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Neerukonda Massacre is a massacre that happened in Andhra Pradesh. It happened in July 1987, in Neerukonda village in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, India. It involved Kammas attacking Malas, the Malas being a dalit caste.
Neerukonda was a Kamma-caste dominated village, both in terms of population and land ownership. With about 200 families, the Kammas were the biggest caste in the village, followed by the Malas whose households numbered around 150. Besides these two big communities there were 40 Golla families.
Neerukonda was a dry rain-fed village. Most of the land in the village belonged to the Kammas, with half a dozen big landlords owning 50 to 100 acres. Due to the local conditions, the peasants there had long cultivated tobacco and, to a lesser extent, paddy. The bulk of agrarian laborers there were members of the Mala community. They worked for low wages in the tobacco and paddy fields for the Kamma peasantry. The prevailing wages for the grading of tobacco at the time were around Rs.7 and Rs. 5-8 per day for weeding and transplanting, while the minimum wage fixed for Zone I agricultural regions such as Guntur was Rs. 13 per day (Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee, 1987).
Even these lower-than-minimum wages were reportedly not paid promptly. This forced agricultural laborers to borrow money from landlords at high rates of interest. A high prevalence of indebtedness among agricultural laborers was noted precisely on this count.
The deeper causes of the Kammas’ disgruntlement in Neerukonda were the laboring Mala’s acts of assertion. For instance, they set up their own candidate in the 1981 local elections and showed that they were disinclined to follow the Kammas’ political direction. This was seen as a case of lower caste disloyalty, which the Kammas were not traditionally accustomed to.
The crucial event that decisively strained relations between the landowning Kammas and the laboring Dalits, were the 1983 Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections. As usual, the traditionally Indian National Congress-supporting Dalits showed their preference for the Congress, while the Kammas overwhelmingly sided with the Telugu Desam Party. The Kammas interpreted the Mala refusal to vote for the TDP, as they had been ordered, as a challenge to their political authority.
The TDP won in the Neerukonda constituency (and the majority in the state assembly), and the local Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) was made a minister in the new government. The local Kammas, especially the youth, took great pride in their victory.
As it happened
Armed with axes, spears and sticks, hundreds of Kamma youths attacked the Malas on 15 July 1987. After the carnage, fearing the overwhelming presence of the Kammas and their violence, the Malas moved to Mangalagiri and have lived in a there ever since.
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