Of excommunicated families and law-fearing villagers

PULAPARRU: "The families of Moru Kakaiah and eight others have been excommunicated for six years for defying the village judiciary committee diktat. Villagers are cautioned against either talking or selling essential commodities to them. Those who violate will attract a fine of Rs 4,000," blared the public address system installed at Rama temple in this remote village on April 30.

Since then, no one in the village has dared to interact with nine families. Even the washerman and other workers have stopped coming to their houses forcing them to live in virtual isolation.

Those who imposed the ban as well as the victims belong to Vadde community, which was into fish farming for ages.

Like Pulaparru, there are 76 villages in Krishna and West Godavari districts where the community heads are a law unto themselves. There were instances in the past too of imposition of hefty fines and excommunication of people in almost all these villages. Interestingly, in several cases, the victims themselves became hostile and refused to cooperate with the police during investigation.

They have no faith in police or judiciary system and settle issues like divorce, assault and even murders. Over 95 per cent of the issues would be settled by the community leaders and those who go to police stations invariably have to come back and bow before the heads.

They evolved a "fool-proof judiciary" mechanism. Each village has judiciary committees. If any incident was brought to the notice of the panel, its members would investigate on their own. Later, all the members of the community would be called for a meeting in the village centre where the judgement would be delivered.

Fines raging from Rs 1,000 to Rs 3.5 lakh would be imposed depending upon the gravity of the offence and occasionally the accused families would be excommunicated which means the families would have no other option but to leave the village till a compromise was reached. They lose the right to cultivate their fields, participate in village meetings or attend marriages or other functions.

Take the case of Kakaiah. He himself delivered several such judgements being a member on the judiciary committee. Once caught on the wrong foot, Kakaiah has now become a victim of the system which he practiced several years.

The allegation on Kakaiah was that he assaulted a fellow community man on a petty issue. The judiciary committee held a public hearing and announced that he was barred from attending any village meetings and cultivating his fish farms for a period of six years. They wanted him to sign a "confession statement", which Kakaiah refused inviting the wrath of the committee headed by the village sarpanch Jayamangala Subba Rao.

After waiting for over 40 days, the committee decided to excommunicate the family and the same was announced through public address system. Three relatives of Kakaiah who defied the ban were also excommunicated and his tractor driver was bashed for preferring to continue work with him.

"No one from our community are talking to us and even the general stores owner stopped selling commodities to us," Kakaiah's son More Kanakaraju told mediapersons.

With no other option left, Kakaiah lodged a complaint with Mandavalli police who booked cases against 11 persons including the sarpanch. All the accused have obtained anticipatory bails.

When confronted, the sarpanch defended the decision. "I myself paid a fine of Rs 1.3 lakh a couple of years ago. The decision of the committee is final and everyone has to accept it," Subba Rao said.

Admitting that a parallel judiciary system was in vogue for decades in over 70 villages where the community was predominant, the sarpanch argued that both rich or poor will be treated equally.

Referred by: Mukundan CM
Published on: May 8, 2001
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