According to the police, the two groups have a long-standing rivalry.

A clash between two groups from the Dalit community resulted in the death of a woman in Velagapudi in Andhra Pradesh’s Amaravati on Sunday. According to reports by the regional media, the clash allegedly took place over setting up a Christmas star in the locality. According to the Guntur Rural district Superintendent of Police (SP), one group wanted to set up a Christmas star in the area, while the other group opposed it as they believed it would ruin the newly-constructed road.

The clash escalated to stone-pelting from both the groups on Sunday night. Mariayamma, a woman who was at the scene, received head injuries from the pelting and succumbed on the same night while undergoing treatment at the Thullur government hospital. According to the police, besides the issue of the Christmas star, the two groups have a long-standing rivalry.

The heated atmosphere in the village was prevalent even on Monday evening when Mariayamma’s family staged a dharna (sit-in) and demanded the arrest of the persons responsible for her death.

Residents in the area have also accused a Member of Parliament (MP) from the ruling YSRCP for backing the people involved in the “attack” on Mariayamma.

According to senior police officers who are overseeing the situation on the ground, a few people who were injured during the clash are recovering.

Vishal Gunni, Guntur Rural district Superintendent of Police (SP), said that the clash had no communal angle to it as both groups are from a Scheduled Castes (SC) community.

Speaking to TNM, SP Gunni said, “There was some scuffle between two groups and during the stone-pelting, a stone hit the woman (who later died). People sat on a dharna on Monday as they wanted the accused to be booked. An FIR has been registered and an investigation is underway under the leadership of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) rank officer.”

He added, “The installation of the Christmas star was not the sole reason but one of the flash points; initially the scuffle started because of that.”

According to the SP, as many as 36 persons have been booked in relation to the incident for rioting. They have been booked under section 301 (murder) and other relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). 

The SP stated that the condition in the village is now peaceful and normal, and a police picket was set up to ensure the law and order. 

State Home Minister M Sucharita, Baptla MP Nandigama Suresh, MLAs Vundavvali Sridevi and Nagarjuna and MLC Manikya Varaprasad visited the village and Mariayamma’s family. Home Minister Sucharita urged people to stay united and calm while calling the incident “unfortunate”. She has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh for the deceased family from the Andhra Pradesh government.

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