Dalit farmer, son murdered over land in Telangana's Sircilla; incident reflects apathy marginalised farmers' face

Savanapelli Yellaiah, a 62-year-old Dalit farmer and his 20-year-old son, Sekar, were hacked to death by members of the dominant caste Mudiraj community at Kandikatkoor village of Telangana's Rajanna Sircilla district on Tuesday. This happened when Yellaiah tried to take possession of his land, following a court direction validating his claim on the land in dispute.

"This has been happening for ages. The land in question isn't even a full acre (in area) but still, it was occupied. The occupiers were able to change the official records as well. There are no safeguards in place to avoid this kind of incidents", said Sujatha Surepally, an activist/academician and principal of the University College of Arts, Social Science and Commerce, Satavahana University, Karimnagar, who is presently at Kandikatkoor.

Siricilli farmers. Image courtesy: Sujatha Surepally

Savanapelli Yellaiah's family. Image courtesy: Sujatha Surepally

Speaking to Firstpost about the incidents that led up to this murder, Ellava, Yellaiah's wife, said that their family has been facing constant threats for several months now. "My husband, Yellaiah, owned around 32 guntas of land in Survey No 540 of Kandikatkoor village of Ellanthakunt Mandal of Rajanna Sircilla district. He bought this piece of land from his elder brother. He was stopped from cultivating his land in early 2017 by Mamindla Devaiah. Devaiah is from our village, he belongs to a dominant caste, Mudiraj community."

"When we enquired, we found out that the Mandal Revenue Officer (MRO) of Ellantakuntla had removed my husband's name. We also saw that he had issued a cheque in favour of Devaiah, as per the incentive scheme of Rs 4,000 per acre for farmers announced by the K Chandrashekar Rao government. When we tried to question the MRO, we were beaten up. Since then, whenever we tried entering our land we were stopped," she added.

Following this, Yellaiah moved the High Court of Hyderabad on 14 September, 2017, against the MRO and the RDO of Sirisilla district, praying that illegal entries made in revenue records be set aside. The high court issued an order directing the MRO to handover possession to Yellaiah pending further orders.

SavanaYellaiah's son Anil said that this hardly helped matters. On the contrary, the attacks increased after this. "They were enraged that we dared to go to court against them. Devaiah dragged me out of our land while abusing me and beating me. We complained about Devaiah. Though an FIR was lodged against him under provisions of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, no investigation or follow up action was taken. We kept going to the police station but nothing happened. If the police had reprimanded Devaiah immediately, I don't think my son and husband would be dead," lamented Ellava.

Yellaiah and his family struggled to recover possession of their land even after obtaining a direction from the high court. But, with the onset of rains, the family decided to brave all odds and started cultivating their land. On 11 June, Yellaiah set off to his land along with his sons Sekar and Anil on his tractor. On reaching there, he sent Anil to the closest town to buy diesel for the tractor.

"I reached back to the lifeless bodies of my father and brother. They had deep gashes on their neck and injuries to the head. Both their faces were smeared with chilli powder," Anil said. After this, an FIR was registered against Devaiah, his wife Padma and two others under Section 302, 307 r/w Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code and Section (2)(v) of the POA Act of 1989.

When contacted, the Circle Inspector of Sircilla Rural informed Firstpost that all four accused have been arrested and an ex-gratia of Rs 9 lakh each has been announced by the district collector. He refused to comment on why no action was taken immediately after the first case of atrocity was filed against Devaiah and said he was unaware of the details.

Sujatha said that there seems to be no end to the apathy Dalit families face in the state. "When we asked the police why nothing was done about the previous complaint, we received no replies. Incidences of dominant castes occupying lands of Dalits are very high in this district but hardly any action is taken to ensure that incidents like this don't take place,"

"The chief minister, KCR, has constituted land redressal committees to resolve such disputes but in our experience, all these committees contain dominant caste individuals who end up deciding against our people. The entire system seems to be tilted against us," she added.


Updated Date: Jun 13, 2018 21:34 PM

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