Telangana gags media against reporting Adivasi-Lambada tribe conflict
With the ongoing conflict between Adivasis and Lambada tribe in northern Telangana reaching alarming proportions, Telangana government has issued a gag order prohibiting the media against publishing and transmitting any information on the developments.
In a notice served on the media channels based in Hyderabad late on Saturday night, city police commissioner VV Srinivasa Rao said transmission of information pertaining to the conflict between Adivasis and Lambadas is likely to promote disharmony, hatred, feeling of enmity and ill-will between the two communities.
Though the order did not specifically mention the print media, it said the “publication or transmission of such contents will be a cognisable and non-bailable offence under Section 505 (2) of the IPC”, and will also “tantamount to abetment under Section 108 and promotion of enmity between two different groups on grounds of caste and community under Section 153-A of the IPC,” the order said.
In further restrictions, the police have suspended internet services in Adilabad, Komaram Bheem and Nirmal districts for the past two days to “curb spreading of rumours” about clashes between the two communities. Mobile phone services, too, were suspended in tribal areas as precautionary measures, police said.
Following Fridays’ violence in Husnapur village in Kumaram Bheem district’s Utnoor block, in which Adivasis allegedly set fire to properties, attacked houses and beat up Lambadas, the state government, taking serious note of the situation, on Sunday transferred the collectors and superintendents of police of Nirmal, Adilabad and Kumaram Bheem districts, besides inspector general of North Telangana “for failing to contain the unrest”.
Director general of police (DGP) M Mahender Reddy, who made a whirlwind tour of the conflict areas on Sunday, suspected the involvement of Maoists in the incident. He warned the local authorities and people that Maoists may take advantage of the ongoing feud and try to enter the erstwhile Adilabad district, once considered their stronghold.
For the past few months, the Adivasis in the state’s northern region have been demanding the removal of Lambadas from the list of Scheduled Tribes, as they fear the nomadic tribes, who migrated from neighbouring states, were cornering government jobs available under the Scheduled Tribes quota.
The conflict is likely to cause major disturbances in the conduct of Sammakka-Saralamma fair, the biggest tribal festival in the country, held once in two years in the month of February at Medaram forests of Jayashankar Bhupalpalli district. More than a crore Adivasis from different parts of the country converge at this hamlet to worship tribal mother-daughter duo – Sammakka and Saralamma, who had lost their lives in their fight against Kakatiya kings nearly 700 years ago.
While this is essentially an Adivasi festival, the Telangana government recently included a Lambada representative in the 14-member committee to hold the festivities. This led to a large scale resentment among the Adivasis, who indulged in violent attacks last week. “If the ongoing conflict between the two groups is not resolved by then, it will have a serious impact on the festivities to be held in February,” a local official said.