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Narbada Devi lives in the village Samora with her husband Ram Meena. She belongs to Adivasi Meena (Tribal) community. On 10th March 2000, Narbada as per the routine went to the forest to graze cattle. While grazing the cattle at Narayan Lal Brahmin’s land, she sat there for a while to take some rest. Nirbhai Singh who is also from her village came there silently from behind and clasped her in arms and brutally raped her beside her cries. While he was raping Narbada, Lal Kanwar, Nirbhay Singh’s mother arrived there. On seeing his mother, Nirbhay Singh ran away. Narbada asked Lal Kanwar for help but Lal Kanwar instead of helping her, threatened her to keep quiet.
Somehow Narbada arrived home and narrated the whole incident to her mother and brother. Lal Kanwar came to her home and wrangled with Narbada’s family and snatched Narbada’s jewelry. When they tried to register the FIR, Village Panchayat on behest of the perpetrator prevented Mrs. Narbada to go to the police station to lodge F.I.R. Somehow on 12th March 2000, she reached Police Station Jhallara in Udaipur Dist. with her uncle Manji. The local police registered her F.I.R. (No – 16/2000) under section 354 IPC instead of 376 IPC and deliberately did not insert Section 3 of SC/ST (PoA) Act 1989. The local police also did not conduct fair investigation and rather helped perpetrator. Her medical examination was arranged on 5.4.2000 i.e. after 25 days of the incident and D.S.P. inspected the spot of the incident on 24th April 2000.
Narbada with her family went to meet D.S.P. to ask them to insert the right sections in the F.I.R but to no result. The local activists pressurized the police to insert the provision of SC/ST (PoA) Act, 1989 and later on the charges were changed to Rape from molestation. The section was changed from 354 IPC to 376 IPC and 3 (1)(xii) and 3 (2)(v) sections of SC/ST (PoA) Act, 1989 were also inserted. The investigation officer was changed and charge was handed over to D.S.P. and challan was presented against the accused.
The welfare officer granted Rs. 5000 to Narbada. It is alleged by Narbada that local police was heavily bribed by accused and also they were from the same community. The accused was acquitted of the charges.
Dominant caste people declared social boycott against 129 Dalits of Military Colony of Nizampatnam. The government machinery did not take any action even after two weeks of the social boycott. When Dalits’ hunger and starving turned into a movement, the government machinery opened its eyes. The authorities promised to make it possible again for Dalits to work in loading and unloading of salt and dry fish in the Nizampatnam harbour.
On 29.8.2000 Mopidevi Saibaba, a dominant caste youngster came to the Dalit colony and started harassing a Dalit woman. This was noticed by a Dalit youth and they told him respectfully not to come to the Dalit colony. Saibaba didn’t listen to them and instead he picked up an argument with them. In the process one Dalit youngster slapped him. Because of this all the dominant caste people got together and decided to impose social boycott on Dalits of Military colony 31.8.2000. False cases were filed in Nizampatnam police station on Dalits, who were by then already starving and being subjected to intimidation and harassment. Workers from outside were called in to load and unload dry fish and salt instead of the Dalits, adversely affected their livelihood. The situation reached a critical stage when Dalits lost livelihood completely. Dalit elders met the dominant caste leaders, told them that there is no relation between the Saibaba incident and the social boycott and that they should be allowed to work in the harbour and if there is any dispute they should sit down and discuss it. The domain caste people refused to agree with this and continued to allow all other caste people, except Dalits, to work in the harbour from 7.9.2000. When Dalits went to the police station to complain of the social boycott, the Sub-Inspector told them that they should come individually and file complaints.
Chaitanya Workers Union President K. Sanjeeva Rao and Secretary Venkateswarlu stated that Dalits had been socially boycotted for three months in the past when they did not cast their votes for the political party which was supported by the dominant caste people. They also told that the incident of torture of Mekala Ravi in front of his parents is still fresh in their minds. Dalits made a representation to the District Collector and he issued orders to the MRO, Superintendent of Police and Sub-Inspector to provide work and protection to the Dalits. Afterwards, both groups were called together for a meeting and the problem was solved.
