Take land, Take life: Castevirus 001AP2010
It was a 20-year-old dispute over a piece of land, not ‘banamati’ (black magic), that led to the macabre killing of Guddeti Yellaiah in this nondescript hamlet of 750 people in Choutuppal mandal. Menfolk of upper castes who bore a grudge against the 74-year-old man for long plotted the sinister killing of Yellaiah down to the last detail and pushed (read tutored) the women to take the blame even as they escaped. Contrary to the claims that women had led the frenzied mob, it was a mob of 40 men who executed the murderous revenge on Wednesday. Twenty-eight of them have already been identified by police. Curiously, cases were slapped against 62 women. Yellaiah was a Dalit whose plot was sandwiched between the plots owned by two upper caste persons. The frail old man had been refusing to part with his land and the village heads avenged his defiance by eliminating him along with another villager, Chiliveru Narsimhaiah, 68. “It was a conspiracy by the powerful village lobby of upper caste to get rid of my brother,” a cousin Jonnaganti Balamani, who works in a milk chillingcentre in nearby Malkapuram village, said. When TOI visited the village on Thursday, locks hung on almost every door and most of the houses which were locked belonged to the accused. While Yellaiah’s old widow Oochamma was being helped to stand on her weak legs by her relatives, an Anganwadi teacher Bandameedi Shamanta revealed that the upper caste men wanted to usurp Yellaiah’s land. “They even eyed a small 120 square yards of land close to the village pond,” she said. The victim was a watchman in a cement pipes factory on a salary of Rs 1,500 and used to make some more money by working in a stone crushing unit.
Seven years ago, Yellaiah was beaten up on the charges of sorcery. “He was threatened and forced to accept the charges as we looked on helplessly. His eyesight was poor. He could not walk properly,” a teary-eyed Lingaswamy, Yellaiah’s nephew, recalled. Yellaiah left the village for a few years and came back once the issue died down. For the record, the village is dominated by Reddys, Gouds, Yadavs and SCs. Most of them own lorries, while the Dalits work as farm labourers. Narsimhaiah, on the other hand, was an old man whose only fault was to place a small piece of turmeric cloth and two lemons near Pochamma temple, a practice which is common in all Kali temples. Some villagers however began to spread rumours that Narsimhaiah was responsible for the deaths of a youth and a young woman in the last two months. Police officials however told TOI that 24-year-old K Muthyam, a photographer, died when he dashed his motorbike into a road divider at Mylaram village in an inebriated condition on Aug 10. “Velama Pavani, 21, hanged herself and left a suicide note blaming her aunt for forcing her into a marriage,” Choutuppal CI M Tirupatanna said. Narsimhaiah had a herd of eight goats and used to mind his own business. On Wednesday, he was dragged away from a hillock as he was tending to his goats and similarly forced by the village heads to ‘confess’ that Yellaiah and he had indulged in sorcery. He was beaten up mercilessly. His head was smashed with a boulder. “The village elders led by Gopu Ilaiah and Manne Lakshma Reddy had conspired to kill my husband and Yellaiah for no fault of theirs,” shouted Yadamma, sitting in her two-room tin-roofed tenement. Both Yellaiah and Narsimhaiah were thrown on a woodenpyre in the graveyard close to the tile-roofed houses and set afire by the mob. “The barbaric drama started around 10 am and by12.30 pm, they were burnt to death,” a toddy-tapper Bandigadi Jangaiah, whose name figured in the accused list, said. “The accused flung two worn-out lorry tyres to ensure that the bodies were burnt beyond recognition,” a Clues team expert said. When police reached around 2 pm, their bodies were reduced to ashes.
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