Wednesday, August 24, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Caste divide leaves the dead in the lurch

AP: Caste divide leaves the dead in the lurch
T Karnakar Reddy
Express News Service
Last Updated : 24 Aug 2011 08:44:52 AM IST

AKUNURU (KRISHNA): With the presence of a police force of 400 and a
woman's body rotting on the road awaiting its cremation, Akunuru, a
village of 4,300 people just 25 km from Vijayawada and close to
Vuyyuru, looks anything but normal.

Strange as it may seem, the reason for the unease is a colony of
people not allowing funeral processions throught their area. The issue
been flaring up off and on in the past several years but the death of
a woman on Monday brought the issue to the fore once again. When the
relatives of K Koteswaramma (80) tried to take the funeral procession
through Malapalle to the burial ground, the residents of the colony
did not allow it, as they have doing it for years, on the pretext that
their children might get scared. Koteswaramma's family members then
took the help of some Madiga Reservation Porata Samiti activists and
tried to take the funeral procession through Malapalle but police
foiled the attempt which resulted in a scuffle between MRPS members
and policemen. A 400-strong police force, including three ACPs and 10
CIs, was deployed in the village to maintain law and order. East ACP
Mohammad Khan is monitoring the situation. Meanwhile, some villagers,
in retaliation, placed tree trunks across the road to restrict the
movement of the residents of Mallapalle. Both the groups remained
admant and did not heed the appeals of police and revenue officials to
end the deadlock.

RDO Subba Rao and other officials are holding talks with the village
elders to ways of ending the impasse as Koteswaramma's body which,
kept on the road to Kunduru, started decomposing. When joint collector
Gaurav Uppal visited the village on Monday, her family members told
him that they did not want to use the alternative route to the burial
ground which is 5.4 km long. The distance through Malapalle, on the
other hand, is just 1.3 km.

Villagers belonging to other castes say it is not right on the part of
Malas to prevent funeral processions through their colony as the road
leading to the burial ground is not a private property. No solution to
the issue has been found since 2006 due to differences among villagers
who are divided on caste lines. It has become a serious issue now.

When Velagapudi Lakshmi died on August 3, her family members performed
her last rites on the road itself as the funeral procession was not
allowed to pass through Malapalle. On coming to know of the row over
funeral processions, secondary education minister Kolusu Parthasarathi
visited Akunuru to resolve the issue. He had to beat a retreat when no
Mala elder came forward to discuss the matter with him.

On August 18 a 95-year-old woman, Pothanedu Ravamma, died in the
village. When residents of Malapalle prevented her funeral procession,
Ravamma's family members cremated the body on NH-9 (Bandar Road) which
resulted in a huge traffic jam. To avoid confrontation with residents
of Malapalle, the family members of Nerusu Yedukondalu and
Ranganayakamma took their bodies to the villages of their relatives
and conducted the last rites there.


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