Rise Of Dalit
Assertion Is The First Sign Of Defeat Of Brahmanical System
in Tsundur ( A.P.)
is a story very similar to Jahira Sheikh who has made it to major newspaper
headlines. While Gujarat has been in the limelight for Narendra Modis
obsession for rhetorics and experimenting ground of the Hindutva,
far away in Andhra Pradeshs Guntur district, Dalit families were
being threatened with dire consequences by the local feudal lords who
butchered them on August 6th, 1991 in a place called Tsundur. The slow
and tardy process of law is not taking its recourse and the forces of
butchery are ready to counter it by their might. It is not just physical
threat of intimidation but also allurement: Sam-Dama-Danda-bheda. Since
there has been little follow up of the case, it is natural for these
forces to use the state machinery and slow process of judiciary for
their own purposes.
It was the time
when the country was reeling the aftermath of Mandalisation process
Exactly, a year ago, prime minister V.P.Singh had announced the implementation
of Mandal Commission report on August 7th, 1990, which the Hindu uppercaste
vociferously opposed and took to the streets. All the myths of Hindu
tolerance were exposed. Mandal might not have helped the Dalits but
the fact of the matter was that they were the first to support it. During
that process, Andhra saw many Dalit groups coming together with the
OBCs. Even in the villages talks of a grand Bahujan alliance were visible.
Today almost 15
years after the ghastly massacre, the Dalits now face a challenge and
it comes not only from the powerful Reddys but their masters in
the power politics of the state. Andhra Pradesh is known for two power
caste states. One is Reddys who have ruled most of the time since
Andhra came into being and the other community which formed another
party to counter the Reddy domination was Kamma which necessitated them
to form Telugu Desham Party. Reddys have been dominant land owning
community in Andhra Pradesh and Dalits have been the biggest victim
of their feudal fantasies.
Tsundur is a small
town situated about 15 kilometer from Tanali and a two hour journey
from Vijaywada city. With a population over 5000 Tsundur has clearly
demarcated the Dalit localities and the upper caste areas. Among the
Dalits it is the Malas who are a majority community while the second
important Dalit community is Madigas. Two Scheduled tribe communities
of Eurkula and Yanadi also live near the ST colony on the railway track,
while the Dalits live in Dalitwada or Ambedkarnagar, which they now
The assertion of
Dalits for the dignity and equality was a challenge for most of the
Reddys. In fact, a majority of Dalits had joined the Indian Railways
in different categories and thus started sending their children to schools.
Their houses had electricity and other essential items which so far
have not been a part of Dalit families.
and particularly those who live in cities do not easily bow to the fancies
of the upper castes. Tsundur witness same fight of Dalits where they,
for all reasons were better off in education while the upper caste despite
their land were lagging behind in education. It is also reported that
the upper caste boys involved in eve teasing of their own girls were
reported angry with several Dalit youths who came for the rescue of
upper caste girls in a cinema hall of the village. In the cinema hall,
Dalits were not supposed to sit but education changed everything. The
boys would wear jeans, the girls would go to degree college with their
head high and the women and men would ask for the minimum wages and
that was unacceptable to Dalits. Things were boiling for many years,
naturally, because the Dalits were embracing modernity and the Reddys
wanted them to stick to their age-old tradition of subjugation.
The government of
Andhra Pradesh was under the Reddy rule during the Tsundur massacre
though Janardhan Reddy happened to be Christian. But that does not make
a difference. Indians take their caste along with them when they shift
their loyalty to other holy books and seers. Janardhan Reddys
government tried to calm down the entire process when political leaders
made a pilgrimage to Tsundur. India, that time saw many more such massacre
like Kumher in Bharatpur Rajasthan, Shankarbigha, Lakshamanpur Bathe,
Fetehpur. The incidents were growing as the Dalit assertion and their
solidarity with the backward communities and minorities was increasing.
There were attempts to break this unity in many places and the backward
communities were made instrumental in targeting the dalits and upholding
the flag of the Hindutva.
In all 9 people
died on the August 6th attack. Their bodies were cut into pieces and
put in gunny bags and thrown into Tungbhadra drainage as well as adjacent
canals. Those who died were the following :
Jaladi Imaneul 38
Jaladi Isaac 25
Mallela Subba Rao 35
A. Rajamohan 25
Sunkuru Samson 28
Mundru Ramesh 21
Mundru Parisudha Rao 35
List of injured
Entire village had
fled that time. It was the efforts of Reddys that the village
should not remain the same and Dalits should not come at their own.
