khaja Hussein, Vadde Subba Rayudu, Evuri Subramanyam and Thirupal were arrested by the police on 10.0.2001 on the charges of gambling. They were told to come back with Rs. 200/- as a self-bail bond and were thus released. When they did not come back to the police station, police constables Ramudu and Subbanna came and took them to the police station. There they were made to work in the police station premises on 11.10.2001. Local people say that someone was beaten with lathis (batons) during that night. The next morning, when Thirupal was found dead in the harvesting plot which is next to the station, the relatives of Thirupal argue that it was Thirupal who was beaten by the police during that night. Khaja Hussein, one of the people whom police took away, said Thirupal died because of the police beating him to death. The police had come to him and asked him to come to police station, where they threatened him. When he reached police station the police were beating someone and Khaja Hussein heard someone crying /shouting from the police cell in pain. Thirupal’s dead body was discovered the next morning. Sub-Inspector Venkateswarlu was also in the police station. Blood-filled dragging marks from the police station to the harvesting place, signs of recent removal of fencing surrounding the harvesting ground, and blood marks from thorn cuts on the legs of the deceased confirm that Thrirupal’s death was a lock-up death.
The Sub-Inspector’s version is that Thirupal was not taken to the police station and that he committed suicide, fearing being produced before a court. After the post mortem, the body was sent to Anantapur for a forensic report.
Various people’s organisations insist that a thorough enquiry on the murder be conducted as Superintendent of Police Seetharamanjaneyulu is saying that police are not connected to this death, despite sufficient evidence to show that Thirupal was murdered by the police. The Nandyal RDO was appointed as an enquiry officer in this case. The case was booked under sec. 174 Cr.P.C. one year (sec. 4 SC/ST (POA) Act).
On 18 September 2000, dominant caste Police Sub-Inspector Sivakumar, without provocation, publicly humiliated, insulted and repeatedly abused by caste name Dalit activist Mallesh Madiga at Shadnagar police station. Humiliated, Mallesh Madiga attempted to commit suicide by consuming pesticide the next day. Mallesh Madiga, belonging to Madiga (SC) is an activist of the Madiga Dandora Movement with a good reputation as a Dalit leader in Shadnagar mandal. He is a member of one of the government-organised ‘maithri sanghams’ (friendship committees) consisting of police and civilians, intended to foster harmony and peace in the villages.
As an activist, Mallesh Madiga regularly visits local police stations to represent the grievances of Dalits, and also to check up on pending cases. On the evening of 17.9.2000 he went to the Shadnagar police station to enquire as to the status of a Dalit case he had represented to the police some time earlier. Instead of giving him the details he requested, Sub-Inspector Sivakumar abused Mallesh Madiga in front of all the police and other gathered people present, shouting, “you Madiga bastard, get out.” Sivakumar repeatedly cursed him using his caste name until Mallesh Madiga left the station. The next day, on 18.9.2001, Mallesh Madiga consumed a quantity of pesticide on the main road, attempting suicide. He was immediately rushed to the hospital. Also on the same day, World Bank President Mr. Woolfenson happened to be visiting Mahabubnagar District. Some newspapers reported that Mallesh Madiga had attempted suicide as a protest against the visit of the World Bank President. Upon recovering one week later, however, Mallesh Madiga clarified that his humiliation at the hands of police SI Sivakumar had led him to attempt suicide. He registered a complaint regarding the humiliation and abuse by caste name. But only after a great deal of agitation by Dalit activists was the offending SI was transferred to a different police station. Officials, however, refused to register a case against Sivakumar, though his action constitutes an offence under both the IPC and the SC/ST (POA) Act.
Vattipogu Poornamma (25 years), belonging to Madiga (SC) was murdered in the Dalit colony of Gangireddy palem village, Machavaram mandal of Guntur district, allegedly for refusing to continue a relationship with a dominant caste man. Boodala Yesu and Kamalamma have two sons and one daughter, Poornamma. Poornamma was married to her maternal uncle when she was just 15 years. Poornamma was living in Brahmanapalli and had a 12-year old son. She separated from her husband three years ago and was living in Gangireddy palem. She used to go for tractor work and other works to feed her son and parents. She had an extra-marital affair with Gandham Ram Murthy Venkateswarlu for some time and used to work with his tractor. As some misunderstanding arose, she stopped working with the tractor for some time. On 12.9.2001, Ram Murthy came to her house at around 8:00 p.m. and woke her up from her rest. When Poornamma got up and asked Ram Murthy what he wanted, Poornamma’s mother, Kamalamma, also got up from the place where she was working and enquired about the commotion. Poornamma told her mother to go to sleep, saying that Ram Murthy wanted to talk to her. Kamalamma noticed her daughter walking with Ram Murthy towards the opposite agriculture lands and two or three people sitting on a stone wall adjacent to the fields and smoking beedis. She came back and slipped into sleep.
