Independence. Really? Telangana woman stood up for Dalits, pays price: fine on anyone who speaks to her

The land is located between fields owned by Reddy landlords, who objected to a Dalit walking through their fields. “Elders of the Reddy community exerted a lot of pressure on me to revoke the lease,” Indira said.

For the last three weeks, a woman has been socially boycotted by the Reddy community in her village after she gave a statement to police in favour of a Dalit farmer in a case under the SC/ST Atrocities Act. The woman, Sama Indira, herself belongs to the Reddy community. The Reddy Sangam of Mallaram village in Rajanna Sircilla district, Telangana, has reportedly imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 on anyone who speaks to or interacts with Indira, who lives alone.

When her brother Venkat Reddy came to meet her a few days ago, the Reddy Sangam allegedly intimidated him and forced him to pay a fine of Rs 20,000 for defying its diktat. Indira’s troubles began after she had given a portion of her land on lease to a Dalit farmer, Kompalli Lakshmi. The land is located between fields owned by Reddy landlords, who objected to a Dalit walking through their fields. “Elders of the Reddy community exerted a lot of pressure on me to revoke the lease,” Indira said.

“They harassed me mentally. saying that as a Reddy I should keep the community’s interests above anything else. I refused, saying Lakshmi and her family have been taking my land on lease for 10-12 years, and that they were close to me. I gave this particular piece of land on lease recently, and some of the Reddy landlords are objecting because they have land surrounding it. When I refused to cancel the lease, they issued a diktat to boycott me. Since then no one in the village has spoken to me or come to my house. The Reddys have stopped inviting me to their functions and religious ceremonies. Members of other communities, including SC/STs, too are avoiding me for fear of offending the Reddy Sangam. I cry every day because of this isolation and mental torture.”

Two weeks ago, Lakshmi’s paddy crop on one acre was ready for harvest when someone cut and destroyed the entire crop and buried the paddy about half a kilometre away. When Lakshmi and her family found out, they went to village sarpanch Venkatesh Goud’s office. Indira, who accompanied her, alleged that Reddy Sangam members abused Lakshmi in the name of her Madiga caste, also abused Indira, and asked them to get out of the panchayat office.

Lakshmi lodged a police complaint under the SC/ST Atrocities Act, alleging that she was targeted and abused particularly because of her caste. “When police came to inquire, I gave a statement how they abused Lakshmi and her caste. They claimed I was working against my own community and issued the diktat to boycott me,” Indira said.

Indira lodged a police complaint Saturday against the fine being imposed on anyone talking to her. Circle Inspector of Vemulawada Rural C Madhavi said that based on Indira’s complaint, they have registered a case against nine persons of the Reddy Sangam. “We have seized from them Rs 20,000 that they had taken as fines and deposited it in court. Three FIRs have been issued — one under the SC/ST Atrocities law, one for destroying the crop of the SC family and one lodged by Indira against the boycott diktat,” Madhavi said.

“While the law will take its course, we have issued a strong warning to the Reddy Sangam members to revoke the boycott and stop harassing the woman. We are arranging a meeting of both parties with Revenue Divisional Officer (Sircilla) to discuss and sort out the issue amicably.” The village, 4 km from Vemulawada, has about 300 members of the Reddy community and 400 of other communities.

Reddy Sangam’s president Sangireddy Tirupati Reddy says Indira deliberately gave a piece of her land that was between Reddy fields to an SC family to instigate and insult the Reddy owners of surrounding fields. “Although the one acre belongs to Indira’s family, it was in dispute for some time. To get back at two Reddy landlords, she deliberately gave it on lease to a Madiga family knowing that it would cause problems,’’ Tirupati Reddy said.

The Reddy Sangam president and vice president, Sama Malla Reddy, refused to discuss allegations about the social boycott of Indira and abuse of Lakshmi and her family. The investigating officer in the social boycott case, sub-inspector K Rajasekhar, said nine persons have been named in the FIR including the Reddy Sangam president and vice-president. “The case is under investigation and no arrests have been made yet,” he said. The SC/ST Atrocities Act case is being investigated by deputy SP A Chandrasekhar.

Telangana woman stood up for Dalit, pays price: fine on anyone who speaks to her

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