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Tsundur Dalit Massacre On 6th August, 1991 | Caste Violence

Tsundur Dalit Massacre

Tsundur Dalit Massacre On 6th August, 1991 | Caste Violence

As stated earlier, Cr.Nos. 58, 59, 60 and 61 of 1991 were registered in the Tsundur police station a few days before the massacre against a couple of Dalit youth alleging that they had attacked some Reddys and also few Reddy men for attacking Dalits. Also, Cr.Nos. 63 and 64 of 1991 were registered in the Tsundur police station against several Dalit youth on 6th August, 1991 at 11.30 a.m. alleging that they had attacked four Reddys.

Prior to that police went both to Reddys' houses and Dalit hamlet to nab the accused booked under Cr.Nos. 58, 59, 60 and 61 of 1991. Upon hearing of this, the Dalits fled into nearby fields in two directions on the southern side of the village. One group went towards the Modukuru road and another towards the Howrah-Chennai railway track. A group of about 300 Reddys and Telagas armed with sticks, iron rods, spears and axes chased them for two furlongs.

The police deposed before the Special Court that they had tried to nab the Reddys but returned to the police station as they 'failed in their attempt.' In fact, there was no conviction in their attempt and the circle inspector soon instructed the police personnel to 'go back to the village to be on bandobust duty in the village,' as a police constable stated to the court. In another deposition, PW 59, the sub inspector of police K Srinivas stated:
 "The Reddies and Telagas were chasing Harijans towards south i.e, Modukuru road on the eastern bund of new channel and we chased the Reddies and Telagas upto 2 furlongs we are unable to catch them. We brought 50 persons belonging to Reddi and Telaga persons of four villages upto Erukala colony and on the instructions of Inspector of police (CI) they were let off along with their respective weapons and they went into the Church road.."
In the attack by the Reddys and Telagas that followed, eight Dalits - Jaladi Immaniel (35), Jaladi Mattaiah (40), Mallela Subba Rao (35), Mandru Ramesh (21), Jaladi Isaac (25), Angalakuduru Rajamohan Rao (24), Sankuru Samson (28) and Devarapalli Jayaraju (29) were hacked to death.

While seven of the deceased were Malas, Angalakuduru Rajamohan Rao belonged to the Madiga community. The bodies were thrown into the Tungabhadra canal and several other canals flowing by the village. Angalakuduru Rajamohan Rao's body was stuffed in a gunny bag and thrown into the Tungabhadra canal.

Those who were injured in this ghastly attack fled to Tenali, a nearby town in Guntur district. Most of them took refuge at their relatives' houses at Itanagar in Tenali and returned to Tsundur only after a few days. Some were hospitalized in Tenali. The Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) and the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) of Tenali came to know of the attack the same evening and they sent word to the Tsundur police to search for the bodies. The police searched for the bodies on the night of August 6 itself but were unable to trace any.

The bodies began surfacing in the canals from August 7, the next day and all of them were retrieved by August 8.

Battle on the streets and in the courts

The carnage resulted in huge public outrage and protests were organized across the State, primarily spearheaded by the Dalita Mahasabha. Rights activists, left intellectuals and progressive sections joined in with calls for setting up a Special Court in Tsundur itself, speedy trial and punishment to the killers. It is instructive to note that the perpetrators of this inhuman crime were equally belligerent and hardly expressed any remorse.

They shamelessly and openly defended the carnage, formed an organization called Sarvajana Abhyudaya Porata Samiti and proceeded to organize dharnas, rasta rokos and bandhs in Guntur district. They openly rendered casteist slogans like 'long love unity of forward castes', 'we will hang Katti Padma Rao' (the leader of Dalita Mahasabha), 'those who beg every morsel should not be arrogant'. The battle was not confined to the courts. For a long time it continued on the streets as well.

The government met the demands of the agitators and constituted a Special Court in 1993 under Section 14 of the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. From day one, this move was resisted by the accused. They claimed that the Dalits were Christians and therefore the Act was not applicable in this case. As per the High Court direction in Crl.M.P. 2674/1994, the Special Court considered the issue of applicability of SC & ST (POA) Act, 1989 as a preliminary issue, recorded evidence on that question and gave a finding that the victims are indeed Dalits.

Initially in 1993, the Special Court hearings were conducted in Guntur but were later relocated to Tsundur in 2003. This move was also resisted by the accused. B. Chandrasekhar, a human rights activist and Guntur-based advocate was appointed Special Public Prosecutor and G.Sivanageswara Rao, a Tenali-based rights activist and advocate, the Assistant Public Prosecutor in this case, by the State government in 2000 under Section 15 of SC & ST (POA) Act, 1989.

In the charge sheet 219 persons were named as accused. The names of 134 persons were placed in the List of Witnesses (LWs). Charges were framed against the accused under Section 120(B), IPC for conspiracy, and Section 148, IPC for committing the offence of rioting with armed weapons, Section 302 r/w Section 149, IPC or Section 34, IPC for the murder of the eight persons, and Section 307 r/w Section 149 or Section 34, IPC for attempt to murder. Alternatively, charges were also framed under Section 3 (2) (v) of SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 as the atrocities were committed against persons belonging to Scheduled Caste.

Charges under Section 201 r/w 149, IPC and alternatively Section 3 (2) (vi) of SC & ST (POA) Act, 1989 were framed against a few accused for screening of evidence. The case was separated against 7
accused as they could not be traced. Out of the 134 LWs, 70 witnesses were examined on behalf of the prosecution. Exhibit P1 to P261 (documentary evidence) and Material Objects (MOs) 1 to 51 were brought on record.

Nine witnesses were examined on behalf of the defense and Exhibit D1 to D267 (documentary evidence) were filed on their behalf. Thirty-three accused died during the pendency of the case. The Special Court rendered the judgment in July 2007 and imposed life imprisonment and fine of Rs. 2000 on 21 accused for the offence of committing murder, one year rigorous imprisonment and fine on 35 persons for committing the offences of voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons, rioting with armed weapons or causing disappearance of evidence. The Special Court stated that as it sentenced them under the Indian Penal Code, no separate sentence needed to be passed under the SC & ST (POA) Act, 1989.

The rest of the accused persons, 123 in all, were acquitted by the Special Court.

Source- Human Right Report

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