Dalit women defy village

By Our Special Correspondent.

JANAWADA (RANGA REDDY DT.), FEB. 16 A group of Dalit women performed the last rites for a middle-aged woman who committed suicide in this village early this week, after the sarpanch and menfolk boycotted the funeral angered by a demand for compensation.

Chakali Sathyamma, 30, with three daughters, was eking out a living through washing clothes. Her husband Narasimha is mentally-retarded. Her neighbours, also belonging to a backward class, allegedly attacked the family on Sunday night, inflicting injuries on both the husband and the wife. Unable to bear the humiliation, she committed suicide a few hours later.

After post-martem at the Osmania General Hospital in Hyderabad, the body was handed over to the relatives. But the infuriated Dalit women of the village asked for compensation for the three orphaned girls, before the funeral was performed. Neither the family that assaulted nor the sarpanch, Mr. Malliah, or the upa- sarpanch, Mr.Mallesh Goud, or the district administration was ready to intervene. The body was kept in the house for three days.

After a meeting, the Dalit women, who are members of the DWCRA group (Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas), decided to perform the last rites themselves. There are 32 DWCRA groups in the village, of whom 18 had Dalits as members. Then the 18 Dalit groups performed the last rites.

Gouds (toddy tappers), who constitute a major segment of the local population, were opposed to the move of these women. ``The reason that Mr. Mallesh Goud is angry with us is that we have represented to officials that the toddy shops in the village be shifted outside. Only one shop has a licence, but these people run five shops in the village. '' the Dalit women complain. The women also wanted a 600-square yard land in the village allotted to them for a DWCRA building, but the upa-sarpanch handed it over to the ``Gouda sangam'' for a toddy tappers' association.

The women went to Hyderabad and complained to the Superintendent of Police, Mr. N.V.Surendra Babu, seeking protection from the upa-sarpanch and his men, for fear of attack.

Referred by:Sashi Kanth
Published on: February 16, 2001
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