Telangana: Dalit sarpanch, husband assaulted at temple

A Dalit sarpanch and her husband were assaulted, allegedly by a group of upper-caste villagers, when they tried to break coconuts at a temple during a festival.

The incident occurred in Tukkuguda village of Ranga Reddy district in Telangana on August 18 but came to light on Wednesday after the couple lodged a police complaint and eight people were booked under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Two of those booked were arrested and sent to judicial custody, said police.

Katthula Pavitra was elected sarpanch in the panchayat elections in January. As per tradition in Tukkuguda, the sarpanch makes the first offering of fruits and coconuts to the deity during Bonalu, celebrated across Telangana.

On August 18, Pavitra and her husband reached the temple to offer their tribute. According to the complaint lodged by K Kumar, Pavitra’s husband, 10 people from the Reddy community objected to their presence at the temple and prevented them from breaking coconuts.

“When we protested, they beat me up and also attacked my wife. They abused us. My wife had every right to inaugurate the festival as is the tradition, but they did not allow it. We were thrown out of the temple,” Kumar said in his complaint.

Inspector P Guruva Reddy of Ibrahimpatnam Police Station, where the case was registered, said two people of the eight named in the complaint have been arrested. “These eight people from the Reddy community manhandled the Dalit couple and prevented them from making offerings at the village temple. Two have been arrested, six are absconding,” Reddy said.

Katthula Pavitra was elected as sarpanch early this year after the seat was reserved for SC/ST women. The incident has vitiated the atmosphere in Tukkuguda having a population of about 8,000 with an equal number of SC/ST and forward caste population.

“Even though Dalits especially women are encouraged and given opportunity in politics and governance, we are still discriminated against and treated like this. Without considering that she was the village sarpanch and also a woman they gave choicest abuses. Due to our caste, we were prevented from offering coconuts in front of the deity,” Kumar said.