The murders were so brutal that Mundru Parishudha Rao, elder brother
of Mundru Ramesh, who went to see the bodies to hospital at Tenali suffered
heart attack and died. It is also said that one Dalit doctor who performed
postmortem of the bodies in Tenali was so shocked on the condition of
bodies that he later committed suicide. Many relative became psychologically
disturbed. P.Jakraiah who is now around 75 years of age is thoroughly
paralysed and has memory problem. It is difficult for him to narrate
the incidents while he talks to me he gets restive. His wife has been
helping him and his feet paralytic. When he asked for water they urinated
at his hand.
The other man who
survived was D.Dhanraj, who takes me to many places where he was kept.
His story of survival is that of a valiant man. He witnessed the murder
of 5 people. In fact he was captured and beaten mercilessly. His legs
and hands were broken and he was brought to Bananagarden which is owned
by some Munanaga Reddy who is a physically disabled person. It is alleged
by Dhanraj that sine Munanaga was incapable of running he could not
participate in mass lynching hence to facilitate a killing by him, he
was brought to this garden near the canal. He was subconscious when
the persons guarding him urinated in his hand as Dhanraj asked for water.
After some time they went to the nearby bridge over the canal leaving
Dhanraj at the field. Dhanraj was thirsty for water and thought that
he could get it from the canal and crawling slowly he jumped into the
canal and went along the tide of the canal. At about a kilometer he
heard noise of his neighbors and other women who had come in search
of their men and cried for help. They brought him home and took him
to Tenali by putting a sari over him because the Reddys were not
allowing any men to go out even for the medical treatment.
Today, Dhanraj is
a crucial witness. So are others. The families of those killed have
grown up. In adversity they have shown great resilience and have slapped
on the face of the powerful feudal lords. Most of the children are doing
well in education. It was heartening to see girls going for M.Tech and
B.Tech and also for the post graduation courses. Most of the Dalits
are working with various government agencies. Government gave them one
house and one acre of land beside a government job. But the most important
part was government was not interested in pursuing the case. Perhaps
the government and those in power thought that since they have provided
more than enough compensation now the people would not ask for justice.
fight against tyrannical upper castes
Dalits of Tsundur
formed a committee and fought against the upper caste attempt to thwart
justice. They did not go for any hearing to far away places as they
wanted a special court be formed. Finally the government allowed formation
of special court in Tsundur and the judge belonged to Dalit community.
Fearing reprisal the Reddys tried to delay with other tactics.
They succeeded in transferring the judge. Another judge came and hearing
began and people started identifying witnesses. Since the Congress government
has come to power, the Reddys are again feeling comfortable. When
the judge was started the case, immediately, the Reddys asked
for adjournment due to festival and harvesting season and judge granted
it. The hearing is now in the final stage but one does not know when
it will finish. Summon has been issued for February 25th and one is
sure that the pressure is tremendous on the dalits. There are many incidents
of allurement as well as threat because Tsundur case will be watershed.
It will decide the future course of action on part of Dalits. It will
decide how our judicial system function. We know how state function
and Tsundur case had very few followers perhaps because it is not adventurous
Knowing fully well
that there is upper caste antipathy for them, the youths of Tsundur
started agitating for their rights. But the reaction of the upper caste
was equally brutal, for they wanted to close this chapter there and
then only. They resorted to every tactics. Anil Kumar, who was a student
of BA was in the forefront of organizing Dalits of Tsundur and he was
shot dead by the police in a peaceful Dharana. Role of police has been
highly partisan and against all norms of rule of law. The Dalits of
Tsundur buried all the 9 victims at the heart of the village and it
is named as Raktkshetra, perhaps to remind the upper castes
that they would not them let go without facing a trial. Just 50 meter
ahead one statue of Baba Saheb Ambedkar remains incomplete. Dalits wanted
it to be unveiled soon but the upper castes have not allowed. They wanted
to crush the self- respect of Dalits which Ambedkar has given them.
