People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 26

July 01, 2012



Congress Govt Responsible for

Lakshimpeta Massacre of Dalits

John Wesley


THIRTY-eight year old dalit agricultural labourer Sundar Rao was preparing to leave for his daily wage labour early in the morning when he was dragged out of his home and killed brutally by crushing a huge stone on his chest. Another dalit Nivarthi Ganesh was running towards adjacent lane to save his life when he was chased down and hacked to death with axes and swords. Venkat who was passing by was  waylaid and stabbed repeatedly to death. Chittri Appadu was beaten to death very brutally in his own home and in front of his wife and children using rods and boulders. Another dalit labourer, Papayya, was stabbed 30 times all over the body, including in his eyes, and he died on the spot.


Some dalits had their two limbs broken, some others four limbs and some had their heads broken in this brutal bloodshed that went on for over two hours in the morning of June 12, 2012 in the village Lakshimpeta of Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh. Every house in the dalit basti of the village was attacked. Even women and elderly persons were not spared and beaten black and blue with sticks. Every dalit house was bloodstained in the violence unleashed by a mob of over 200 kapus, a powerful BC community in Andhra Pradesh. They were led by feudal elements in the community but among the participants included womenfolk and children also. When the men were tired after massacring the dalits, the women encouraged them by providing them with water and snacks so that they could continue the attack. Such was the bitter hatred. Some women even participated in the attack on dalits by throwing chilli powder into the eyes of dalits and beating up dalit women.


This village Lakshimpeta has a dalit lady as sarpanch. She or her husband, Gangulu, are never allowed to sit on chairs during panchayat meetings. They always have to sit on the floor while the BCs and other caste leaders virtually dictate things. When such low caste people dare to ask for a share of land, they have to be taught a lesson they will not forget -- this is the thinking that resulted in the brutal massacre. “How dare you Mala ba****ds demand land?” was the abuse by the killers while executing the attack. These dalits belong to Mala community, a main dalit sub-caste in the coastal region of the state.


The state government had acquired around 7789 acres of land in 12 villages of Vangara mandal in Srikakulam district for Madduvalasa reservoir project in mid 90s. As part of that entire Lakshimpeta village was acquired and the villagers were re-settled in a higher plane, the present Lakshimpeta village. Those with pucca houses and lands in the kapus and other castes were given around Rs 1 lakh as compensation while dalits who had thatched huts were paid a measly Rs 3000 to Rs 12,000 as compensation. House sites were allotted in the new village to 75 kapu families and 70 dalit families along with 11 other caste families. Since it was a new village, the houses of both communities were across the road. The government paid additional compensation to farmers who owned lands and also provided jobs to some of them. Dalits, who were landless, got nothing.


Just adjoining the present village of Lakshimpeta, around 250 acres of land which was acquired for the project was not submerged in the project. It was in the control of Irrigation department of the state government. Lakshimpeta villagers had nothing to do with this land as it was acquired from other villages after paying compensation to landowners. Those erstwhile landowners are presently staying in other villages. The kapus of Lakshimpeta village tilled around 190 acres of these vacant government lands by paying some rent to the erstwhile landowners. Similarly dalits also took 60 acres of these lands as tenant farmers from the erstwhile landowners, who were also kapus. The kapus of Lakshimpeta village could not digest the fact that dalits may get rights over these 60 acres and decided to drive them out. They influenced the erstwhile kapu landowners to stop giving those lands on tenancy to dalits. Following the dispute raised by kapus, the dalits did not dare to go into those lands and it was barren for quite sometime.


The Struggle Committee against Caste Discrimination (KVPS) had undertaken various campaigns and surveys in all the 12 villages of Vangara mandal over dalit issues, particularly against caste discrimination. So, it had a following in Lakshimpeta village also and under KVPS leadership the dalits began the struggle to reclaim those 60 acres. They began to till those lands once again and when the feudal kapus led a mob to attack the dalits, they collectively resisted the attack. KVPS Vangara mandal secretary Ganapathi and 54 other dalits were booked in this case as also 50 other kapus in 2011. A police picket was posted in the village for nearly six months. The Revenue Divisional Officer told the dalits to continue farming those lands without any formal rights bestowed. KVPS demanded granting of pattas to dalits for these lands and rallied the dalits for this.


