Government has to strengthen Dalits’ capabilities for independent thinking and empower them to achieve the twin objectives of economic development and social justice.

The State Government must revive the practice of conducting capacity-building classes for Dalit Panchayat presidents if it really believed in further empowerment of elected Panchayat functionaries and facilitating the under privileged to fulfil their commitments to the peoples, felt the Gowthami Foundation, working for Dalits welfare in the north coastal Andhra.

Government has to strengthen Dalits’ capabilities for independent thinking and for standing up to their oppressors. They must be empowered to achieve the twin objectives of economic development and social justice. Only education and knowledge, and proactive interventions by socio-political movements could help achieve this, said founder of Gowthami Foundation Ch. Das on the Lakshmipeta incident in which five Dalits were allegedly killed in an attack people of a higher caste on June 12. The Lakshmipeta incident was one of the frequent and brutal attacks against poor and landless Dalits. The dominant upper caste people were have been reported more intensely and frequently in North Andhra Pradesh. The dominant caste at Lakshmipeta was not willing to see the poor Dalits to till the land along with them.

Women who are easy targets in every act of violence and suppression, were not spared at Lakshmipeta too and one of the reasons for the attack on the Dalits was that the former president of the village Panchayat was a Dalit woman Chitri Simhalamma, who had never been allowed to sit in the chair during the Panchayat meetings. Recent studies by the Gowthami Foundation revealed that the Dalit Panchayat presidents were facing a lot of discrimination. Providing reservation for Dalits in the Panchayat bodies as a method to remove untouchability in due course of time had not been successful and it was also found that majority of the Panchayat presidents were ignorant of the need to fight untouchability.

He also recalled the statement made by senior advocate of High Court Bojja Tarakam and other Dalit activists that Lakshmipeta incident proved once again that enacting laws alone could not be the solution to end the power-driven caste system.

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