Martyrs in the History of Christianity by Franklyn J. Balasundaram (ed.)
Rev. Dr. Franklyn J. Balasundaram was Professor in the Department of the History of Christianity , United Theological College, Bangalore, India. Published by the Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Delhi, India 1997, for The United Theological College. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
Chapter 14 The Martyrs of Karamchedu and Tsunduru, by K.L. Richardson
Traditionally, the Reddys and Kammas are the two high caste communities in Andhra Pradesh who have been enjoying the supremacy in the societal order. Particularly in the village life, their authority is final. The oppressive character of theirs is unique in terms of socio-economic, religio-cultural and political spheres of dalit life, we can see the oppressive strategies of these communities in the last fifteen years to counter the progress and transformation of the scheduled caste, now commonly called dalits.
According to 1991 census, the total population of A.P. is 66.3 million. The caste composition in A.P. is as follows:
Let us examine the two historic atrocities on Dalits that took place in Karamchedu and Tsunduru in 1985 and 1991 respectively.
KARAMCHEDU, JULY 17, 1985
Karamchedu village has its own significance right from the time of British Raj because of its zamindars and other influential personalities. In later days, it became one of the dominant forces in the economic and political fields of the state with the emergence of neo-rich due to trade benefits. The hegemonic process is well established by controlling not only the local society but various sectors like educational institutions and industrial firms etc. The kamma community is about 8,000 out of the total village population of 11,000. Madiga children were made child labor. So, illiteracy rate is high. The ĎPaleruí system, i.e. understanding between the landlords and the dalit on work and wage, exists. This means the madiga has to work for his master for few hours morning and evening other than his routine daily labor. No dalit is allowed to sit in the local hotel or even at the side seat of a high Caste man traveling in state or private bus. The two sub-castes (dalits) madigas and malas are around 1,000. The denominational attachment of madigas is to Baptist and R.C.M churches whereas the malas are with the Lutheran church. Both of them have cordial relation. The neighboring town Chirala is having numerous strength of mala where the kammas have to go daily on their educational and commercial enterprises. Traditionally, dalits are strong supporters of congress and communism whereas the kammas are non-congress.
The event took place on July 17, 1985 morning at 7 a.m. The genuine reason is a protest claimed by dalits when a high caste man washed his animal in the madiga tank where whole village use to drink the same water during water crisis. High castes did not tolerate the growing awareness among the dalits. Various reasons are there for this new awareness building. For example the mass media programs on hygiene, adult education programs and dalit upliftment schemes from Indira Gandhi times, etc. The martyrs of Karamchedu are:
Duddu China Vandanam
It is interesting to note that the response came from various sections of the people in and around Karamchedu and Chirala. The malas in the village helped the madigas by giving secret shelter. The role played by the Lutheran Church in Chirala is commendable. Dalit leaders Katti Padama Rao and Bojja Tarakam had mobilized the masses to protest against this evil. Above all, Mr. Mukiri Samson, an activitist, played an important role till the courtís final Judgment on 31.9.1994. Ambedkar Youth association is not active since majority of madigas and malas are associated with their respective churches. 800 members were rehabilitated in Chirala with pucca houses by the government. Self employment schemes were introduced for their new life.
The simple exercise of the worth of the caste people on the dalits in the form of breaking Indira Gandhi and Jesus Christ. Photos in one of the victims house, clearly shows that the symbolic political identity and socio-ethnic identity of dalits is not good in the eyes of high castes. In the whole movement we can see the value of human expression in Christian faith. Further, Mr. Samsonís few recommendations were taken into consideration into Justice Desaiís commission and later S.C/S.T. Act in 1989. Therefore, it is very clear that Christian church-oriented movement succeeded in its fight against oppression with its clear positivism. Now S.C/ S.T Act of 1989 benefits the rights of dalits in 5 lakh villages in India.
Tsunduru is a panchayat mandal in Guntur district consisting of 3,500 malas. Major group is Reddys. Malas are educated and well employed mostly in Indian Railways. Self-dignity and identity are there in Malasí life-style which is not foimd to be good in the eyes of the Reddy community.
The brutal killing of dalits by Reddys took place on August 6, 1991. The dalits, who were killed, were most of them young men. These young men were chased from place to place, were wounded and were beaten up with cycle chains and iron rods and were kicked to death in broad day light. They became, thus, victims of an inhuman society, a society which believes in caste stratification which is worse than racism. Dalits who ran away from the village were accommodated in the Salvation Army Church at Ithanagaram and Tenali because of its accessibility to all for meeting, accommodating and protecting. Lutherans in Tenali town and surrounding places had come forward and helped in various ways:
The following were the Martyrs of Tsunduru:
Mandru Ramesh -21 yr. Studied BA. Unemployed
Angalakuduru Rajamohan -22 yr. Ag. Laborer
Jaladi Mattaiah -42 yr. Married. Ag. Laborer
Jaladi Immanuel -45 yr. Married. Ag. Laborer
Devarapalli Jayaraj -28 yr. Married. Attender in Gov. Office
Mallela Subba Rao -35 yr. Married. Ag. Laborer
Sunhuru Samson -30 yr. Married. Ag. Laborer
Jaladi Issaku -30 yr. Married. Ag. Laborer
Kommerla Anil Kumar -25 yr. BA. (Shot dead in police firing)
Later, state government provided them with good housing programs, employment and distribution of land to each family. Residential high school is established in the colony Special court is also established in Tsunduru itself.
Ambedkar youth association is active in spite of local Christian church influence. Emergence of youth leadership led to mobilize the masses against the evils of the society. Education and self-reliance are the two predominant characters or forces of the movement.
Comparison of Karamchedu and Tsunduru
In Karamchedu the oppressors are Kammas who are politically affiliated to Telugu Desam Party a regional party. Madigas are illiterates and traditional vote bank for Congress. But the growing awareness of sell expression of human values among madigas is the main cause for the suppression. But politically the Reddys and Malas in Tsunduru are generally for Congress. The literacy rate and the economic development of dalits are the reasons for the suppression. The critical observation of these two events clearly vindicated that the movements led by the dalits are successful only when it is organized and controlled by the Christian church. For example, until the victims are transferred to Guntur Mangalamandiram which is wholly controlled the church itself, there were negative thoughts in the minds of the police and revenue officials with regard to the movement. When church became the symbol of protection and liberation, some people in Chirala tried to veil the face of the church building with big shopping complex buildings. That was strongly protested by the local church youth and succeeded in stopping the game-plan of the oppressors.
* The Rev. L. K. Richardson had worked as AELC pastor at Tsunduru before he joined Bishopís College, Calcutta, were he taught History of Christianity. Now he is working as a student pastor in Guntur. This write-up was attempted by him after he conducted an extensive field research.