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Remembering the karamchedu Dalit Massacre 17th July

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Remembering the  Karamchedu massacre 17th July.

 
Karamchedu village is located 7 km off from Chirala in Prakasam District of Andhra Pradesh State. The village was a big Panchayat with 1.6 wards. Kammas, the landlord community, lived in eight wards. Other eight wards comprised of BC, SC and ST people. Dalits resided in the 16th ward. The Kammas were very rich, arrogant and outnumbered people of other castes, and they had the last word on everything. No wonder, Karamchedu was ridden with obnoxious feudal culture.

There was no place for modern and progressive ideas in the village. The Kamma caste ruled the roost. Yadavas, Rajakas, Nayibrahmins, Upparas, Chundu nayaks, Muslims, Yerukulas, Yanadis, Malas and Madigas were living in the village. Kammas owned thousands of acres of land. They presided over and decided all village affairs. The big shots among them included the families of Daggubati, Chaganti, Yarlagadda, Perni, Manda and Puvati. The fattened Kammas routinely ill-treated, humiliated and physically assaulted workers who toiled in their houses. They were also known to murder their workers and the bodies disappeared for ever. Ten years before the Karamchedu carnage, Upperas, Backward Caste people, rebelled against the brutality of Kammas. The latter frequently raided Upperapalem and attacked Upperas.

Venkateswarlu, a Chundunayak leader, tried to organise peasants for a wage hike. Kammas barbarically assaulted him. Venkateswarlu ran away and hid himself in Madigapalle. Kammas asked the Madigas to hand over Venkateswarlu to them. Madigas rejected Kammas’ demand. They told Kammas bluntly that they would protect Venkateswarlu even at the cost of their lives. Unable to challenge the Madigas, they went back. But the Kammas from that day, nurtured hatred against Madigas. Later they attacked Malas and the Madigas rescued the Malas. That incident further enraged them. They were only waiting for a ruse to settle scores with Madigas. The Madigapalle of Karamchedu was full of self-respect. Four hundred families had the same surname. Families of Tella and Duddu were the main force of Madigas. They were all warriors and experts in karrasamu. They used to perform martial art with sticks to the rhythm of billamgodu tune. Yehoshua was the best among them. The Madigapalle was bound by a code of conduct. Elders watched over its strict adherence. Madigas were agricultural labourers. Though they depended on Kammas for their modest living, they never compromised on self-respect. They fought to the end in defence of their dignity.

Kammas flourished on all fronts all over the State. In Karamchedu, with the help of Kuppuswamy, a Justice Party leader, and Congress and Communist party leaders, they accumulated wealth and properties. Kammas, from the beginning, maintained a unique nature. Rank selfishness had always been in their blood. They worked in different parties. But they joined hands in protecting their caste interests and hegemony. They raised cotton, tobacco and other cash crops along with traditional crops. They monopolized trade, moneylending business and particularly cinema industry. The Karamchedu landlords had thus become very rich. The Telugu Desam Party, which was set up to counter Reddy politics, had its roots in Karamchedu. The village landlord, Daggubati Chenchuramaiah, was related to TDP leader N. T. Rama Rao. His son, Daggubati Venkateswara Rao, was married to NTR’s daughter. Relationship with NTR had only added to the arrogance of Karamchedu Kammas. Police and revenue officials became henchmen of Daggubati family. With that, no one could stop Kammas.

Their caste grip, muscle power and political arrogance increased. They treated other caste people as menials. They committed atrocities on helpless people. They raided houses and harassed poor women sexually. Venkatesu, a Kamma youth and son of Yerram Kanna, went to the house of Tirupataiah and Yerukula, and misbehaved with his daughter. Tirupataiah and his wife tried to stop him. Venkatesu assaulted the couple. A few Dalit youth who were watching the Kamma youth’s unruly behaviour, intervened and forcibly stopped Venkatesu from teasing Tirupataiah’s daughter. Kammas took this incident as an affront to their caste supremacy. Malas, Madigas and Yerukulas were living side by side in Karamchedu. Kammas’ kalyanamandapam (marriage hall) was located nearby.

