For installing Ambedkar statue, Dalits face social boycott
When the pan-India is busy boasting of making way for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhavan as a second Dalit, the grim battle launched by 800 people from the Mala community for a little space for installing the statue of the Constitution maker Dr B R Ambedkar in the middle of the village dominated by the economically powerful Kshatriyas laid bare the country’s claims ov
Garagaparru (West Godavari Dist): When the pan-India is busy boasting of making way for NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhavan as a second Dalit, the grim battle launched by 800 people from the Mala community for a little space for installing the statue of the Constitution maker Dr B R Ambedkar in the middle of the village dominated by the economically powerful Kshatriyas laid bare the country’s claims over inclusiveness and social justice.
The attempt has triggered a social boycott, marked by economic blockade, letting all the residents of SC colonies live in isolation for the last two months.
The news of Kovind filing his papers for the President of India post on Friday brought no cheers for Basthali Prasannanjaneyulu, a Dalit graduate from Pamarru in Krishna district who came to the SC colony to express his solidarity with the colony residents.
“If someone from Dalits becomes, how it changes ground realities like the one prevailing at Garagaparru,” he said skeptically. Pathapeta and Kothapeta, as the SC colonies are called locally, are tucked away from the main village with people from 12 castes, who include Kshatriyas, BCs and Kapus.
Kothapeta came up on the other side of the Y-drain recently even as the Pathapet is existing adjacent to the main village. A bridge across the Y-drain connects the two SC colonies. A narrow lane splits the old SC colony with the palatial buildings of upper-caste Kshatriyas on the other side.
The sprawling three-acre fresh water tank with statues of the Potti Sriramulu, the man who laid down his life for formation of Andhra linguistic state, Sir Arthur Cotton, architect of delta irrigation system, jungle hero Alluri Sitarama Raju, Bobbili war hero Tandra Paparayudu and the temples of Majority Hindus such as Rama and Krishna on its bunds around remains a centre of attraction. All the statues happen to be symbols of Upper-castes.
The Dalits tried to find a place for their caste icon Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in the row along with the other statues. A group people from the SC colonies approached the village sarpanch Unnabatla Elizabeth and local Member of Territorial Constituency (MPTC) Siringula Venkata Ratnam with the plea for statue installation.
Hailing from the Mala community, both the leaders were elected to the posts on the TDP ticket under the SC quota. The sarpanch and the MPTC took up the cause with a powerful ruling party leader from the Kshatriya community who declined it. The attempts for a due place for the Ambedkar statue were allegedly viewed by upper-caste people as an assertion of Dalits to establish their identity in the village.
When the proposal was met with a strong resistance from the village satraps, Dalits installed the statue on the tanks bunds late at night on April 24 and it was removed from the place after a while by unknown persons suspected to be from the upper castes. The Upper-caste elders suggested that the statue be put up on the bunds of the Y-drain close to the SC colonies.
A large number of Dalits, including women staged a dawn-to-dusk rasta-roko on the Bhimavaram-Tadepalligudem road near the tank, resenting removal of the statue. Narsapur Sub-Collector Sumith Kumar Gandhi reportedly defended the removal of the statue on the “encroached’ tank lands belonging to the government.
“When we demanded removal of the other statues also from the tank premises by applying the same rules, the Sub-Collector left in a huff,” recalls Pirre Ravi Deva of Mala Aikya Vedika from the SC colony.
Gummapu Suryavaraprasad, president of AP Mala Maha Nadu, wondered why the SP and the Collector failed to act on the social boycott involving Malas even after the victims lodged a complaint in a local police station. He recalled that the police were in hast to foist cases against 20 Dalit protesters for staging a rasta rook protesting removal of the Ambedkar statue, saying it is a clear case of bias on the part of the administration.
West Godavari Collector Bhaskar Katamneni, when contacted by The Hans India, said it is very difficult to prove the allegations of Garagalparru Dalits over social boycott involving them. The charges are politically motivated, he said adding, “We have ordered an inquiry into the Dalits’ allegations.