Kamalamma suddenly woke up to the sound of somebody talking and asked them what was going on. They described how they had heard a woman’s voice crying out “amma, amma (mother, mother).” She came back and found that Poornamma was not on her cot. Suspecting some harm, she took the help of the neighbours and searched in the fields but could not find anyone in the pitch darkness. Poornamma’s dead body was found in the irrigation well of Sivarathri Venkateswar Rao’s cotton fields. Her slippers, broken pieces of bangles and blood stains were found near the well. Village elders went to Sarpanch Yarasi Venkatrao and from there they went to the police station and filed a complaint. The police told them that they would come and instructed them to confirm whether there was a dead body or not and if it was there in the well, to pull it out. The village youth pulled out the dead body and went to the police again. But the police told them to watch over the dead body for the night and that they would come the next morning. When the youth were watching over the body during the night, somebody came in a jeep and pelted stones at them and ran away.
The SI came on 14.9.2000 at around 10:00 a.m. and shifted the dead body to the government hospital at Gurajala. The post mortem was conducted the next day and then the body was handed over the relatives. The dead body started emitting a rotten smell and became bloated as already three days were passed. Hence, except for some, men nobody went near the dead body and looked for any signs of wounds or injuries. The parents strongly state that Gandham Ram Murthy is responsible for the murder because Poornamma rejected her relationship with him, but whether she was sexually assaulted before she was murdered or not has not established, However, some people gathered near the scene when they heard Poornamma’s shouts they believe that Poornamma was tortured based on the broken pieces of bangles and blood stains near the well. The police filed a case quoting Ram Murthy as the accused, but neither was he arrested, nor was an enquiry conducted. The case was not filed under SC/ST (POA) Act. In addition, it is clear that the police neglected the case for three days.
On 20.8.2001, suspecting that local Dalits were not voting for the TDP candidate favoured by the dominant castes in the panchayat elections; dominant caste Reddy landlords forcibly dragged Dalit women out of polling booths and prevented other Dalits from entering. Later, when the results of the election were announced, the dominant caste Reddy landlords imposed a social boycott on all 58 Dalit families of the village. The Dalits represented their case to police and officials, who consistently failed to take any action. Weeks after the imposition of the boycott, police finally responded to the Dalits’ continuous dharna by registering a case, but made no arrests. Local panchayat elections for Kuta Gundla village in Prakasham district were held on 20.8.2001. The dominant caste Reddy community, most of whom are landlords, favoured the TDP candidate, but suspected that the Dalits favoured a different candidate. A group of Reddy men, including VAO Kotapati Konda Reddy, former sarpanch Navi Krishnaiah, Reddem Bhaskara Reddy, Gangi Reddi Venkata Reddy, Yerram Reddi Venkata Reddy, Devi Reddi Venkata Subba Reddy, Devi Reddi Venkata Swami Reddy, and other Reddys from Kuta Gundla gathered and decided to take action. The Reddy group prevented Dalits from entering the poll booths, and dragged several Dalit women who were already inside, out from the poll booths. The Reddy group then proceeded to booth number 28/4, the polling booth that most of the Dalits were using, and, pushing aside the Dalits who tried to block them, poured water into the ballot box.
