Saturday, January 06, 2018

The colony of cooks-3:The first court case 1991-94 ( continued)

The Revenue Department refused to survey the land for allotment. We had to hire a private surveyor to do this. He surveyed, made room for roads and we finally allotted about 750 square feet of land for each person. There were two other allotments. One for me in a corner where I built a Short Stay Home for women and another for Mattibandi (cart of soil) Venkaiah who helped us at cheap rates to fill up the allotted plots again with fresh earth. Meanwhile, there was fresh trouble. We heard that several politicians were making representation to our local M.P. to cancel our allotments. His name was Magunti Subbaramieddi, and we heard that he was in Tirupati making arrangements for a Congrss Party session. We hired a Commander Jeep and made a dash to Tirupati to meet him.i and Saraswati Lakshmi Kumari were in the front seat and Sesharatnamma, Vijayamma., Singaiah, Raja and others in the back seats. We met Sri Subbaramireddy. He said that he knew Babu (C.B.Naidu) well and that he would speak to him ( by that time, they were in different parties but there were family friendships). Since we could not afford to keep the Jeep for the night, we started back immediately. I was at the end of the front seat of the Jeep and I did not sleep during the previous two nights. Around midnight, Lakshmi Kumari suddenly pulled me inside. Apparently, I fell asleep and was about to fall and if Lakshmi Kuari had not pulled me inside, I would not have been here to tell you the story.
By 92-93, we somehow built our houses, many of them tin sheds, after a lots financial struggles. However, our troubles continued. The Municipality used to dump rubbish on our land. Some rowdies burnt the huts without tin roofs. Luckily the damage was contained with our collective efforts and finally by a fire engine. A complaint to the Collector took care of the dumping of rubbish. We took turns to keep vigil during the nights to protect the houses from vandals and rowdies.At one time there was a rumpor that there was price of one lakh rupees on my head and some rowdies were hired from a neighboring district to assassinate me. I was unaware of these rumours and once went home on a scooter driven by Lakshmi Kumar. She was blasted by my husband who just then heard the rumours. We had help too. Our lawyer Karavadi Raghavarao encouraged us. The local S.I. Murali Krishna used to visit us often.
At the same time,APMAS (Andhra Pradesh Mahila Abhyudaya Samiti) with Ramalakshmi Arudra, Dr. K.V.Krishna Kumari, Roudri and others encouraged us. We ( the cooks group) started participating in some of the activities like movement against excessive prices, indecent pictures,... some of the younger people started Yuva Jana Abhyudaya Samiti and it was encouraged by the elders. Lenin was supposed to have said ‘every cook must learn to rule the state’. We probably made a start on this. The women in the movement used to try to protect the colony in the night with big ladles available to them and in the day moved around the government offices with me leaving the houses in the care of their husbands. This went on until 1994.
Then we had municipal elections. Mantri Sreenivasa Rao contested on behalf of the Congress Party, Venkata Rao on behalf of TDP, me and Matte Raghava Rani as independents. Sreenivasa Rao won the election and as soon as he won, he sanctioned electricity to the Colony. We used this for organising payment of taxes. Raghavarao argued well for us in the Municipal Court and one Pushpamba proved to be an excellent witness for us. And we won the case in 1994. As soon as we won our folks went around to various goddesses to honour their previous vows, took me along and also treated me as a goddess. I tried to dissuade them from doing this since it would be very natural to treat me as a devil if I made mistakes. This caution proved to be useful in the next few years.

The colony of cooks-3: The first court case 1991-94

Below I will describe the years of struggle in Aruna’s own words transcribed by me. This is what she remembered during a few days of December, 2017 when I spent some weeks in Ongole. The dates may not be entirely accurate but she has newspaper cuttings from that period and a more accurate account can be put together at some stage. The story so far is that a swamp land near the Ongole bus station was sanctioned for cooks colony by the Revenue Department.The cooks drained the land to some extent and built a few huts on the higher ground. The Municipality went to court against the Revenue Department for sanctioning the land without their consent. The society formed by the cooks entered the case as the third party respondent with Karavadi Raghavarao arguming for them. There was a stay order since the cooks were already in possession of the land. Though the cooks were not supposed to do any thing more until the final decision was given by the court, the conditions were unlivable with only bits of higher ground in the swamp and Swampy conditions with mosquitoes all around. Back to Aruna.
The grant of valuable land in the middle of the town was not appreciated by either the political parties including leftist ones or the various wings of the government. It was around this time I shifted from Communist Party to Telugu Desai Party.The shift did not help. But some particular politicians off and on and some individuals interested in the welfare of the poor helped us as I continued to lead the cooks in establishing the colony. I will mention some of these names as I go along and might have forgotten some names, I hope to include some of the other names in a fuller account later on. Some of the early supporters I remember are Dr. A.P.Vithal, A.V.S. ( movie artist)Dr. Chavali Santikumar and various other progressives.There was a police officer, the late Murali Krishna who was S.I. at that time and became a D.S.P. later on provided us with protection. Apart from the political parties who were opposing us, there were also other establishments like the Veterinary Department,R.T.C. , Ekalavya Colony nearby who were claiming parts of the land sanctioned to us and also started encroaching on the land sanctioned to us. Then there were rowdies harassing us and we did not know at whose behest.And we did not have the minimal infrastructure to establish the colony. We decided to proceed with establishing the colony despite the limitations imposed by the judgement of maintaingn the status quo.
The first problem was to fill up the land outside the higher ground on which we established the huts. At that time we had communal meals with lanterns and candles. Finally I decided to proceed with the development of the colony and sold my gold bangles to start the proceedings. Dr. A.P. Vithal also helped with the finances. The first step was to fill up the land away from the huts. The rubbish dump to the Municipality was close to us. We spoke to the drivers of the tractors dumping the rubbish and during the next few months diverted thousands of tractors of rubbish, at the cost of twenty rupees to each load, to fill up the rest of our allotted land. The smell was unbearable but we had to stay there to make sure that the rubbish was dumped on our lot. Some of the people who stood guard to achieve this were Sesharatnamma, Saraswati Lakshmi Kumari, Sivapraxad, Rajyalakshmi, Koteswararao,Shyam and others. Once Sivaprasad was badly hurt by glass pieces while rearranging the rubbish but did not flinch. I tried to help him and I too was hurt. Then the attention of all shifted to me and after that I stopped getting in to the rubbish and just guided the others. Those were difficult times with mosquitos all around. We used smoke tablets to drive them away to some extent, bought mosquito nets and blankets for protection during the nights. Finally, we filled the dump some time during 1992. The nest job is to fill up the land with proper soil to cover the rubbish. We felt that unless we built semi-proper houses on that land, it would be difficult to keep the land. It was also necessary to make proper house allotments instead of the huts we arbitrarily built earlier. ( to be continued)