OTHERS

Even God is an 'outcaste' here

TANKORA, APRIL 29.

Tankora of Mahabubnagar district, a village predominantly populated by BCs and SCs, is hardly 120 km from Hyderabad. Till the other day, the most popular God in the village, Lord Hanuman, did not have a caste identity. People of all castes used to worship him; those belonging to the upper castes standing on the `mantapam' and the SCs from a distance.

But on April 5, God acquired an identity here. He is a Dalit God now. Hence, an ``outcaste''. The regular worship of the deity has stopped. No `Suprabhata seva' or other `sevas' held. The temple is locked and the mikes that used to praise him have fallen silent.

Reason: the Dalits of the village dared to enter the temple on April 5, thanks to the encouragement of the Minister for Civil Supplies, Dr. N. Janardhan Reddy, the local MLA, Mr. M. Chandrasekhar and the district administration. They had broken a coconut and thereby the tradition.

The very next day the Dalits were summoned by the village panchayat and abused. Even elders of the community were forced to touch the feet of upper caste people and seek pardon for the `crime' they committed, in addition to a fine of Rs. 5,000. That was just the beginning of ostracisation!

The village is divided now. An electrical pole works

as the border between the two communities. The Dalit boycott is evident in more ways than one. Earlier, the hotels in the area used to practise the two-glass system of serving tea - one for the Dalits and the other for the upper classes. Later, all the four hotels started using disposable glasses for Dalits. The cost of a cup of tea for Dalits was Rs. 1.50, as disposable glasses too were charged, while the others were charged only Rs.1.

But even that is banned now. No one should talk to the Dalits or even call them for work in the fields. The rancour has reached such levels that the upper castes have declared, ``Even if someone dies among us, you are not to play the traditional drums or dig pits (the former is done by the Madigas and the latter by the Malas). Anyone caught talking or interacting with the Dalits is fined Rs. 500.

There are no takers for the ration from the two Public Distribution Shops in the village as both belong to the SCs.

Chandraiah, a second-year polytechnic student says, ``It is three days since the rations are lying here. But there are no takers``. ``We can sustain ourselves with whatever little we have at home only for a few days. Even water from their wells is being denied for our cattle. Now they are talking of barring our entry through their fields,'' says a Dalit leader, Mr. Kurmaiah.

The situation is grim because there are about 600 cattle head with the Dalits. The path to the Dalits' fields, which are about two kilometers from the village, is through the fields of the upper castes.

What is worse is that the administration has failed to provide relief so far. Mr. Venkataiah remarks, ``The God has been denied his prasadam and we our food. Both of us are helpless.''

Recommended for you