Double infliction on Dalits

By The Hindu - Special Correspondent

RANGAREDDY, APRIL 26. Drought has failed as a great leveller of the financial status of individuals here, as farmers who take to agricultural or manual labour stand divided. Even in hunger, the Dalits are not equal to the upper castes in the backward Rangareddy district in Telangana.

Distressing tales unfold while talking to villagers who reveal a number of social evils prevailing here. Belief in blackmagic and subsequent attacks on people, child marriages and `Jogin' system in a couple of villages.

Caste discrimination is very much a live issue. The Dalits believe it is god who has created it and not people. A 50-year-old woman stands in front of a temple in Pagidyal village and when asked to come to the shade in the front yard of the temple says, ``Oh God ! No. How could I ?''.

``No way I can do that. Are you mad ? I am already cursed to be a Madiga (one of the SCs) woman. He (god) will be angry if I stand by your side,'' she says.

``Oh. Nothing like that ever. It is up to them to decide to come to the temple or not,'' a Reddy youth remarks fully aware that he is talking to a journalist. Karremma says ``yes, it is so''.

But, she goes a little further and asks in a hushed tone, ``pardon me sir. I want to go to the temple, but will they spare me if I do so''. She smiles and walks away.

Most of the upper caste people deny any discrimination but remain evasive when asked whether they share work properly as labourers, asking ``why not''. But the SC, ST youth point out ``there is no way we can mingle with them. Suppose we are filling sand you think a Reddy or a Munnuru Kapu will accept the iron basket from me ? And when it is lunch hour, they all sit together and we go to another place''. If there is shade only to accommodate a few who would occupy it ? ``Do you have to ask us ?'' they say.

Drought has added another dimension to the woes of washerpersons. Ashanna of Salkarpet village says ``I am in a fix. They (the rich ones) want us to wash their clothes regularly. There is no water here even to drink. If we refuse they get angry. If we want to migrate now in search of work, then they might not allow us to enter their fields when we come back. To wash clothes I have to trek long distances. Even then where do I find water ?''.

The story is similar in Moinabad, Parigi, Tandur, Chevella. It is a double infliction on the Dalits in this region.

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