Not to let the flag
of struggle down, the Dalits of Tsundur erected a monument in memory
of Anil Kumar, infront of his house. Old woman like Gudurulamma died
in Delhi when she went to participate in a protest for demanding justice
to her community. As life goes on the families of victim of Tsundur
demand immediate justice for those who died. They feel if the guilty
were punished according to their crime and most of them said hanging,
they would feel relieved. Today, the Dalits of Tsundur know fully well
that the price of truth is very high. They know that the government
has paid them handsomely and got even their distant relatives job in
its effort to keep their mouth shut. But as I speak to most of the survivors
who have done really well in their lives, they would be betraying to
their elders if they change for small penny. Ofcourse, the powerful
elite will continuously threaten them by different means. Most of the
children have grown old. Mose son of Mutthaiya Mathew is now one of
the leaders of the committee. His eyes reflect fire and rage and he
still remember how as a young man he had to go pick up his fathers
body. He want that the culprits must be hanged or handed over to the
Dalits for any treatment they wish to give them.
thy name is feudalism
The role of police
needs to be scrutinized. It was police which forced people to leave
their villages and flee to other village perhaps in a preplanned way
to put them into the well laid trap of the Reddys. So far 219
people have been named in the FIR. About 29 of them have died but 7
main culprits have not yet been arrested. Police had deliberately made
mistakes in many names but putting the different names of the father
of the conspirators, which does not exist. Our police system lives in
the age of old feudal system as it still has not come in terms of democracy
where every one is at least constitutionally equal. During my trip to
this village I came across many suspected murderers roaming around in
their motorbikes while police claims to have not been able to arrest
them. Even 12 years after the non-bailable Warrant, the accused have
not been arrested. These are the following:
The case against
the following eight absconding accused is pending with the committal
Court in the Special Mobile Court, Guntur for the last 12 year with
our being committed to the Special Court:
Reddy S/o Mr.Venkata Reddy, R/o Modukur,
Ramakrishna Rao S/o Mr. Venkaiah @ Kirasanayilu Venkaiah, R/o Munnangivaripalem,
3) A151- Mr.Ikkurthi
Venkateswarlu, S/o Mr.Subba Rao, R/o Munnagivaripalem,
4) A169- Mr.Gorrepati
Krishna Reddy, S/o Mr.Rami Reddy, R/o Munnagivaripalem,
5) A170- Mr.Modugula
Kotireddy, S/o Mr.Sambireddy, R/o Tsundur,
6) A176- Mr.Kosana
Venkaiah @ Kirasanayilu Venkaiah, S/o Mr.Yedukondalu R/o Tsundur,
Appireddy @ Babu, S/o Mr. Ramireddy, R/o Tsundur, and
Papireddy S/o Mr. Kotireddy, R/o Munnagivaripalem.
to AP Peoples Union for Civil Liberties and Tsundur Victim Carnage
All these people
are there because of the legal hurdles and non cooperation of the police.
Jaladi Moses, president of Tusundur Carnage Victims Association
and himself son of a person who was killed in the massacre says that
police and administration has been highly un-cooperative of the entire
event. In spite of repeated requests by the special public prosecutor,
the concerned police officials have so far not handed over the CD files
of the Tsundur carnage cases to them. The case record runs into about
two thousand pages, which takes months to the prosecutors to prepare
for effective layering on behalf of the prosecution. It is doubtful
whether the entire case files are there with the police. The Inspector
of Police, Tsundur told the representatives of the Victims Association
that with much effort he could only trace a part of the record. The
police were not prompt enough to file the death certificate of one of
the accused that died a couple of months ago though they were given
one-month time. Thus in an indirect way they help those who are in need
of delaying the case trial.
Most of the Dalits
in Tsundur have been practicing Christian. The lonely church of Tsundur
has become symbol of Dalit power apart from Dr Ambedkar. Unfortunately,
neither those in power easily used this as an instrument to foil the
case of atrocities against the Dalits. It was mentioned that since all
of them are Christian hence they dont come under the SC-ST atrocities
act, though the Andhra Pradesh High Court rejected the entire fabrication
of case by the accused, yet it is an important case of human rights
violation and irrespective of their faiths must be restored to all Dalits.
Dalits have in India revolted against the Varna system and embraced
various faiths. Not all of them remain satisfied and discrimination
against them continued despite their change of faith. As mentioned earlier,
Andhra Pradesh had Mr Janardhan Reddy as chief minister who happened
to be a Christian and yet could not side with the Dalits and allegedly
supported Reddys. This is the greatest secular act in India that
you support your caste irrespective of your religion.
For years Dalits
in Tsundur demanded that they be allowed to have public prosecutor on
which they have faith. The government was not keen on this but ultimately
allowed to so. The government issued its order in August 2000 but like
any other thing it took more then two and a half year when the Dalits
got somebody who were really keen to serve them as public prosecutor.
