Sunday, October 12, 2003

Police Repression on Dalit Rally

An Undeterred KVPS Marches On

M Venugopala Rao

WHEN hundreds of dalits responding to the call of the Kulavivaksha Vyatireka Porata Sangham (KVPS - which translates to 'Struggle Committee Against Caste Discrimination') marched to the state assembly on September 29 to press their long-pending demands, the Chandrababu Naidu government received them with indiscriminate lathicharge and arrests.

One of the main demands of the dalits was setting up of a state-level commission on SCs and STs - for which demand the leaders of the KVPS had undertaken an indefinite fast at Indira Park from September 25.

The dalits coming from different parts of the state gathered at Indira Park on September 29 to take out a procession to the legislative assembly to represent their demands to the government. With the police obstructing them, they held a dharna there and later went in a procession to Basheerbagh, where heavily deployed police did not permit even their delegation to go to the assembly to submit a memorandum to the chief minister. Irked by this, the rallyists tried to proceed towards the assembly. The notorious brutality of the Andhra police was in full display. They resorted to indiscriminate lathicharge and beat the rallyists black and blue, not sparing even women and children. KVPS leader Bhupal, APAWU leader B Venkat, CITU leader P Bhaskar and Pandavulu of East Godavari district were severely beaten up. When P Madhu, CPI(M) state secretariat member and G Ramulu, KVPS vice president, went there to see the injured leaders, the police did not spare even these two leaders and used lathis on them. The injured leaders were admitted in a hospital.

There was a huge outcry over the police repression on dalits. The lathicharge and arrests were strongly condemned by state leaders of KVPS, CITU, All India Lawyers Union, AP Rythu Sangham, Congress Legislature Party leader Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and CPI(M) floor leader in the assembly N Narasimhaiah. Deputy leader of CLP Dr P Sankar Rao, MLA B Venkateswarlu and CPI leader Jelli Wilson visited the camp of hunger strike and extended their support to the struggle of KVPS.

Later, a delegation comprising KVPS leaders, G Ramulu, Gangadhar and Mallesh, CPI(M) leader P Madhu and AIDWA president, S Punyavathy, met the chief minister and represented the demands of KVPS. Though the chief minister expressed his willingness to constitute the SC, ST Commission, he did not specify any time limit.

The proceedings of the assembly were stalled for nearly 40 minutes on the same day, with Dr Rajasekhara Reddy and other members of the Congress repeatedly insisting on a discussion and a statement by the government on setting up the Commission. When the speaker disallowed the adjournment motion notice given by them the House plunged into chaos. Next day, on September 30, the issue of police lathicharge on dalits was raised by the CPI(M) through an adjournment motion notice. With the speaker disallowing the same, CPI(M) members N Narasimhaiah and S Rajayya rushed to the podium and argued with the speaker. With heated arguments, the proceedings of the House were stalled for half an hour. The chief minister intervened to say that he wanted some time to appoint the SC, ST Commission.

On September 30, rasta rokos were conducted across the state and effigies of the CM burnt to protest this brutal attack on dalits. In Hyderabad, hundreds of dalits and others took out a procession and a public meeting was held at RTC cross roads, which was addressed by the CPI(M) state secretariat member, Y Venkateswara Rao.

In the early morning of September 30, a large posse of police arrested the fasting leaders of KVPS and shifted them to the Gandhi hospital where John Wesley continued his indefinite fast. Later, CPI(M) MLA, S Rajayya, Congress MLA, P Lakshmaiah, and TDP MP, Dr M Jagannadham, came to the hospital and gave lemon juice to Wesley to give up his fast, conveying that the government has agreed to the demand of the KVPS.


KVPS STRUGGLES YIELD RESULTS


Having led several struggles over the years on the issues of dalits, supported by the CPI(M) and mass organisations, KVPS could achieve some results and extract assurances from the government on certain issues. The setting up of Justice K Punnaiah Commission and following its recommendations enactment of Prohibition of Atrocities on SCs and STs Act was a result of the KVPS struggle. However, the government's failure in curbing growing attacks by upper caste people on the dalits and tribals is continuing. Though the government gave an assurance to set up 94 mini, medium and mega leather parks, no land has been acquired so far for the purpose. Though the government gave an assurance to set up SC, ST Commission two years back, and the Act came into effect from June this year, it has not initiated any action to set up the Commission. Contrary to the assurance given earlier to distribute endowment lands to dalits, the government is auctioning the same. The state government continues to fail to implement its assurance to conduct inquiry into the massacre of dalits in Chundur village and to give land and employment to the families of the victims. The KVPS has been making several demands, including distribution of 3 acres each of endowment lands to dalit families, announcing and filling up of backlog vacant posts in the government reserved for SCs and STs, implementation of Justice Punnaiah Commission's recommendations and Prohibition of Atrocities on SCs and STs Act, financial assistance to couples of inter-caste marriage and employment to either wife or husband, employment to one member in the family of a victim of rape and murder, etc.

Despite repeated requests by the KVPS on all these issues, no response is forthcoming from the government. It is against this background that the KVPS decided to conduct a 15-day campaign against caste discrimination and on all these issues. The KVPS delegations represented to leaders of various political parties and requested them to discuss the issues of dalits and STs in the assembly.

John Wesley, state secretary of KVPS, Simhachalam, Srikakulam district secretary and Venu, Warangal district committee member, began an indefinite fast from September 25 at Indira Park in Hyderabad for achieving the above-mentioned demands. Inaugurating the fast, P Ramayya, KVPS state president and CPI(M) central committee member, explained that representations were submitted to all the district collectors on the issue of discrimination against dalits, but no action has been taken by them. Though the government issued a G O directing Mandal Revenue Officers and Sub- Inspectors of Police to visit villages once in a week as a part of efforts for eradication of untouchability, the order is being observed in breach only. Ramayya told that so far 240 attacks were made on dalits this year and that not even in one case the culprits were punished. K Santa Rao, state secretary of Handloom Weavers Association, I Mysayya, state secretary of Ambedkar Youth Association, B Venkat, state secretary of A P Agricultural Workers Union, P Asayya, state secretary of Washermen Association, Chennayya, state secretary of Dailt Sena, J B Raju, BSP leader, and leaders of several mass organisations expressed their solidarity to the struggle of dalits and to the fast undertaken by the KVPS leaders. CPI(M) MLA Sunnam Rajayya, CPI(ML) New Democracy MLA Gummadi Narsayya, state president of Mala Mahanadu, P V Rao and R Sriram Naik, state general secretary of A P Girijana Sangham, visited the camp of fasting KVPS leaders and extended their support. Every day some of the leaders of mass organisations - AP Agricultural Workers Union, A P Rythu Sangham, AIDWA, SFI, DYFI, Construction Workers Union, etc - participated in the fast in solidarity. AP Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union, Beedi and Cigar Workers Union, AP Medical, Health and Vaidya Vidhana Parishath Employees Union extended their support.­

Source: People's Democracy, October 12, 2003

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