Name : Balamma
Ballaram Balamma is a Sangham member. She has a daughter called Ballaram Ratnamma. Ratnamma studied upto the 10th class, and discontinued education at age 18. The family thought she was old enough to get married, so they went about looking for a suitable boy. They decided upon a boy called Vijay from Peepadpally village, and got Ratnamma married to him. Since she was the only daughter to Balamma, the mother gave away in dowry, a sum of Rs.10,000, one acre land, 2 tulas (20 grams) gold, and bore all the expenses on the marriage. She hoped that her daughter would be happy in her new home. The couple stayed in the groom's village for two years. Subsequently, Vijay, along with his wife, shifted to Hyderabad because he was granted a piece of land by the government. Two years later, Balamma's grandfather died, and she asked her daughter and son-in-law to come for the funeral. However, Ratnamma came alone. When the funeral rituals were over, Balamma asked about her daughter's welfare. Ratnamma began to cry and told her mother that her husband had been staying all alone in a hostel and that he had deserted her. The past two years were painful, she said, because Vijay had not so much as touched her! The daughter's story anguished the mother's heart. But, in this hour of suffering, she had no one to turn to except the Sangham. "I unburdened my heart before the Sangham. Everyone was touched by the sad fate of my daughter. It was then decided that I should go, along with some Sangham members, to meet Vijay at Hyderabad. Poolamma, Swaroopa, Balamma and Kishtappa, the husband of one of the Sangham members, agreed to accompany me. Not only this, the Sangham also said that it would bear the travel expenses. I don't know how miserable I would have been if my Sangham sisters hadn't come to my rescue. Anyway, our group went to Hyderabad along with Ratnamma. Vijay, however, refused to see us. He let us know that he had nothing to say in the matter, and that if we wished to talk, his mother would do the hearing. We were heart-broken, but we didn't keep quiet. We returned to our place and lodged a police complaint against Vijay at the Zaheerabad Police Station. The Aaminsab summoned Vijay and his family to report at the police station. At first, Vijay tried to deny the charges. But the Aaminsab (court employee) was firm with him, and told him sternly that if he was not prepared to have his wife back, then he must give her the divorce, and return everything that was given to him in dowry. When Vijay's family saw that it could not escape, it offered to accept all the terms. Fifteen days later, the divorce papers came, duly stamped. And the dowry amount too! Now, Ratnamma is married to Moghliah, a building contractor, and I am very happy for my daughter. All this has been possible because of the Sangham sisters. Otherwise, we would have gone to the panchayats or patels (village governing body), who would have taken money from us, and spend it on toddy. I am sure that they wouldn't have helped us. Even the courts would have taken their own sweet time. Fortunately, we have this Sangham, and it is only because of our unity as women that we could force the issue. Yes, the Sangham has shown us the way to fight!"
Name : Mingolla Mogulamma
Sixteen years ago, the Sangham took roots in our village. And since then, it has opened a window on the world for us. Earlier, the village, like most ones in our country, was riddled with unjust social practices like 'untouchability'. Even now, it is not as if it has been totally removed. It keeps raising its ugly head off and on. Last year, for example, it came back to haunt us. During 'Dassara', an important festival for the Hindus, a ritual is performed in our village, which is associated with the Dalits. The ritual is called, "palukalu nimputharu" or "gattuku kuchunda bettadam," in which only dalilts, and specially members of the Madiga community prepare and partake of the "Nyvedhyam." This is a compulsory ritual for the Madigas, the worst-hit community among the Dalits, so it is called " Madigatanam."
The Madigas go from house to house in a set sequence, and complete
the ritual. So, I was doing the same, when a person from the Golla community
came to me and said that I should skip some houses and do the ritual
in his house first, because his grandfather or some old person in his
family, was on the death-bed. And if he died before the ritual could
be completed, then it wouldn't augur well for the family. But, I was
too tied up to help him. He got mad at me, and rushing towards me in
a fury, he got hold of my hair, pulled it, and started beating me up.
He screamed at me, called me names, and badmouthed my caste. He continued
to beat me; I was bleeding while the villagers watched the scene without
any one raising a hand in my defense. The Dalit community had been dealt
a severe blow, so my people took a serious note of it. And so did the
Sangham members. They lodged a police complaint. The police came, made
an enquiry, and took the Golla guy to the police station. He apologized,
and made amends by paying me Rs. 2000/-, plus bus fares and health charges.
The Sangham members and my relatives brought the situation under control.
We could not have offered any resistance to the high-handed behavior
of the upper caste people if the Sangham had not opened our eyes to
our rights as human beings! .