Debating India


Untouchability is this man’s weapon

CH Sushil RAO

Saturday 7 February 2004, by RAO*CH Sushil

YADAGIRIGUTTA: "I am the king of 80 villages. No less," declares Dakkala Venkataiah. The villagers of Mallapuram village in Nalgonda district would rather describe him as an outcaste, untouchable.

But like him or loathe him, they cannot ignore Dakkala Venkataiah.

"Everyone else is an untouchable even to me," the 55-year-old Venkataiah insists.

The ’King’ has come back to collect his katnam or thyagam, an offering he demands and gets as a matter of right from the villagers.

"These villages are mine. My father bequeathed them to me." The villagers are not amused but they meet his demands. If they don’t, Venkataiah uses his biggest weapon against them.

The ’untouchable’ threatens to pollute them with his touch. And he begs, nay, demands his pound of flesh from the villagers but only from those belonging to the Madiga caste. "Because they have a responsibility towards me. They are the lower castes and I am lower than them," he explains.

Venkataiah belongs to what is known as the Dakkala caste and those belonging to the caste have a tradition in the villages. They beg as a matter of right and have to be given what they demand.

Venkataiah says his grandfather ’owned’ 500 villages and ’bequeathed’ them to his four children. His father got 80 villages, which have been passed on to him as he was the heir.

The Dakkalas, therefore, do not live at a particular place but move from one village to another extracting their demands from the villagers.

If they don’t, Dakkala Venkataiah blackmails them. His ’untouchability’ gives him the weapon. He will even tie a cloth to the borewell and ’pollute’ the water. So no one dares make him angry.

At Mallapuram village, Venkataiah put forth his demands - a bag of rice and Rs 2,500. "I am not leaving until they meet my demand," he says. His demands are high but his needs too are many because he has seven wives.

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The Times of India, Saturday, February 07, 2004.

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