Botsa Vasudevara Naidu, a close associate of PCC chief Botsa Satyanarayana, is a rich feudal landlord with various financial interests in Vangara mandal. He is a Congress leader and former Zilla Parishad member from Vangara. Seeing the danger of dalits acquiring not only these 60 acres but also many more of such vacant government lands in the other 11 villages, he decided to confront the dalits and nip this demand in the bud itself. He threatened the dalits, including KVPS secretary of dire consequences if they do not leave this demand. He got the police picket lifted using his clout and the very next day engineered an attack on dalits by kapus in the village. Limbs of Chittri Appadu, who died in the recent attack, were broken then. With KVPS intervention, cases were booked against the attackers under SC, ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. But the courts, showing their bias against dalits, granted them bail within three days. Again a police picket was posted in the village and the joint collector issued tresspass orders against kapus and dalits from entering the 250 acres of land. This decision only intensified the hatred of kapus against dalits. Instead of dealing with the issue and settling it, the government only ended up inflaming the passions. The dalits approached the state minister Kondru Murali, who is a dalit and represents Rajam constituency under which Lakshimpeta falls, for getting the land. He is dependent on powerful kapu community for his election in the constituency and therefore did not dare to act against their interests. Instead he kept telling the dalits to leave those lands and avoid confrontation with kapus. In the meantime, Botsa Naidu called up dalits and threatened them of killings if they do not leave those lands. He also threatened KVPS leader in the village, Ganesh.


The recent political developments in the state too had an impact on this issue. Most of the Congress voters among kapus and dalits in the mandal shifted to YSR Congress party in the run-up to the recent bye-elections. This happened in Lakshimpeta village also. With his political hold threatened by this development, Botsa Naidu used the land issue to rally kapus of Lakshimpeta and other villages towards himself against the dalits. He told the erstwhile landowner kapus of 60 acres that Lakshimpeta kapus would pay them Rs 80,000 per acre for those 60 acres if the dalits are made to renounce their claim. And to do that he prepared the plan for the deadly attack on June 12. Using bye-election in another constituency in the district as a ruse, he got the police picket removed from the village on June 11. The same night men were stealthily brought into the village from outside with weapons like swords, smoke bombs, rods etc. The next day morning a mob of around 200 persons began the brutal attack against dalits around 7.30 a.m. from all sides. Before the dalits could recover from the shock, there were streams of blood flowing in the lanes. For two long hours the bloodbath continued unhindered. When the husband of the sarpanch, Gangulu, himself a prime target of the mob, rang up the SI around 7.30 a.m. itself stating that a huge mob was on the rampage, the SI said he is on election duty and would send someone. Around 9 a.m. one constable reached the place and seeing the gruesome attack, he fled for his life. The sarpanch’s husband had fled the village to escape being killed. Four dalits were killed on the spot and another succumbed in a hospital. Eighteen others are undergoing treatment for various injuries in the district headquarters.


While the reality was this, the police and media spread disinformation by stating that it was a clash between two groups. KVPS along with other dalit organisations prevented removal of bodies from mortuary until the government concedes the demands. The chief minister visited the village and announced ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to the families of those killed. This amount is as per the revised Rules under Prevention of Atrocities Act. CPI(M) state secretary B V Raghavulu also visited the village and the injured. He held talks with the joint collector and additional SP in Rajam. Raghavulu demanded that the land for which dalits were attacked must be given to dalits by the government by issuing official G.O. He also demanded immediate arrest of the main conspirator and accused, Botsa Vasudevara Naidu. He termed the attack as a savage one on the entire dalit locality.


The dalit organisations, including KVPS, conducted a joint struggle in various forms on the demands of immediate arrest of the main accused, granting of land rights to dalits for entire 250 acres, relief to victim families as provided under Prevention of Atrocities Act,  etc. Bowing to these struggles, the district collector announced that the government will give 200 acres of that unsubmerged land to dalits, additional 1 acre land to every dalit household as per the PoA Act, employment to one person in the families of those killed, financial assistance to the injured. Some of these promises have been implemented but the eight main accused persons have still not been arrested.


What is to be noted is that this massacre happened in a village that is represented by the ruling Congress party MLA and minister who himself is a dalit. These killings were done by ruling Congress party feudal kapus and the dalit victims are also belonging to the same party. And now the same party top leaders are giving protection to the main accused. Time has come to question the Congress whether it can continue harbouring those who kill dalits with impunity. Why does it not take action against such killers? The dalits also have to think why they should continue supporting Congress which protects dalit killers. Dalits have shed blood in such massacres earlier also be it in Karamchedu in early 80s or Chunduru in early 90s. If we have to fight for our rights to land, equality and self-respect, dalits cutting across political parties and organisations have to launch a united movement. Ultimate victory will be theirs if they team up with like-minded, progressive, communist forces and struggle under a joint platform.


(The writer is state secretary of KVPS)