SMS Help line to Address Violence Against Dalits and Adivasis in India
Type ATM < your message > Send to 9773904050
When Dalits refused to carry the Kumbham, a ritual pot containing a mixture of rice and buffalo blood, for a 16 September 1999 festival of the caste Hindu village deity, the dominant caste Naidu community imposed a complete social boycott on the Dalit community. Gotipalla village is an agricultural community in which chilli and cotton are the chief crops. 150 high caste Naidu families dominate the village. They, along with about ten other dominant caste families, own two thousand acres of land. Almost all of the eighty Dalit families are landless and employed in agricultural labour or stone quarrying. One Dalit works as a bus conductor. There are five Dalits who studied up to the tenth standard and one who studied up to intermediate class. The president, vice president and village committee – all coming from dominant castes – of Gotipalla village panchayat have consistently denied Dalits any power-sharing opportunity.
On 16 September 1999 the dominant caste community decided to conduct Sattemma Jatara, a festival and buffalo sacrifice to the village deity. This festival had not been performed in recent years. Villagers felt that their neglect of the Jatara had brought on the spate of deaths from dysentery that had recently afflicted their village. For the buffalo sacrifice, the dominant caste organisers of the Jatara asked the Dalit community to ritually axe the animal’s head and then carry the kumbham. The kumbham is the earthenware pot, containing rice mixed with the blood of the sacrificial buffalo that is carried to the village outskirts along with a mud figure of the deity. Local Hindu tradition dictates that only Dalits must perform the ritually “impure” duties of cutting the throat of the buffalo and carrying the kumbham. On this occasion, however, leaders of the Dalit community agreed only to sacrifice the buffalo, but not to carry the kumbham. The dominant caste community was enraged that the Dalits would presume to set their own terms for participation in the festival. As a punishment for the Dalits’ refusal to carry the khumbham, the dominant caste majority imposed a total social boycott upon the Dalits beginning that very day. By the rules of the boycott, all community Dalits were denied employment. The dominant castes also ordered the entire non-Dalit community to refuse Dalits access to hotels, provision stores, medical stores, etc. The Naidus who organised and initiated the boycott announced that anyone who would extend help to the Dalits would be fined Rs. 5000, effectively ensuring the participation of all non-Dalits in the village. The dominant castes even ejected the government dealer from the village. During the course of the social boycott, the dominant castes also attacked and injured Dalits.
Dalits officially named the following dominant caste persons as the primary perpetrators in the attack and imposition of the social boycott: Polakam Tripurayy, Ada Venkaiah, Pedikella Kotaiah, Puli Chinna Lingayya, Redbalapalli Anjayya, Challa China Kotiah, Ramasu Ramanjaneyulu , Pedikella Papayya , Polakam – Budda Anjaiah , Polakam Chandraia . Though the Dalits registered a complaint with the Veludurti Police Circle Inspector (CI) and the VAO soon after the boycott began, the CI and SI did not visit the village until five days later, 21 September. Two days later still, the CI registered the FIR, but based the FIR not on the complaint registered person ally by the Dalits, but on the report of the dominant caste VAO. The CI also did not register the case under the proper laws. Instead of registering the case under the SC/ST Act, he registered the case under section 7(1) of Protection of Civil Rights Act and section 6 of State Animal and Bird Sacrifice Prohibition Act. Unlike the SC/ST Act, the PCRA has weak punitive measures and makes no provision for economic compensation to the victims.
The Madiga Reservation Porata Samiti state and district level leaders visited the village and expressed solidarity with the victims. Dalit Bahujan Front leaders also visited the village and condemned the boycott. Human Rights Organizations SAKSHI and Human Rights Forum visited the village and conducted a fact-finding investigation. But despite the fact that numerous civil rights and Dalit organizations have condemned the boycott, the accused as of 30.9.99 had not yet been arrested and district officials such as the SP and the District Collector had not visited the village.
On 15 September 1999, non-Dalits attacked the Dalit hamlet of Malasamudram. Armed with batons and bamboo sticks, a dominant caste mob attacked the Dalit colony, injuring several Dalits, including women. The attackers forcefully stripped Dalit woman Gangaratnamma of her clothes, beat her publicly, paraded her naked around the village, and then made her run for her life.
On 15 September 1999, Latha, a ten-year old Dalit girl, went to fetch water from a common bore-well in Malasamudram. Meanwhile Kalavathamma, a non-Dalit girl from a powerful and land-owning Backward Caste (Golla), arrived at the same well to fetch water. When Latha did not immediately step out of the way for her, Kalavathamma kicked away Latha’s water vessel, pushed Latha out of the way and abused her by caste name. Latha returned to her house and reported everything that had happened at the bore-well. Latha’s mother Gangamma immediately went to the bore-well and asked Kalavathamma what right she had to push her daughter away. At this, Kalavathamma angrily gathered the people of her caste and informed them that not only had a Dalit girl failed to make way for her at the bore-well, but then the Dalit mother had confronted her on the issue. The dominant caste community promptly announced that Dalits should no longer fetch water from the bore-well. The Dalits felt insulted by the announcement, since the bore-well in question was a common one and the denial of their access to it amounted to an assertion of ‘untouchability’. As a community, the Dalits went to the bore-well to exercise their right to the drinking water resource. Among the Dalits at the gathering was 28-year old Gangaratnamma, who had come to Malasamudram to see her parents.
Angered by the Dalits’ assertion, the non-Dalits assembled and attacked the Dalit colony. They assaulted and severely beat those Dalits whom they could catch. The attackers seized Gangaratnamma and forcefully stripped off her clothes. She escaped, ran to her house and closed the doors. The non-Dalits followed, broke open the doors, dragged naked Gangaratnamma outside and publicl beat her. One of the dominant caste assailants tried to crush her neck with his leg. When she again escaped and ran, the attackers chased her. Dalits Gangaratnamma, Ramanamma (40), and Venkata Swami (27) were severely injured in the course of the attack and were admitted to the hospital at Penugonda. Dalits Alivelamma, Narasimhulu, Venkataswami, Narayanamma, Gangadri, China Doddappa and others, also injured in the attack, were admitted to Gorantla Hospital. Gangaratnamma recognized the miscreants who attacked her. In the complaint she registered with the police, she identified as her assailants Golla Chinnappa, Golla Rangappa, Golla Narayanappa, Golla Kesanna, and Talari Sivappa, all of whom were reputedly well-connected with Telugu Desam Party (TDP) minister Nimmala Krishnappa. The accused were arrested and then released on bail.