Andhra Pradesh: Spate of Attacks Undermine Jagan's Promise of Social Justice

While the chief minister has claimed to head a government for the minorities and the marginalised, multiple party members have been accused of involvement in attacks on members of these communities.

Vijayawada: The woeful tale of Shaik Hazeera, an anganwadi worker at Raychoti in Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s native Kadapa district, seemingly presents the other side of his claims to head a government for the minorities.

Hazeera, a staunch supporter of Jagan’s party, had campaigned for the local MLA candidate the assembly elections of 2019. In September, a case was registered against her under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including criminal conspiracy and criminal intimidation by the local police. The case was registered soon after she circulated a video in her WhatsApp groups narrating the nightmares she was subjected to by a group of leaders from the YSR Congress Party.

The anganwadi centre where Hazeera works was set on fire a few days ago. Subsequently, her house was raided and her family members were manhandled by unknown persons. Talking to The Wire, Hazeera sees a link between the witness statement she gave to the police about a group of people attacking a youth with lethal weapons near the anganwadi centre, the arson and the raid on her house.

She suspects that the police registered the ‘false case’ against her under pressure from the agriculture market yard chairman, who she says is a close supporter of the local MLA. “At last, I had to take help from Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader Srinivasa Reddy, against whom I worked in the previous election, to receive legal aid to get the case quashed in the high court”, she explained.

The state’s deputy chief minister Amzath Basha Shaik Bepary also hails from the Kadapa district. When no one from the YSR Congress came to her rescue, Hazeera says she had to take help from a TDP leader.

 Self-immolation bid

In another disturbing case in the Kakinada district, Shaik Sattar attempted to die by self-immolation on the premises of the district collector’s office in the second week of October.

He had been seeking protection for his family from a gang which is accused of sexually assaulting his 10-year-old daughter. The police at Bommuru near Rajahmundry arrested three persons under the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act on October 10 after Sattar’s wife filed a complaint.

Later, a counter-case was booked against the victim’s family under SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act by the police, after they received a complaint from one of the accused who is from a Scheduled Castes.

Sattar’s family said they were under pressure to withdraw the complaint. He attempted to die by suicide allegedly after the district superintendent of police refused to meet him. In a petition addressing the SP, Sattar alleged that the police had booked the counter case under pressure from a local MLA of the ruling party, as one of the accused is his supporter.

Mohammed Farooq Shubli, president of the Forum for Protection of Muslims Rights, criticised the Jagan government for its mishandling of such cases. He said that while the chief minister had appointed a Muslim leader as the deputy CM and has several legislators from the community, there seems to be an apathy regarding cases of harassment and assault.

Also Read: Andhra: Police Tonsure Dalit Man for ‘Unruly Behaviour’ Towards YSR Congress Leader

Tonsure victim vows to join Naxalites

In July, a Dalit man was tonsured by the police at a station. The victim is waging a lone battle to bring the man behind the horrific incident to book. The SI and a few constables were arrested for their involvement in the incident but the police are yet to lay their hands on the local YSR Congress leader Krishnamurthy, allegedly at whose behest Indagamilli Varaprasad was tonsured by the SHO and his men.

Vexed with the alleged official apathy in his case, Prasad wrote to the President Ram Nath Kovind seeking permission to join Naxalites and avenge humiliation meted out to him by upper-caste man.

Andra Malyadri of AP Kula Vivaksha Porata Samithi, an anti-caste outfit, said that it is disturbing to note that in many cases of atrocities against Dalits since the Jagan government came to power, the police and sections of the ruling YSR Congress were the perpetrators. Giving a few examples, he said that in Chirala, a youngster from a Dalit community was beaten to death by a local SI for not wearing a mask. In Chittor district, a magistrate who is a Dalit was attacked by men allegedly close to a minister and the police were accused of being indifferent to registering a complaint from the victim, Malyadri said.

Varaprasad, president of the AP branch of the OBC Samkshema Sangham (ONC Welfare Association), said as many as 50 cases of harassment, attacks and social boycotts involving members of the OBCs have come to his notice in the recent past. He said the trend is quite alarming.

Prasad explained that by utilising reservations, backward classes have made rapid progress in literacy, employment and in the political arena over a period of time. And in the process, they began to assert themselves, which saw the upper castes, which have sway over political power, retaliate with violence.

Upsetting Jagan’s apple-cart

The YSR Congress rode to power in 2019 after forging a formidable alliance of Muslim and Christian minorities, Dalits and backward castes. In an apparent bid to tout his government’s vision of social justice, Jaganmohan Reddy in an unprecedented way appointed four deputy CMs from marginalised communities. Apart from Amjad Basha Shaik Bepari), Narayana Swamy (a Dalit), Dharmana Krishna Das (a BC leader) and Pushpa Vani (a Scheduled Tribe woman) were appointed as deputy CMs.

But social justice will not be delivered to the subaltern sections by merely appointing a few of them as ministers and deputy CMs (who do not have any powers), remarks an observer, wishing to remain anonymous.

The feudal structure of the state, which is largely agrarian, by and large remains unchanged, commented KVPS leader Malyadri. He said the political power continues to be dominated by the upper castes. The fate of weaker sections will not change without the elimination of this feudal structure, irrespective of which party is in power, Malyadri believes.

If the spate of crimes is any indication, Jagan’s rhetoric about social justice is not translating into the empowerment of the marginalised sections on the ground level, thanks to impediments in the police machinery and even within his party.