Well divides Dalits and upper castes

K Kotapadu, May 17: Drawing of water from a community well has become a bone of contention between the upper castes and the Scheduled Castes in Vaarada village and is threatening to snowball into a major controversy.

The efforts of local officials to bring people around and see reason have failed due to the adamant stand taken by the upper castes. Three women belonging to the upper castes have been arrested on the charge of assaulting two Dalit women. Tension between the Dalits and upper castes was building up ever since the former began to challenge long-standing social oppression.

It is common knowledge that untouchability in various forms is practiced against the depressed castes in Vaarada and many other villages in the mandal. There was never a problem as long as the Dalits took the humiliation in their stride. Tension began to mount once the Dalits began to challenge the taboos.

As part of the campaign of the Struggle Committee Against Caste Discrimination, the local Dalits decided to question the domination. They drew water from the village well, which had been barred for them.

The upper castes, who were livid at what they perceived as an openly defiant act, not only disallowed any of their caste members from using the well, they also stopped calling the Dalits for daily labour work. Cattle belonging to the Dalits were also not allowed into the fields of the upper castes.

The Dalits, with assistance from several mass organisations brought this social and economic boycott to the notice of the MRO, MDO and police.

The officials visited the village on several occasions and tried to reason with the upper castes but to no avail. Nodal officer E Jayaprakasa Rao went to Vaarada last week and after giving a patient hearing to both sides arranged a gram sabha this Wednesday to amicably settle the dispute. Apart from Rao, MDO R M Gladys, MRO N Venkateswarlu, State Dalit Sena vice-president P Penta Rao, Dalita Bhooporata Sangham leaders Bone Krishna, S Venkat Rao and G Rammurthy and sarpanch L Demudu.

The upper castes said they would not create any problems for the Dalits but stood their ground in the matter of lifting the economic boycott and taking the Dalits back to work.

The angry officials tried to persuade the upper caste people saying the boycott amounted to a form of untouchability and caste discrimination, but the upper castes did not relent.

The nodal officer told reporters here later that the upper castes were given four days to change their decision failing which they would have to face dire consequences. Following failure of the talks, the police moved in and took into custody Lagudu Demudamma, Boddu Ramayamma and Lekkala Suridemudu for allegedly assaulting two Dalit women.

The three have been produced in court and remanded to judicial custody, SI S V Narsaiah said.

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Referred by: Mukundan CM
Published on: May 21, 2001
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