HYDERABAD: The little weaving town of Sircilla in Telangana has become the latest battleground of Dalit politics with the Congress and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) squaring up to prove their credentials to represent this important vote bank.
Tension in the textile town on the banks of the Manair river has peaked with the Congress bent upon holding a public meeting in Sircilla this evening to protest alleged police torture of eight Dalit youngsters after they reportedly set fire to two sand-laden lorries. The police are equally determined not to allow it.
For the Congress, it is another opportunity to resuscitate itself from a moribund state in Telangana and win back its erstwhile vote bank. For the TRS, the town is represented in the Assembly by K T Rama Rao, son of chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, and therefore a prestigious theatre to defend its Dalitworthiness.
The Congress high command has deputed Meira Kumar, fresh from her defeat in the presidential election, to lead the protest.
Knowing the Congress political strategy, the TRS government has refused to allow the meeting, citing the possibility of law and order problems.
The local police have invoked Section 30 of the Police Act in Sircilla to ban any meetings, rallies and processions. They are leaving no stone unturned to foil the meeting. They have set up barricades on all roads leading to Sircilla to detain Congress leaders trying to sneak into town.
Challenging the government's denial of permission for their meeting, the Congress has moved a house motion petition in the Hyderabad High Court seeking permission for its protest. The court is likely to give its verdict by evening.
On the other hand, senior Congress leaders including Meira Kumar are already camping at Karimnagar, close to Sircilla. A huge contingent of police and plainclothesmen have been deployed around Maitri Hotel in Karimnagar where Meira Kumar and other leaders are staying.
Congress leaders are waiting for the High Court's verdict on their plea. But even if the court rejects their plea, Congress leaders are firm on holding the meet at Sircilla.
According to Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee chief chief N Uttam Kumar Reddy, illegal movement of sand carrying lorries in Nerella, Jillela and other villages in rural Sircilla has caused several accidents and deaths in the recent past. When the villagers of Nerella and Jillela protested against the death of a tribal man in a road accident a few days ago, they were detained by the police.
"They were kept in illegal detention for five days and tortured. And they were threatened that their women would be booked in prostitution cases if they reveal anything about torture," Uttam Kumar said. Alleging that close relatives of K T Rama Rao are involved in illegal mining of sand, Uttam said the Congress was holding the public meeting to expose the nexus between the TRS leadership and the sand mafia.