Were humiliated allegedly by MLA and family; public prosecutor withdrawn in September last

VENKATAYAPALEM (East Godavari Dt.): Two Dalits from this tiny village, located about 30 km from the district headquarters, have been on an indefinite fast for the last four days demanding government support to end a legal battle in a case of alleged atrocities.

Twenty years ago, the two were among the five persons who were allegedly subjected to brutal harassment. Two of them were reportedly tonsured forcibly by an MLA over a petty issue.

Even as legal proceedings were coming to a close in the Special Court, the government ordered withdrawal of the public prosecutor from the case in September last, prompting the alleged victims to stage protests afresh.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s statue here turned into the venue where 43-year-old Challapudi Pattabhi Ramaiah and 46-year-old Koti Chinna Raju sat on fast, while residences of the accused – located a few yards away – were buzzing with New Year celebrations.

“We, three Dalit youths, worked for the Bahujan Samaj Party as polling agents in the 1994 general elections, which irked Tota Trimurthulu, who was in the contest as an independent and subsequently won the Ramachandrapuram Assembly seat,” Mr. Ramaiah recalled during a conversation with The Hindu on Sunday. “With the help of the police, the MLA fabricated a theft case against us and two others to settle scores. After several dramatic twists and turns, he and his family members had beaten us severely and tonsured Chinna Raju and Dadala Venkata Ratnam in his backyard on the night of December 29, 1996.”

Recollecting that frightful night, Mr. Chinna Raju narrated the experience of getting tonsured in front of the villagers. “I still remember Mr. Trimurthulu saying ‘I have my own law here,’ and never forget that shameful experience,” he lamented.

First trial in 1997

A vernacular daily published the incident prominently, prompting the government machinery to swing into action. Cases were registered against the MLA and nine others under the provisions of SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Human rights and civil liberties organisations backed the victims and the first trial had commenced in 1997.

“Three days before the scheduled commencement of the fresh trial, the State government withdrew the public prosecutor from the case on September 23, 2016. It is nothing but supporting the accused,” said Mr. Ramaiah, who had done his LLB from Andhra University and was making attempts to enter government service.

Mr. Chinna Raju was working with a local private firm, while Mr. Venkata Ratnam joined as a police constable. The two other victims Kanikella Ganapathi and Puvvala Venkata Ramana were eking out livelihood as agriculture labourers.

“When the issue came to light first, we were promised housing, agriculture lands and employment. But nothing has happened so far,” Mr. Chinna Raju pointed out. One accused and 13 of the 24 witnesses passed away in the last 20 years and the prime accused was elected again as MLA of the ruling Telugu Desam Party. “We are confident that the court will render justice to us once the fresh trial commences,” Mr. Ramaiah concluded.http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/Two-Dalits-on-indefinite-fast-seek-justice/article16974323.ece