India

Indian woman 'boycotted' over support for Dalit farmer

Sama Indira

An Indian woman in the southern state of Telangana says she is being "socially ostracised" because she supported a farmer from the Dalit (formerly untouchable) community.

Sama Indira, 50, from the upper caste Reddys, says her community association has imposed a fine of 5,000 rupees ($78; £60) on anyone who talks to her.

Police said the dispute was about land she had leased to a Dalit farmer.

Caste-based discrimination continues to take place in parts of India.

The Indian caste system divides Hindus into four hierarchical groups. Those outside the caste system are considered "untouchable".

For centuries caste determined every aspect of your religious and social life, but India's constitution now bans discrimination on the basis of caste.

Members of Ms Sama's family told BBC Hindi's Imran Qureshi that the conflict is over two acres of her land that she leased to a Dalit farmer, Koppaveli Lakshmi, more than 10 years ago.

They say the trouble started when another member of the Reddy community recently purchased land close to her property and started objecting to the Dalit family passing by his piece of land to work on their plot.

The Dalit family's entire crop was destroyed a few months later, prompting Ms Koppaveli to go to the police, accompanied by Ms Sama.

"The village Reddy association wanted me to cancel the lease agreement with her, but I refused to do that because Lakshmi is a childhood friend of mine. That's why they are boycotting me," Ms Sama told BBC Hindi, adding that she was "deeply hurt" by the move.

The association members have refused to comment.

"The Reddy association members felt that Ms Sama had intentionally encouraged the farmer to complain against them," senior police officer C Madhavi told the BBC.

Police have registered three cases against nine members of the Reddy community association, including the president and vice president, under stringent laws designed to prevent caste-based discrimination.

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