People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 23, 2006
KVPS Cycle Yatra Inspires Self-Confidence Among Dalits
Cycle yatra concludes in this massive procession as it enters Hyderabad city.
M Venugopala Rao
THE 13-day cycle yatra in Ranga Reddy district for building social consciousness among dalits concluded on April 14 with a mass rally from Alluri Sitaramaraju Nagar at Mehdipatnam to Tank Bund, coinciding with the birth anniversary of Dr B R Ambedkar. The cycle yatra was headed by the vice president of Kulavivaksha Vyatireka Porata Sangham (KVPS) - Struggle Committee against Caste Discrimination - and state secretary of the CPI(M), B V Raghavulu. Led by the team of cycle yatra, with artists of Praja Natya Mandali playing dappus, the mass rally, which included women and children in large numbers marched forward enthusiastically raising slogans of ‘down with caste discrimination’ and ‘zindabad unity of the dalits’. Later at the Tank Bund, Dr Ambedkar’s birth anniversary was celebrated.
Dalits can protect the rights given to them in the Constitution only if they resist and fight against caste discrimination in its various forms, Raghavulu said. Participating as the chief guest in the celebrations of the birth anniversary of Dr Ambedkar, Raghavulu said even after fifty years of Indian constitution, dalits are denied entry into temples in 152 villages that he has toured. In 140 villages the discriminatory system of two glasses is still continuing. In many schools, dalit students are segregated and made to sit separately. There are no burial grounds for dalits. During the cycle yatra, wherever dalits were prepared, we led them into the temples and opposed other forms of discrimination, Raghavulu explained. ‘There is no need to be afraid of the attacks by the upper castes. Should there be an attack, we will stand in the front and brave the attacks first. If the attackers try to kill, we will die first’, Raghavulu said. He told that in some of the villages where dalits had entered into temples, the idols were cleansed with milk and honey later. He said that it was suggested to dalits to re- enter the temples as many times as the idols were cleansed. Wherever the upper castes were adamant, the help of officers concerned was taken. The upper castes who attacked dalits were forced to apologise. The cycle yatra proved that if dalits are united and resist, the demon of caste would die, Raghavulu asserted.
The state government is callous in protecting the rights of dalits. Referring to the kind of publicity given by the government to the prevention of Aids and to assure the people that there was no danger in eating chickens with photographs of the chief minister, Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, Raghavulu found fault with the government for not giving such publicity to the caste discrimination and the age-old inhuman practice of untouchability. He pointedly questioned whether, in the view of the government, dalits were less important than Aids patients and chickens. In any village, dalitwadas are strikingly apparent, with no roads, toilets, drainage, drinking water and burial grounds, he said. For the development of dalit colonies, Raghavulu demanded the government to allocate 16 per cent of budgetary funds and a special scheme for their development. First priority should be given to the development of dalitwadas, followed by colonies of the backward classes and of others in that order, he said. Pointing out that it was the responsibility of the political parties to eradicate untouchability and the demon of caste, Raghavulu asked the people to make it clear that they would not vote for those who practice caste discrimination in the coming elections to the local bodies. All the parties should be prepared to conduct yatras for ending all forms of caste discrimination, he said.
Former chairman of the commisision on SCs and STs, Justice K Punnaiah, said the state government had issued 18 government orders intended for eradication of untouchability. However, the sub inspectors of police and the mandal revenue officers were not bothered to visit villages, though there are rules and regulations that the police and revenue officers should visit the villages. Punnaiah announced that he would participate in such yatras to be taken up by Raghavulu in future. Official spokesman of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Satish Mahajan, K Yadagiri, chairman of the committee for celebrations of Ambedkar’s birth anniversary, and Devender, member, national commission on SCs and STs extended their heartfelt compliments to Raghavulu for leading the Yatra. A photo exhibition depicting the cycle yatra attracted the people attending the celebrations.
Earlier, Raghavulu and several other leaders of the struggle committee against caste discrimination, garlanded the statue of Dr Ambedkar and paid homage. Chief Minister Rajasekhara Reddy, TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu, Union ministers A Narendra and Panabaka Lakshmi, Union minister for social welfare, D S Redya Naik, several MLAs, MPs and leaders of various political parties and dalit organisations, including Mala Mahanadu, garlanded the statue of Dr Ambedkar. Leaders and followers of several dalit organisations came to Tank Bund in processions from different parts of the twin cities and garlanded the statue of Dr Ambedkar and paid him rich tributes. A festive atmosphere prevailed at the area, with fire works and cultural programmes organised in connection with the celebrations of Dr Ambedkar’s birth anniversary.
During the 13-day cycle yatra in some villages, the local upper castes attacked the dalits, abused them and continued discrimination against them, as a retaliation to their forced entry into temples after the cycle yatra left their villages. As a retaliation to entry of dalits into the local temple in Tirumalapur village in Kulkacharla Mandal, the upper castes obstructed water from the local tank flowing into the lands of dalits. One dalit Chennayya was abused by them and removed from the post of attender in the local school. When dalits conveyed this information to Raghavulu, he complained to the district collector and the superintendent of police. MRO and SI visited the village and confirmed that the complaint was true. Though the officers instructed the local ZPTC Satteyya Goud and Sarpanch Venkatareddy to let water from the tank flow into the lands of the dalits, they did not oblige. Demanding the arrest of these two leaders, the dalits filed a complaint with the police with the support of the leaders of KVPS. In another case, demanding the arrest of a hotel owner Kistappa and his wife for abusing a dalit Anantayya in Ayinapur village of Doma Mandal, dalits held a dharna in front of the police station under the banner of KVPS. After the police registered a case and promised to arrest the accused, the dalits withdrew their agitation. For drawing water from the common well of the village Barvad in Bantwaram Mandal with the inspiration given by Raghavulu and John Wesley, general secretary of KVPS, the local dalits were abused and attacked by the influential people of the village the next day. The dalits filed a complaint in the Vikarabad police station, explaining that more than 50 people of that village attacked them and abused them. The police registered a case. At Mittakodur village in Parigi Mandal, when the KVPS leaders tried to ensure entry of the dalits into a local temple, one dalit Ilayya was very much afraid to enter the temple, reflecting the kind of fear with which the dalits are living. On the whole, the cycle yatra for social consciousness has given self-confidence to the dalits to unite and resist caste discrimination and oppression. During 1999-2000 when KVPS had taken up large scale activities, the issues of caste discrimination and untouchability were brought to the fore in the state. Later, the KVPS had taken up different programmes on the issues of dalits in a phased manner. As a result of all these activities, consciousness and confidence among the dalit sections has grown and the present yatra has given inspiration for taking up such activities in future.