YSRCP MLC Thota Trimurthulu sentenced for atrocity against Dalits, let off on bail

Sentenced for tonsuring Dalit men on 29 December, 1996, Trimurthulu was granted bail on Tuesday, and announced he would challenge the ruling.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Apr 16, 2024 | 4:43 PMUpdatedApr 16, 2024 | 8:16 PM

YSRCP Mandapeta MLA candidate Thota Trimurthulu (X)

Justice has finally been delivered, though after close to three decades in a Dalit atrocities case in Andhra Pradesh.

YSRCP MLC and Mandapet MLA candidate Thota Trimurthulu was sentenced by a Visakhapatnam Court on Tuesday, 16 April, to undergo imprisonment for 18 months.

The court sentenced him, and nine others to 18-month jail terms for tonsuring the heads of two Dalit youths — Koti Chinna Raju and Dandala Venkataratnam — in Venkatayapalem in Ramachandrapuram in East Godavari district on 29 December, 1996.

The provocation to tonsure their heads came when they and a few others allegedly tried to stop an attempt to rig the election of Trimurhtulu, who was contesting in the Assembly elections as an independent in 1994.

At that time the Dalit youths were working as poll agents of BSP.

Later on Tuesday, the Visakhapatnam SC/ST Special Court, which had convicted the 10 people including the MLC, also granted them bail.

Meanwhile, Trimurhtulu told reporters that he would challenge the verdict in the Andhra Pradesh High Court, claiming that he had been wrongly implicated in the case and that he had no connection to it.

Also Read: EC directs AP police to expedite probe into attack on Jagan Reddy

YSRCP on the edge over the verdict

The incident was decried by the Dalit organisations across the undivided Andhra Pradesh then as one intended to humiliate Dalit youths. The verdict was to have been delivered on 12 April but was deferred to 16 April as the judge was on leave.

YSRCP leaders have been on the edge over which way the verdict would go in view of the fast-approaching general elections in Andhra Pradesh on 13 May.

The ruling party has a lot at stake since the accused in the case, Trimurthulu, is a YSRCP MLC and is seeking election to the Assembly form Mandapet.

State police posted a posse of policemen at Daksharamam Police Station to prevent any incidents ahead of the pronouncement of the verdict.

Dalit organisations, who have been fighting for justice, staged several protests.

When Trimurthulu was taken into the legislative council, they organised a demonstration in June 2021 at the East Godavari district collector’s office seeking that he be disqualified as he was an accused in the tonsuring case.

Also Read: Seizures by EC authorities in AP, Telangana go up to ₹126 crore each

High Court criticism over delay in justice

They said that Jagan Mohan Reddy, who became the chief minister with the support of the Dalits, had turned against them by taking Tirmurthulu into the council.

The High Court of Andhra Pradesh in February this year directed the special court handling SC/ST atrocities cases in Visakhapatnam to expedite the hearing in the case.

The Daksharamam police registered an FIR in connection with the incident at Venkatayapalem, about 30 km from Kakinada, on 4 January 1997 but the case kept dragging on.

The high court expressed unhappiness over the inordinate delay in providing justice for the victims.

It also expressed annoyance over the special court for not taking the caste certificates of the victims and recording their statements.

The court said that it violated Section 311 of CrPC and the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Also Read: The missing BJP in NDA’s TDP-JSP joint campaigns raises questions in AP

Charges against Trimurthulu

The charge against Trimurthulu and others was that they had the heads of Koti Chinna Raju and Dandala Venkataratnam, tonsured.

The victims were daily-wage labourers in the state electricity department at that time. The legislators’ supporters allegedly manhandled three others as well.

Witnesses testified that the attack took place since the assailants bore a grudge against the Dalits for working for the poll agents of the BSP candidate for the election for the Ramachandrapuram Assembly seat in 1994.

Trrimurthulu was an independent candidate and he won the election. Witnesses said that the Dalit youths, working for the BSP candidates’ agents, had tried to stop Trimurthulu’s supporters from rigging the polls.

The police registered a case, but not before the Dalit organisations raised a hue and cry. They then arrested Trimuruthlu and nine others and sent them to the central prison in Rajahmundry. They were later granted bail.

Trimurthulu is a powerful Kapu leader in the Ramachandrapuram Assembly segment. After winning as an independent in 1994, he joined the TDP and won the election again in 1999.

When Chiranjeevi floated his Praja Rajyam Party, he left the TDP and joined the actor’s outfit but lost the election in 2009.

Later, after the Praja Rajyam merged with the Congress, he became a Congress leader. He was elected an MLA in a by-election in 2012 but he returned to the TDP in 2014 and won the election.

In the 2019 elections, he contested on a TDP ticket but lost to YSRCP nominee Ch Srinivasa Venugopala Krishna, now the BC welfare minister.

Later Trimurthulu joined the YSRCP and acted as in-charge for Mandapet. Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, realising the influence he wielded as a Kapu leader, sent him to the legislative council.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)