Dalit Mahasabha seeks president's intervention
By Our Special Correspondent
ONGOLE, JUNE 5. The Andhra Pradesh Dalit Mahasabha has urged the President, Mr. K. R. Narayanan, to intervene and see that the State Government protects the rights of Dalits of Guravareddipalem in Prakasam district who have been denied access to the drinking water well in the main village by the upper caste Reddys.
The Dalit victims, who staged have been staging a dharna near the Collectorate here for the last two days to protest against caste discrimination, called off their agitation today and returned to their village. As Reddys have been enforcing social boycott against the Dalits and refusing to provide them any work, Dalit Mahasabha organised a camp to feed them. Water is supplied to them by tankers from Ongole.
The Mahasabha in a fax message complained to the President that the Chief Minister, the District Collector and the Superintendent of Police had all failed to come to the rescue of the Dalits and provide them access to the drinking water well against all canons of justice and equality. It sought action against them under the Atrocities against SCs and STs (Prevention) Act, 1989. The message said that the village has a population of 2,000 and 40 per cent of them are Dalits. It has two wells, one for the Dalits and the other for upper castes. As the Dalits` well became dry, they are forced to draw water from the well in the main village. But they are denied access by the upper castes leading to a dispute and social boycott.
The agitation against caste discrimination took political turn today when CPI and CPI(M) extended their support to the dalits. Mr B V Raghavulu, State secretary of CPI(M) visited the dharna camp and assured the victims of full support. No Communist would tolerate caste discrimination, he told them.
Also, Mr Kathi Padma Rao, general secretary of Andhra Pradesh Dalit Mahasabha came down heavily on both the Congress and the TDP for supporting the Reddys in the delicate issue. He demanded the resignation of the CLP leader, Dr. Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, for not visiting the village till now nor extending his support to Dalits. Unless Dalits made use of their right to vote effectively and seize political power, the discrimination would continue as both Congress and TDP are dominated by Kammas and Reddys, he said.
He said that the crop holiday declared for tobacco wrought havoc with the lives of thousands of agricultural labourers in Guntur and Prakasam district because they lost their work. As the Government engaged poclains for carrying out desiltation works, labourers were not able to find any work in the villages. ``Dalitwadas have turned into droughtwadas,'' he said. He exhorted dalits to assert their right to work.