142 villages bar entry of Dalits to temples in Andhra Pradesh


Complaints of continued practice of untouchability in different parts of Andhra Pradesh, criticism against inaction by the authorities and resentment over alleged diversion of funds for farmers at the cost of the weaker sections marked the 116th Ambedkar jayanti celebrations in Hyderabad on 14 April 2006. Communist Party of India - Marxist State secretary BV Raghavulu, who reached the venue in a rally on the conclusion of his 13-day long cycle rally in Ranga Reddy district, and Justice K Punnaiah, former chairman, State Scheduled Castes / Scheduled Tribes Commission, led the tirade against the State Government. Chief Minister Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy was among those garlanded Dr Ambedkar's statue. He raised the slogan "Jai Bhim" but left the place without speaking, much to the disappointment of the large gathering. Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu, Union Minister A Narendra, BJP leaders Bangaru Laxman and Bandaru Dattatreya and Balladeer Gadar also paid homage to the Dalit leader. Dalits reached the statue in a steady stream of rallies carrying portraits of Ambedkar. Addressing the gathering, Raghavulu said Scheduled Castes werebarred from entering temples in 142 out of the 152 villages he had visitedand the existence of two-glass system in 140 villages of Ranga Reddy District, Andhra Pradesh. In many villages, Scheduled Caste people did not have a graveyard or a drinking water source while kirana merchants kept them at bay while giving provisions. He criticised the Government's inaction and wanted to know why the anti-untouchability posters pasted in villages did not carry the Chief Minister`s portraits. The CPI-M leader flayed the Government for diverting all funds to farmers cutting into the welfare of SC/ST. In the absence of Government colleges in rural areas, SC children were forced to go in for self-financing courses. He suggested the setting up of a Dalit University and anti-untouchability "chaitanya yatras" by all political parties. Punnaiah said untouchability had not ended as claimed by the Government. He regretted that none of the recommendations made on this issue by his Commission was implemented. The Mandal Revenue Officers and sub-inspectors had turned into handmaids of upper castes. P Devender, member, National SC Commission, sought political empowerment of Dalits since justice was still a far cry for them.

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