On 31 December 1999, 28-year old Dalit woman Donti Laxmi was abducted from the hotel where she works and taken to a remote place where she was gang-raped by nine non-dalit men from 9:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. the next morning. Police arrested the culprits. The accused are: Shankarolla Lachaiah (25), auto driver; Manne Janardhan(19); Mamindla Krishna (20); Shaik Azzemuddin (25); Pitla Bhikshapati (20); Vatturi Satyanarayana (23); Kolamupak Narasimhulu (25); Sivagami Anjeneyulu (22); and, the hotel server.
On New Year’s Eve 1999, Donti Laxmi, a 28-year-old Dalit divorcee, was working in a hotel just off the National Highway on the outskirts of Ravelli in Toopran mandal. At 9:00 p.m. nine visibly drunk young men came to the hotel by auto and asked for tea. Hotel owner Bapuji Narasimhulu told them there was no tea and that it was closing time. When the nine inebriated men demanded tea and threatened him, Narasimhulu finally prepared tea for them. At that time Donti Laxmi and her sister were inside of the hotel, along with another hotel worker. After drinking tea, one of the nine men entered the hotel and forcefully dragged Donti Laxmi outside. The whole gang carried her to the auto, with license plate number APP.13u.9564, and drove away. Narasimhulu and Donti Laxmi’s sister tried to stop the men, but they were beaten back. The gang took Donti Laxmi to the backside of a stone crusher off the National Highway, near Allapur. There all nine men raped her, one by one. They threatened to murder her and, when she asked for water, forced her to drink urine. For six hours, from 9:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m., the gang raped and abused Domti Laxmi before leaving her there and driving away.
Immediately after Donti Laxmi was abducted, her sister Sujatha filed a case at the Toopran police station. Police searched during the night and arrested seven people early the next morning, 1 January 2000. The police filed the case under sec. 365 & 376 IPC and under section 3(1)(xii) of SC/ST Act.
On the morning of 13 November 1999, Sambhoji Rao, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), and Krishna, RDO of Nuzividu Revenue Division, along with about three hundred Forest Guards and women police constables raided the Dalit colony of Narasapur. Violating legal procedures for giving notice and allowing time to vacate, forest officials instead surrounded the Dalit colony, attacked and beat the Dalits indiscriminately, and burned the colony – dwellings and possessions – to the ground. In 1997,the Forest Department initiated the VSS (Vana Samrakshana Samithi - Forest Conservation Committee), which promised the Dalits of Narsapur that they would be given twenty acres of land if they agreed to clear the land and plant tree seedlings. The Dalits readily agreed and began clearing the land. While the government designated a Rs. 50 daily wage for this work, the Dalits received only Rs. 10 per day. Forest Department officials allegedly colluded with a Mahila Mandal leader in embezzling the aggregated balance of Rs.40 per day per labourer.
As the years passed, Dalits began to stongly suspect corruption in the VSS program, since no Forest Department officials ever visited or made any effort to maintain the newly seeded land and since the Dalits had not been deeded the land as promised. The Dalits approached higher Forest Department authorities to report on the corruption and inaction of the DFO, Mr. Sambhoji Rao. The DFO was briefly transferred, but later returned back to the same position. The Dalits, observing that the Forest Department was doing nothing and that the land was left unattended, began to occupy the promised twenty acres and built small huts for themselves on the land. Around this time, representatives of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) visited the Narsapur Dalits and promised to give them house allotments and assistance in building houses. Once reinstated in his original position, the DFO retaliated against the Dalits who had reported him to Forest Department authorities. On the morning of 13 November 1999, under the pretext of the Dalits’ illegal occupation of forest land, DFO Sambhoji Rao arrived at the Dalit hut settlement. Arriving with him, in thirty vehicles, were the RDO Mr. Krishna, Central Reserve Police, Forest Guards, and women police constables. Altogether the force numbered about three hundred. Ignoring legal requirements for advance notice and allowance of evacuation time, DFO Sambhoji Rao announced that the Dalits had to evacuate immediately. The Dalits pleaded with the RDO for time and for alternative housing, but the RDO did not respond. The RDO then ordered the police to confiscate whatever kerosene was available in the huts, pour it over the settlement, and set the place on fire. Dalits who attempted to retrieve chickens, food stocks, ration cards, clothing or other belongings were chased, kicked, beaten with lathis (police clubs), and insulted by caste name.141 huts were burned to the ground. Dalit belongings were summarily dumped into the fire and Dalits were beaten indiscriminately. Police threw mud on those food supplies that the Dalits managed to save from the fire. Though women police constables were present, the men in the police force committed most of the violence. A press photographer who reached the scene was beaten up and his camera was broken. The entire operation was executed speedily and in a manner that indicated planning. Almost all the Dalits sustained injuries. The following were hurt grievously: Tananki Naga Ratnam, Raghavulu, Godavarthi Buchalu, Tennati Venkaiah, Arjun, Chitturi Venkamma, Godavarti, Santosham, and Mulugupati Papa.
