Dispute over distribution of lease proceeds the trigger

Three persons were killed and seven others grievously injured in a clash between two groups, both belonging to the Scheduled Castes, at Chettunnapadu, a fishermen hamlet, in the Kolleru area falling under Bhimadole mandal of West Godavari district late on Monday night.

The dead were identified as Netala Rangaraju (5), Devadasu Lalita (60) and Gontu Jaraju (50). Devadasu Chinna Babu and Devadasu Rajakumar, who sustained head injuries, were rushed to the government hospital in Guntur where their condition was stated to be critical. Five others—Batla John, Devadasu Yelaiah, Yarlapati Dasu, Devadasu Joseph and Devadasu Jalakshmi -- were admitted in the government hospital here.

A group representing the village SC Fishermen Cooperative Society allegedly attacked the rival group with sticks and iron rods on the village outskirts while the latter returning was home after attending the trial of a case in the RDO court in the city. One person died on the spot while the remaining two succumbed to injuries on their way to hospital. Eluru Range DIG Vikramsingh Mann visited the scene of offence.

Case book

According to Superintendent of Police S. Harikrishna, the dispute over distribution of the lease proceeds accruing from the fishponds in the village was the cause for the lethal attack. Police registered a case against 25 persons and are on the lookout for the accused, he added.

As per the tradition in the Kolleru villages, fish tanks built in government lands are treated as common property and proceeds generated in the form of lease from the ponds are equally distributed among the residents. The SC Fishermen Cooperative Society at Chettunnapadu has 552 members. About 200 of them have been complaining to the authorities for long that they were being deprived of their share by society leaders for the last two years.

Members of the victims’ families staged a dharna at the government hospital here, holding the alleged bias by a section of police officers responsible for the killings. A police picket was posted in the village in anticipation of trouble. Yet, the lives of three persons could not be saved. Policemen remained mute spectators even as the assailants went berserk, dragging the people of the rival group from their houses and attacking them, alleged Kothapalli Yasaiah, a resident of the village.