There were other procedural delays. Finally the case had come for hearing
again other delays like elections 2004 in May. After the YSR Reddy government
took over in Andhra-Pradesh, efforts were made to delay it again. So
after one hearing in December 2004, the trial court adjourned the case
on the plea of harvesting season. There will be more such hurdles in
future and we should be ready for that.
from PUCL Andhra Pradesh expose the delay process in the case. It says
For two years,
the case could not reach the Special Sessions Court under the SC&ST
(PA) Act, Guntur as 8 accused were not arrested by the police. Later
the case against the absconding accused was separated and the case of
the remaining accused (about 200) was committed to the Special Court
in 1993. Later there was stalemate in the case as the accused raised
an objection in 1994 that the victims belonged to Christian faith and
hence there could not be a charge under the SC & ST (PA) Act. The
matter was taken to the AP High Court by the accused as the Special.
Judge ruled out the objection. Later the High court remanded the petition
back to the same Judge who again held that the victims were Hindus.
Later, the trial date was fixed up in October 1994, but the government
taken no steps to get it held in Tsundur village as promised to the
victims by it though a school building in the village was remodeled
and furnished with a budget of about Rs. 4 lacks to hold camp Court.
So, renewing their demand for the trial in their village the dalit witnesses
had refused to receive summons. Later the judge decided to hold the
case trial at Tsundur village itself. The case was further stalled by
the efforts of the accused challenging the choosing of Tsundur as the
trial place. The case had been again taken to the AP High Court in 1994.
However, the AP High Court in 1995 remanded the issue to the trial Court.
Ultimately the trial judge in 1995 decided to hold the trial at Guntur
instead of Tsundur.
According to K.Satya
Narayan Rao, Secretary Kuru Nirumluna Porata Samiti Andhra Pradesh,
the situation is not well in the area and the pressure of the upper
caste bureaucracy and police is tremendous. At the village the Dalits
face death threat apart from boycott, at the bureaucratic and police
level it is go slow and deviate from the facts on technical grounds.
Satya and his colleagues including president of Samiti Mr K.Prabhakar
Rao have been camping in the village for many days. They organised people
through organizing cultural shows. Legendary poet and singer Gaddar
also visited this place and penned a song in memory of Tsundur.
Rise of Dalit
women and fall of Reddys
are united because they understood the enormity of this violence. As
I visit and meet Grasamma and Raja Rao parents of Anil Kumar, my eyes
become wet. The father is unable to explain much but the mother is full
of praise of her son who sacrificed his life for the community. The
memorial of Anil Kumar in front of his house is a reminder of Dalits
fight against oppression and feudalism.
Another visit to
Mundru Rameshs house is more painful if we visualize the situation
and how the people are coping with. Rameshs eye were gauged and
he was cut into pieces. His elder brother Parishudha Rao died of heart
attack after seeing fatal condition of his brother. Mother Talasamma
is inconsolable as she remembers those cruel days when she lost her
two sons. It is an ironical situation that Tulsamma had to call her
daughter Janasi who was married elsewhere to take care of her. Now janasi
take care of her mother along with her children. Her husband also take
care of his in laws. When I asked whether Janasi felt any objections
from her in laws in shifting to her parents place, she answered in the
negative. But her pain and agony is very much part of her life. I became
emotional when I was speaking to her elder daughter who is in 12th standard
virtually wept. The young girl was perhaps aware of more struggling
days in future as her younger brother cannot speak and stand and her
younger sister deaf and dumb. It is very rare to see people struggling
in such a situation.
I ask Tulsamma,
despite the fact that her loss has been tremendous, whether she feel
her daughter has filled the gap? Do you think the boys and girls are
equal and she though feel pained at the loss of her two sons feel that
her daughter is worthy of anything else. She has worked hard and taken
proper care of myself says Tulsamma. The daughter herself feel that
she want to educate her daughter and get her a job.
Moses son of Mattaiya
Mathew is now a government servant. At the time of this ghastly carnage
he was a 19 years old young lad. He has fury. He has three brothers
and every one of them got job. Moses has been in the forefront of organizing
people against the Reddys. They must be punished.
J. Ishaq was a painter
and nothing against the Reddys when he was butchered. His wife
Samadanam is now working in a government office. His mother Saramma
is sitting with her grand son named as Ambedkar who is 19 years old.
Both say that they will feel satisfied only after the guilty are hanged.
