Attempts by the Madigas of Peapuly, AP, to immerse their own idol of Ganesha on Vinayaka Chavithi meet with a destructive and violent upper caste response fuelled by State collusion and its apathy to the Dalits’ movement for self-respect
BY M. MURALI KRISHNA
In 1992, for the first time the Madigas also consecrated an idol of Ganesha
on the eve of Vinayaka
However, in the year 2003, the Madigas were determined to take the procession through the main streets of the village come what may. With the support of local leaders of the Madiga Reservations Porata Samithi (MRPS) – a Madiga organisation formed in 1995 to demand subdivision of scheduled caste reservations equally among different sub-castes – the Madigas made the required arrangements for their programme. Pooling the money collected from people from their own community, the Madigas brought an idol of Ganesha and installed it in Madigawada on August 31, 2003.
A week prior to the festival, the Madigas put in a requisition letter at the local police station seeking permission to install the idol and also asking for security on the day of immersion. On September 1, 2003, a Monday, the Madigas began their procession for the immersion of Ganesha on a tractor. The Madigas allege that as soon as the tractor crossed Madigawada, followers of KE Prabhakar, a cabinet minister in the TDP government, local Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leaders, former sarpanch Chennaiah and his four sons (Venkateshwarlu, Shantha, Arjun, and Ramana), Gandikota Nagireddy and his two sons (Ramanjaneyulu, Mohan), Jakkireddy Rami Reddy, Golla Sreenu, Jakkireddy Gopal Reddy, Bestha Ramudu, Mobbolla Ramanjaneyulu, Kummari Thimmanna, Golla Maddhileti, Budda Venkateshu, Dubba Sunkanna and hundreds of other people attacked the Madigas with batons and stones. Hurling huge stones, they destroyed the Ganesha idol and ruined the tractor engine. The mob also destroyed the police jeep that had accompanied the procession to provide security.
Frightened, the Madigas ran for their lives and then staged a rasta roko on the national highway, a kilometre away from the village, demanding justice. The circle inspector and sub-inspector of the local police station guaranteed the Madigas that they would negotiate with the district authorities and arrange for the smooth procession of their idol through the village and convinced them to withdraw the rasta roko. The Madigas then went to the Peapuly police station and hid there since their lives were at stake. The district collector and superintendent of police talked to Dalits that night and brought a new idol and kept it in the MPDO office outside the village. They promised the Madigas that they could immerse the Ganesha the next day.
However, the upper caste savarnas got to hear of the plans made by the concerned officials and resorted to massive destruction from 11 a.m. on the morning of September 2, 2003. They broke the doors using axes and stones and smashed kitchen appliances in Madiga houses. They broke safe-boxes and looted the money that the Madigas had collected as advance before migration as labourers, as also the money that DWACRA group members had withdrawn from the bank for family expenses. They looted television sets and clothes. Not only that, they also incinerated six shops, four bunks and three push carts owned by Madigas on the national highway. Frightened by such brazen vandalism, the Madigas took shelter at the police station.
The devastation was effected in the presence of DIG Sathyanarayana, district SP Sanjay, collector Ajay Jain, and OSD Ravinder, several officers and hundreds of policemen. The situation became uncontrollable until the police resorted to a lathi-charge, released tear gas and fired in the air. The Madigas’ fundamental right and aspirations to take out a Ganapathi procession through the village streets met with a brutal and arrogant savarna response – violence and destruction.
The Madigas’ assertion for self-respect:
In the Peapuly incident, the Madigas’ self-respect was crushed by actions carried out allegedly at the behest of TDP MP from Kurnool, KE Krishnamurthy and his brother, minister KE Prabhakar. The KE brothers’ native place, Kambalapadu in Krishnagiri Mandal, is located near Peapuly. Moreover, Peapuly is the most important Mandal centre (among three) of the vote banks of the Done assembly constituency from where KE Prabhakar was elected. Every step taken by the Peapuly villagers was allegedly directed by advice from the KE brothers. It was with their support that the villagers attacked the Madigas and injured police authorities and district officials.
The KE brothers carried out separate negotiations with two groups in Peapuly. The KE brothers themselves came to the Peapuly police station where the Madigas were hiding to advise them, saying, "Villagers are plenty in number. Ultimately you will be the losers if you choose to oppose them. Learn to live with them." The Madigas and Madiga leaders strongly opposed the KE brothers’ veiled threats.
