FROM THE EDITOR
DALITS IN THE MEDIA
THE PRESS ROOM
In AP's untouchable village Dalits
Still Thirst for Reform
Indian Express (Front Page), Express News Service
Friday, March 26, 1999
ANAKAPALLE, MARCH 25: When the world
is all set to enter the next millennium, the Dalits of Pallapu Kumarapuram
in Munagapaka mandal in Visakhapatnam district have to stand away from
the village well for someone to draw water
and pour into their pitchers, so that they do not `pollute' the water
in the well by their touch.
Even at the village's lone small restaurant, the Dalits cannot step in
to have a snack in the stainless steel plates in which the upper castes
are served. That will invite the wrath of the upper castes for their audacity.
They will have to hold leaf platters in their hands and ask the server
at the restaurant to
drop the snacks into them, like beggars. If they need a drink of water
to wash the food down at the restaurant, they have to proffer the glasses
brought with them and the attendant will fill them. They are barred from
using the hotel glasses.
The village restaurant is run by a woman of upper caste. "She is
a kind woman. But she is afraid of crossing the line drawn by her castepeople,''
says Nukaraju, himself a Dalit.
The village has a population of 400 people. Of them, 12 families belong
to Scheduled Castes. There is only one well for the entire village. The
rest of the population belongs to an upper caste whose members loathe
the very sight of the Dalits.
The dozen Dalit families have to wait outside the houses of upper caste
families until they come out, draw water from the well and pour into the
`untouchable' containers. If the upper caste people are busy, the Dalits
have to wait until they are free and ready to be generous to them.
Even this facility had been denied to them for sometime when the Dalits
gathered courage and questioned the sarpanch as to why they could not
draw water from the well. The upper castes then decided to offer them
a concession -- the upper castes would first draw water and fill their
containers at home
and only after that would they draw water for the Dalits' needs.
Even when it comes to washing clothes, there is untouchability. The uppercaste
families wash their clothes at one of the two tanks in the village which
was intended to serve the needs of the Dalits. Only after they finish
washing, are the Dalits allowed to use the tank water for washing their
clothes. The other tank nearby, the upper caste considers as its own and
does not allow washing there by the Dalits.
Though the Dalit youths resent the apartheid, their parents restrain them
from protesting. "If we try to do anything to end the discrimination,
our parents and grandparents shout at us as they do not want to annoy
the upper caste,'' says
Appalaraju, who is doing a course in industrial training.
As the Dalits swallow their self-respect and stay meek before the upper
caste, this heinous practice does not seem to have caught the eye of the
district administration. Which century is this village entering?
Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.