Kurvamma's eyes too tired for tears
Nagarkurnool, Aug. 27: It would count as one of the most heinous crimes even in the wretched history of attacks on Dalits in Mahbubnagar, which has the highest incidence of violence against Dalits in the Telangana.
On July 26, villagers, mainly upper castes and backward castes, severely beat up a Dalit youth Namala Chinnabalamuniswamy, dragged him through the lanes of Kalvakole village in Peddakottipalli mandal from 2 am till about dawn and put him, near death, on a smouldering haystack, put more hay and kerosene and burnt him to death even as the sun rose.
His father, Namala Erranna, badly injured by the crazed mob when he went to rescue his son, lay near the haystack, helpless as his son burned to death. His widow Kurvamma today recalls the incident, her eyes too tired for tears, and her little children Roja, 3, and Richa, 10 months old.
Balamuniswamy became a victim of his history. A CPI activist, he was named in four cases of burning haystacks in the village between 1989 and 1991. Since then, though there have been rumours fuelling anger against the family, no case was recorded against him over the last ten years.
Another black mark was that two of his siblings were Naxalites. Narasimha, a PWG Naxalite, died in an encounter some time back. His sister Shyamala, a Panagal dalam member, is reported to be injured badly enough to become inactive. The poverty-stricken family has just half-an-acre of land which in these parts counts for nothing.
Haystacks are the source of life and death in this badly drought-stricken region. The immediate provocation for the attack was the burning of haystacks over four or five days before July 26. Much of the village was tense and eager to nab the arsonist.
Balamuniswamy happened to go to a friend's place and was returning home when he was seen loitering by a freedom fighter, the locally respected Harijan Kishtaiah. He raised an alarm on seeing the lonely figure. Balamuniswamy began to run, stumbled on a cot - the villagers sleep outside in these days of searing heat in the area - and was caught. He was questioned by the SCs of the Dalitwada who by now recognised him, and perhaps beaten. But the commotion roused the nearby BCs who took over the hapless youth and beat him badly even as they were dragging him across the village. More people joined in and stamped on the youth and beat him up with everything they could lay their hands on.
His father, who woke up by then, recognised that it was his son being beaten and tried to rescue him. He was beaten badly on the face and head, enough for him to start bleeding. He was dragged along as well. The mob by this time reached the smouldering haystack of Yashodamma. This stack had been burnt three days previously and even a fire engine could not put it out. This particular haystack also stored stalks of horsegram and greengram plants, which are specially nutritious for cattle. The crowd dragged Balamuniswamy to the smouldering ashes, pushed him in, dumped more hay and poured some kerosene and watched as he died. Eeranna went to the police station at about 7 am to complain but Sub Inspector Ravindra Reddy roused himself only by 10 am, though he stays right next to the spanking new fortress-like police station at Peddakottipalli about 15 km away. He finally reached the 'scene of incident' by noon.
Then, overtaken by inertia, the police booked cases against 14 persons, at least six of them SCs. This fact, police say, prevented them from booking a case under the SC/ST Prevention Act. Almost a month of investigation have resulted in most SC names being deleted. On Monday, the CB-CID took over the case and registered another case under the SC/STs Act.
The anger of the crowd did not sate with this. The National SC/ST Commission member Vibha Sood who came here for an on-the-spot study had to beat a hasty retreat in the face of a hostile crowd. About 300 women came forward to take responsibility for the murder and began closing in on the visitors. The commission retreated without quite finishing the task.
The villagers now live in fear of being picked up by the police. Another fear is retaliation by Naxalites since the Shyamala was seen in the village for some time back. The villagers fear that the Naxalites may hold a 'praja court' and dispense their brand of justice.
That is one word which seems to have lost all meaning to the family of Balamuniswamy.