AP villages caught in caste trap
Diktat Of 'Pure Breed' Enthusiasts Run In Many Villages
Nikhila Henry | TNN
Hyderabad: Madhusudan (name changed), a Dalit teacher from Warangal
town, owns a modest residence at Siddapuram but he does not set foot
into his village. Reason: He knows for sure that he will be hacked to
death if he does so. This because he married a woman outside his caste
about four years back.
Much like the Khap panchayats of northern states that hunt down
couples who marry outside their caste, the 'village elders' of
Siddapuram had vowed to kill Madhusudan, if he was seen anywhere in
the vicinity of his village.
While the Khap threat looms large over several couples who marry
outside thier caste in northern states of the country, taking stock of
similar atrocities in the state, reveals an even more well-knit
network of 'pure breed' enthusiasts who work discreetly to maintain
the caste decorum. Centred around rural areas of the state, these
caste panchayats, peopled by members of warring caste communities,
keep tabs on youngsters, 'advice' them not to marry outside their
caste and also very often unleash violence on those who do not follow
Victims of their violence often refuse to fight back for fear of
their dear lives. Speaking to TOI, Madhusudan said that he would not
violate the rules as the memories of the violence which followed his
marriage is fresh in his mind even four years later.
"After our marriage we fled to Hyderabad fearing my wife's parents
and other members of her community. But when we heard that my parents
and siblings would be clubbed to death in our absence, my wife and I
returned to the village only to be beaten to pulp. The moment we
landed, my wife was abducted by her family and the goons beat me till
both my legs got fractured," Madhusudan said, adding that he had not
seen his wife till date after the abduction. While unwilling to marry
again, Madhusudan swears that he would not want to step into his
Ascertaining the overwhelming presence of these 'caste overlords'
in village life, another victim of such violence, Saroja, a
36-year-old Dalit woman from Kadapa district, whose father and husband
(from Kamma community), were both hacked to death following their
controversial marriage way back in 1999, said that she still fears for
her life and has moved to Nandiyal. She seldom goes back to Kadapa. "I
run a tailoring shop and have not revealed my current base to anyone
back home," she said while fighting tears.
Organisations and activists who have been fighting for civil rights
of people who marry outside their castes said that such a system has
been on in the state since decades with the latest victim being a
couple from Nizambad who were killed just two weeks back. "There are
cases that date back to the seventies. But what is alarming is that
the dictates of the 'elders' are in place even years after the
incidence of violence," said Wahid Rahman, secretary of a city based
organisation, Kula Mirmulana Samithi which aids inter-caste marriages.
He added that the couples used to survive a threat to life only by
migrating to cities. "There are instances when couples from these
villages migrate to the city for survival. But if they chose to stay
in rural areas the threat to their lives or their family members'
lives are huge," He said that he had conducted several inter caste
marriages as he himself was persecuted for marrying a woman from a
different caste and religion.
According to experts, while most cases of violence occur when an
upper caste person marries from SC,ST and BC communities, in some
stray instances marriages between two uppercaste communities could
also instigate these violence. "Violence also occurs when marriages
between Reddy, Kamma and Brahmin communities take place even though
there is not much of a caste difference," an expert said.
Meanwhile, activists said that the caste rules even displace whole
families. "Families with some means move to safer places for help. But
this again leads to segregation as members of the same castes cling
together for self defence forming easy targets for these moral gurus,"
a representative from Dalit Stree Sakti.
While the 'elders' are left untouched even by the local law and
order authorities, the victims are left to defend themselves, experts
said. "In one of the cases that occurred in Suryapet, a year ago the
police arrived at the spot a day after the ancestral house of the
groom, member of Madiga community who had married a girl from one of
the forward castes was torched. No cases were registered," Wahid
Rahman said. While 'annihilation of caste' seems to be nowhere in the
purview of even the law enforcers, the dictates of the 'elders' seem
to make the law of the land.
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