Mulugupati Papa is a twelve-year old girl while Naga Ratnam, who had recently returned from an operation, fell into critical condition after sustaining major lathi wounds during the police attack. In its research, the Fact Finding Team came to know that DFO Sambhoji Rao had a history of inflicting violence upon Dalits. In the past, Rao had also attacked the Dalits of Rangapuram village, Reddigudem mandal; and, moreover, he had a long-standing record of abusing Dalits by caste name. The Fact Finding Team concluded decisively that the 13 November 1999 attack on the Dalits of Narsapuram – including the burning of their huts, insulting of them by caste name, and destruction of all their property – represents not the action of a Forest Department concerned with the ecological protection of forest land, but a planned, vengeful, caste-based attack orchestrated under the personal leadership of Sambhoji Rao. Notably, extensive tracts of forest land immediately adjacent to the twenty acres of Narsapuram are illegally cultivated by the local dominant caste community, yet they are not forcibly vacated, let alone attacked.
The attack was widely covered by the press but the government took no action. The Forest Minister, in fact, made a public statement in support of the incident. On 15 November 1999, Madiga Reservation Porata Samiti (MRPS) leader Krishna Madiga visited the victims and led a peaceful protest directed at the MRO and other officials, demanding that a criminal case should be filed against Sambhoji Rao. Only then was a FIR registered against Sambhoji Rao. It was not, however, registered under the SC/ST Act. Eventually a legislative committee inquired into the atrocious behaviour of Sambhoji Rao and he was temporarily suspended. Ten days after the incident, the Chief Minister suspended two police constables for assaulting the press photographers. Still later, various officials made routine promises to the Dalits of housing sites, compensation for loss, etc.
On 2 November 1999, police of Taluka Police Station took Dalit painter Gurram Ramaiah into custody in connection with a theft case. During the next three days, police allegedly tortured Rammaiah so severely that he died in police custody on 4 November 1999. On 1 November 1999, Santa Kumar, Correspondent, Little Flower School, lodged a complaint with the Ongole Police against Dalit Gali Yadardham, his house servant. Kumar claimed that Yadardham had stolen some valuable ornaments from his house. The police arrested and interrogated her on his complaint. According to the police, Yadardham confessed to the crime and informed the police that the stolen ornaments were in the possession of brothers Rama Rao and Gurram Ramaiah, a painter by profession. On the same night, the police proceeded to arrest Gurram Pitchamma, the wife of Rama Rao, along with her three months-old baby. Police in India commonly arrest the innocent wives, mothers and families of men – particularly low caste and Dalit men – wanted for interrogation, as a means of bringing the suspects to the police station without having to search for them. On 2 November 1999, when Gurram Ramaiah and Rama Rao came to know of Pitchamma’s arrest, they ventured to the police station to find out why she had been arrested. The police promptly took the brothers into custody, where, for the next three days, the two Dalit men were repeatedly tortured. Gurram Pitchamma and her baby also remained in custody for the three days. On the third day, 4 November 1999, Gurram Ramaiah died.
Police took Ramaiah’s corpse to the hospital and claimed that he had died naturally from a heart attack. Ramaiah’s wife and relatives, however, as well as representatives from local non-governmental organizations, all observed traumatic injuries on the body. Moreover, Rama Rao and Gurram Pitchamma, who had remained with Ramaiah in police custody, maintained that the police had beaten him to death.
Initially Police registered the case under sec. 176 CrPC (suspicious death in police custody). After people’s organizations protested, the police altered the case to sec. 302 IPC (murder); but as of 10.11.99, no action had been taken.