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Dalit denied last rites

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 2.01.11
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Hyderabad, Jan. 1: A 65-year-old Dalit farmer was denied last rites in Andhra Pradesh because the upper castes refused to allow him to be cremated in the village and let his body rot at home for two days.

Potla Ganganna, who died around 11am on Thursday, was buried on government land outside the village tonight. His body was too decomposed to be cremated.

Ganganna’s relatives had been turned away from the cremation ground by the upper castes in Basampalli village in Anantpur, 415km from Hyderabad, and told to find another resting place for the farmer. The family who belong to the Namdhari sect of Dalits returned home with the body.

The Mandal Revenue Officer, Mehabub Peera, suggested an alternative site but the Modikallu Dalits — a higher sect than the Namdharis — objected because it was close to their homes.

“We will not allow a Namdhari burial near our homes,” said Nagappa, head of the Modikallu sect, which is dominant among the Dalits in the village.

The Namdhari last rites include the ringing of bells and beating of drums and are considered a bad omen by the superstitious.

The 15 Namdhari Dalit families in the village clashed with the others for stopping the cremation.

Revenue officer Peera rushed to the spot this morning amid reports of tension and the health hazard caused by the decomposed body.

Police forces also reached Basampalli and the revenue department held discussions with both sides to sort out the problem. But Ganganna could not find a resting place in his village.

“Untouchability” has always been practised in the village that has a population of around 3,000, Dalit elders in Basampalli said. Around 40 Dalit families live in the village.