On Kovind’s swearing-in day, Dalits in Andhra Pradesh kick off fast against ‘social boycott’
Families belonging to Mala community, an SC group in Andhra, have allegedly been facing social boycott for three months following a dispute over the installation of Ambedkar statue in the village.india Updated: Jul 25, 2017 11:03 IST
India gets its second Dalit president on Tuesday but for villagers in Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district, Ram Nath Kovind’s elevation to the country’s highest position brings no halt in caste-based discrimination.
Around 1,200 Dalits at Garagaparru village will go on an indefinite fast from Tuesday to protest what they call a three-month-long social boycott by dominant-caste people that has allegedly hurt their livelihood.
The families belong to the scheduled caste Mala community and say they have been boycotted since April 26 by the dominant Raju (Kshatriya) people after a dispute over installing a statue of BR Ambedkar.
“We have been barred from doing any agricultural work. We are also not allowed to work in the ponds belonging to the people from the upper caste,” G Rajesh, a Dalit youth, who has been spearheading the movement against the social boycott, said.
The families say they are angered by the paradox of a Dalit leader becoming the President as caste-based hatred continuing unabated.
“While we proudly claim to have a Dalit as President of India, unfortunately atrocities on Dalits have been on the rise. The ostracisation of Dalits in Garagaparru just for installing the statue of Ambedkar is a classic example of this caste discrimination,” observed Andre Malyadri, general secretary of Struggle Committee against Caste Discrimination that is leading the protests.
The villagers say when they informed the district administration about the boycott, they were given some rice and other provisions, but no concrete steps to resolve the situation were taken.
“Some of the Dalit farmers, who had taken lands of upper caste people on lease for cultivation, were also driven away and their leases were cancelled. Our womenfolk, who used to work in their houses, have been sacked.”
The villagers now want two acres for each Dalit family and monetary compensation of Rs 1 lakh.
“We want the land so that we can live with dignity, rather than depending on the mercy of the upper caste people,” Rajesh said.