Later the same evening, three tractors full of Reddy men from nearby Patha Mallapuram and Kothamallapuram villages drove to the segregated Dalit colony of Kuta Gundla. The Reddys from their three tractors threatened the Dalits that if they ever disobeyed the Reddys in the future, their colony would become another Karamchedu or another Tsundur (villages in which dominant caste communities have massacred Dalits without facing any legal punishment). The next morning, 21.8.2001, the Reddys of Kuta Gundla village declared a social boycott against the Dalits. They announced that nobody in the village should allow any Dalit into the main (caste) village; moreover, if any Dalit were to dare to enter into the main village, s/he would be killed. The Reddys warned the villagers not to give any work to the Dalits (daily wage labour, the Dalits’ subsistence) and not to sell any food, medicine or other commodities to Dalits in the local shops. The Reddy men declared the social boycott effective immediately. Two days later, on 23.8.2001, the Dalits submitted a written complaint to the Hanumanthunipadu police. The police took no action. Eighteen days later, on 10.9.2001, Dalits, with the support of Dalit organisations, staged a dharna in front of the Hanumanthunipadu MRO office. The MRO took no action. A week later, almost one month after the imposition of the boycott, on 17.9.2001, police responded to the dharna by registering a case against a few of the Reddy perpetrators, but did not arrest them.
On 26.9.2001, after having represented the issue to all district level officials, the Dalits shifted their protest to Kandurkur RDO office. There the Dalit women, men and children of Kuta Gundla set up camp in a “dharna tent”, demanding the arrest of the culprits. Two days later, on 28.9.2001, the Dalits met the Kandurkur DSP, who abused the Dalits and chastised them for starting a dharna at the RDO office without having informed authorities first. Dalit activists have accused the DSP of dragging the case in the name of investigation, without making any progress.
Prior to local Panchayat elections on 17.8.2001, the dominant caste Kamma landlord community of Rajupalem village repeatedly threatened the Dalits of the same village with violence if they did not vote for the Kamma favoured candidate. In fear, the Dalits did not vote at all. On 22 August, a dominant caste mob attacked the Dalit colony with lethal weapons, injuring many and grievously injuring 70 year old Makam Nasaraiah. Later, on the same evening, perpetrators of the attack visited the hospital in which Nasaraiah had been admitted, forcefully brought Nasaraiah’s son out of the hospital, stripped him and dragged him naked to Markapur police station in order to confirm that the Dalits had not lodged any complaints with the police. Exactly one month later, on 22.9.2001, police at the district headquarters lathi charged and badly injured a group of Dalits – women and men – peacefully protesting the non-arrest of the previous attack’s perpetrators. In Markapur Mandal, local panchayat elections were held on 17.8.2001. One day before the election, several men from the dominant caste Kamma landlord community of Rajupalem village, at the behest of local political “king-maker” Kamma Patti Bala Prasad, went to the segregated Madiga (Dalit) colony and threatened the Dalit families with dire consequences if they refused to vote for the Kamma-favoured candidate (the Kammas favoured the candidate of the TDP, Telugu Desam Party, which is currently in power in Andhra Pradesh). Again on 17.8.2001, a gang of dominant caste miscreants visited the Dalit colony and demanded that the Dalits vote for the Kamma candidate. The gang insisted that the Dalits show their marked ballots before dropping them into the ballot boxes, and warned that any Dalits who failed to vote for the Kamma candidate would be killed. Terrified, the Dalits remained at home and did not exercise their democratic right to vote.
The TDP candidate favoured by the Kamma landlords won the local panchayat election, but by a narrow margin. The dominant caste TDP supporters who had initially threatened the Dalits felt that had the Dalits voted as they were told; the TDP candidate would have won by a larger majority. Angered by this, on the afternoon of 22.8.2001 dominant caste Kamma men, led by Patti Bala Prasad, formed a group of about 23 and attacked the Dalit colony with lethal weapons. They attacked Dalit women, children and men, injuring many. One elderly Dalit, Makam Nasaraiah (70) was grievously wounded. After the attack, while Dalits were trying to take Nasaraiah to the hospital in Markapur, dominant caste men – some of the same perpetrators of the attack – intercepted them and warned them not to file a complaint with the police. Nasaraiah was admitted for treatment of injuries at Markapur Hospital. Nasaraiah’s son Yesu Ratnam remained at the hospital to attend to his father. The same evening, at about 8:00 p.m., dominant caste perpetrators of the attack entered the hospital and forcibly brought Yesu Ratnam outside. They stripped Yesu Ratnam of his clothes and paraded him naked from the hospital to the Markapur Police Station. At the police station they asked the police whether the Rajupalem Dalits had registered any complaints that day. Having confirmed that indeed the Dalits had not registered a complaint, the dominant caste group released Yesu Ratnam. Later on the night of 22.8.2001, the entire fear-stricken Dalit community of Rajupalem fled their homes and camped out in the compound of the RDO in Markapur, the mandal headquarters.