Dalit women used the nearby bund as an open toilet. Kamma youths, particularly Lakshmaiah, son of Gotori Burraiah, llamma, grandson of Munirattaiah, Venkateswarlu (Venkatesu), son of Yerram Kanna, teased them. The Madiga youth put an end to their beastly games. Kammas were naturally peeved at the Dalit youths’ intervention. After NTR had formed Telugu Desam Party, all Kammas jumped into it. Dalits remained in the Congress Party being an eyesore for Kammas. The elections were announced. NTR’s son-in-law and Chenchuramaiah’s son Daggubati Venkateswara Rao contested for the MLA seat. Chenchuramaiah came to Madigapalle and met the elders. ‘My son is contesting. You all should vote for him,’ he said. The latter said they would have to think about it. On the election day, when polling was in progress. It was clear Dalits were voting for the Congress Party. The TDP agents obstructed Dalits, pushed them out and tried to shut the booth doors. Dalits resisted. The TDP agents and hooligans clashed with them. In the evening on the same day, about 300 Kammas surrounded Madigapalle. Undaunted, Madigas faced them. Kammas, taken aback, retreated. From then on, Kammas spit venom on the Madigas and waited for any pretext to pick up row with them.

July 16, 1985

Two Kamma youth, Potina Seenu and Rayineedu Prasad, took their buffaloes to the drinking water tank in Madigapalle. They fed the buffaloes with washings of rice in buckets. While they were washing the dirty buckets in the tank, Katti Chandraiah, a Dalit boy, objected to it. His courage angered Seenu and Prasad. They were about to beat up Chandraiah when Munnangi Suvaartha, a Madiga woman, came to the tank to collect water. She tried to protect the boy from the attack of Kamma youths. Seenu and Prasad threw hunters at her. She lifted her vessel and warded off the hunters. Suvaartha’s lifting of vessel in self-defence became a pretext for Kammas, who were itching for a fresh quarrel with Madigas after the election clash. They used the trivial occasion for a ghastly attack on Madigas. ‘A Madiga woman lifted the vessel to attack Kammas. There was no meaning for our caste domination,’ fumed Kammas. But they knew that they alone could not attack Madigas. They mobilised Kammas of seven surrounding villages, swooped on the Madigapalle on July 17th morning. They raided every Dalit’s house, drove Madigas into fields. The blood thirsty Kammas beat Madigas, stabbed them and axed them. They raped Dalit women. They became murderers and barbarians and it was no exaggeration.. They chased and hunted Madigas for over 7 km. The murder and mayhem had no parallel in the Indian subcontinent. Duddu Moshe, Duddu Ramesh, Tella Yehoshua, Tella Moshe, Tella Muthaiah and Duddu Abraham were axed to death by Kammas. In fact, eight Dalits were killed in the Kammas’ attack. Police did not show two bodies to the victims and secretly buried them.

Details of the six slain Dalits

1. DUDDU VANDANAM

Age : 35

Wife : Subbulu

Mother : Alisamma

Father : Sujnanam

Son : Samuel (10 years)

Daughters : 1) Jayalakshmi (10)

2) Punnamma (7)

3) Sunitha (4)

2. DUDDU RAMESH

Age : 22

Wife : Sulochana (18)

(Married just a year ago)

Mother : Sundaramma (dead)

Father : Yohan

3. TELLA YEHOSHUA

Age : 55

Wife : Chinnammi

Sons : 1) Kotaiah (30)

2) Adiah (24)

Daughters : 1) Padma (27)

2) Suhasini (22)

4. TELLA MOSHE

Age : 70

Wife : Veeramma

sons : 1) Kripa Rao (35)

2) Ravi (29)

Daughters : 1) Ruthumma (37)

2) Deenamma (32)

3) Rattamma (25)

5. TELLA MUTHAIAH

Age : 45

Wife : Atchimma

Sons : 1) Papaiah (25)

2) Lakshmaiah (18)

3) Prabhakar Rao (11)

4) Kishore (9)

Daughters : 1) Mariamma (16)

2) Eeramma (4)

6) DUDDU ABRAHAM

Age : 40

Wife : Ahalya

Mother : Atchamma

Father : Rattaiah

Son : 1) Srinivas (20 )

2) Venkateswarlu (10)

Daughters : 1) Padma (7)

2) Chittemma (4)

The economic and social background, which prompted the upper caste people to indulge in murder and arson, should be studied to understand the nature of the Karamchedu carnage.

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