M. Subba Rao died
leaving his parents, wife and three daughters. He was an agricultural
labour. After his death the family was virtually motionless. There was
no male member in the family and given the patriarchic nature of our
society it was difficult to think how the family would move. IN fact
the Reddys had ensured that the women become functionless by targeting
the male members of the Dalit community. But the way these women have
come up and fought against tyranny is a big slap on the face of feudal
lords. Subba Raos wife is a cook in a girls school outside the
village. She stays in the village and come during the week days. Her
daughter Sukanya has completed her B.Sc in biology and now wish to take
up B.Ed course. The younger sibling is also studying hard. This is the
power of Dalit women that despite such an adverse circumstances they
have over come the grim situation. Sukanyas maternal grand parents
take care of her and her sister. While the mother still feel that she
miss male members in the family yet the grand parents are proud of their
grand daughters. They are our sons, says the proud grand father.
In fact the daughter also feel that she is definitely not less then
any male member. She does go everywhere at her own and wherever needed
particularly in the college, her Nana accompany her.
One fellow had two
wives and see the irony, government has provided jobs to both of them.
The government went overboard in bribing the people rather then bringing
the culprit to the book. Rehabilitation is no doubt important but cannot
be done at the cost of justice.
has virtually been outshadowed by the Dalit assertion and particularly
the way their women have come up. Ambedkarnagars Dalitwada now
is a pride place where Dalits live like a close nit family. Many women
have opened grocery shops and tea stalls and they earn handsome amount.
They are independent women proud of their work. A crucial witness in
the ghastly carnage, Shankuntala own a shop on the main road. Her husband
is a retired railway employee. She is enjoying her independent and earn
over Rs 150 per day which is fairly good in the village.
Sharda and Shakuntala
are two sisters of Jai Raj who was killed in massacre. He was working
as a junior assistant in a municipality, which was about 200 kilometer
from Tsundur and had come here to participate in wedding. In their family
they were one brother and two sisters. Jai Raj was about 30 years of
age. The family felt the chaos as Jai Raj was taking care of their family
who had lost both the parents. Both the sisters found it hard to come
up in terms of feeling orphaned. Though both the sisters got government
job yet the main was tremendous. Sarojini, the elder sister found it
difficult to manage but got married at her own, helped by the uncles.
Dalit movement need
to come up against patriarchy strongly. Despite these powerful women
symbols who now consider themselves equal to men, there are several
painful stories of reminder of our feudal system. I tried to find out
about the wives of those who died. Jairajs wife is 32 at the moment
and has got a job in a municipality of Guntur. She did not marry, tells
the sister. I asked her why and the answer because she got everything
due to Jairaj hence marrying would mean betrayal to the memory of Jairaj.
This is similar to what we expected from Kargil widows. We did not want
them to marry and we doled out fund so that they do not question the
state. In Tsundur the state went out of way to compensate so that the
victims do not question the gangsters who killed and destroyed families.
Yet, the resilience of the Dalit women have paid and the Reddys
who are now trying everything to thwart the judicial system must be
feeling now that Dalits have awaken and it is not the same story now.
The more fascist you become in your practice, the more the oppressed
will come up and challenge. Dalits of Tsundur have outshined the powerful
feudal lords in everything be it democratic practice, be it the womens
emancipation or be it education and employment. They have proved that
a community cannot be pushed to the wall through pressure tactics and
prejudices. The retaliation would be powerful. The story of the Dalits
and their rise in Tsundur is a story for all of us to learn, that adversity
provides best opportunity to success.
As February is approaching
us, Dalits wait for justice will decide their future course of action.
In all they are not going to sit silent. With families opting for education
and learning, now they want to pay their debt by getting ready to speak
against the powerful upper caste. It is time to assert and awake, they
say. Tungbhadra river and adjacent canal are life line to the farmers
and poor people of Tsundur and adjoining villages. The upper castes
feudal landlords shed the blood in Tungbhadra and now the river need
a cleansing. It need an answer from the Indian judicial system that
those who have committed crime and who are roaming free should be brought
to book otherwise those who have embraced democracy and those who believe
in democracy will loose faith in it and pick up the guns and kill at
their will. Dalits are a powerful community thanks to Dr Ambedkar and
his message which has reached every nook and corner of the community.
Let us hope that the government machinery will understand and not manipulate
the law according to its own comfort. It is for them to prove that they
believe in democracy and liberty and equality. The world is watching.
Dont blame Dalits if they get frustrated and embrace violence
for speedy justice.