On September 3, 2003, the minister, KE Prabhakar connived with caste Hindus along with the district collector, the SP and other officials to take out the Ganesha idol from the backyard of the village, and then proceeded along the national highway and immersed it. The Madigas were not allowed to participate in this back door immersion ceremony. The minister and the government officers then released a false press note saying the immersion ended peacefully with adequate security cover.
The TDP government itself dug a grave for the Madigas’ movement for self-respect. However, the Madigas, who moved forward with self-respect and a confident Dalit consciousness, remain undefeated. In fact, the Madigas have exposed the true nature of Hindu culture to the world. In Peapuly, our ministers and officers failed to uphold the spirit of our 55-year-old Constitution. The law of Manu prevailed.
Peapuly – an ember cloaked in ash:
On September 4, 2003, ministers NMD Farook and KE Prabhakar, MP KE Krishnamurthy, and higher authorities met the Madigas who had taken refuge at the police station and took them back to Madigawada. They declared that the Peapuly story had ended. The ministers promised compensation for the Madiga property that had been damaged. The police arrested some of the common people but so far they have not arrested the main culprits under the SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act. The main culprits, (identified as followers of the KE brothers) who were responsible for the destruction, roam scot-free. The Madigas are scared that the culprits might attack them again at any time. The police and the government utterly failed in giving the Madigas moral support even once during the Peapuly incident.
The attitude of the government and the Telugu Desam Party:
The chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu shows no concern or inclination to abolish untouchability and solve the problems of Dalits in the state. His government’s stand has once again been exposed in Peapuly. The Peapuly incident has clearly demonstrated that the 20 GOs purportedly issued to support and implement the suggestions of the Punnaiah Commission Report on caste discrimination, the Janmabhoomi programmes for the weaker sections of people and the three-day programme for inter-dining of all castes are a big sham.
Naidu has never met and consoled Dalit families who have been victimised by members of his party and arrogant dominant caste people. He confines his sympathies only to victims of accidents and natural calamities. Neither earlier, in the Vempenta and Kalwakolu massacres, nor now in the Peapuly atrocity, has Chandrababu felt the need to speak to victims from Dalit communities. He did not visit the villages of the victims. He did not take any action against his party leaders who were responsible for the destruction caused and murders committed. That is why Dalits see Chandrababu as their enemy.
RSS leaders from Kurnool have falsely projected the Peapuly incident as a ‘quarrel among Hindus’. The Madigas of Peapuly have learnt that they are not accepted as Hindus. They were told that they are avarnas and untouchables in Hindu religion. As a community they are collectively treated as bonded slaves of the savarnas. In categorising the Madigas as Hindus, the RSS reinforces the fact that the Madigas are slaves and that they should behave like slaves and untouchables. Dr. Ambedkar repeatedly asserted that in the Hindu religion Dalits do not have a right to live as human beings but only exist as slaves. The Peapuly incident has once again highlighted for Dalits the need to renounce Hinduism. The Peapuly incident mirrors the cruelty of Hindu culture in undeniable terms.
Dr. Ambedkar has said that the Hindu religion is the most dangerous and undemocratic religion in the world because it professes that God himself has created the caste system and the inequality among people of different castes. Caste is the fundamental identity in Hindu religion. In Hindu religion, people from the most depressed and oppressed communities, known as Dalits, are considered untouchables.
According to Hindu religion, caste Hindus will also be polluted if and when they touched or mingled with Dalits and themselves become untouchables. That is why the Madiga Ganesha became an untouchable Ganesha. It is a known fact that the arrogant savarnas mercilessly kill their own children for falling in love with Dalits. It is no wonder that they broke their own god Ganesha into pieces. The entire village united to implement Manu Dharma (the law of Manu) when Dalits crossed the Laxmanrekha drawn by Hindu religion in Peapuly. Suddenly all the non-Dalits in the whole village became savarna Hindus determined to jointly put the untouchables/avarnas/Madigas "in their place". The Boyas, Kurumas and Balijas, who belong to backward castes, the Kapus, the Reddys and others belonging to the upper castes (as one united body) became savarna Hindus and sprang up to assault the avarnas – the Dalits.
The roots of violence in Peapuly lie in the caste system, the axis of the Hindu religion. But the explanation for the attacks on the Madigas lies in the government’s failure to implement Article 17 of the Indian Constitution which outlawed untouchability 55 years ago. n
(M. Murali Krishna is a research scholar, CIEFL, Hyderabad. This article is based on a fact-finding report conducted by the Kula Nirmoolana Porata Samithi, AP).
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