JUSTICE DENIED

Written by KG Kannabiran | Published on: December 1, 2003
For the past twelve years justice has been denied in the brutal case of the daylight massacre of eight Dalits in Tsundur village of Guntur district, AP, revealing yet another blot in our system’s ability to deal with mass crimes condoned by caste, gender and community-driven biases


Background
We recall the mayhem carried on in broad daylight in which eight Dalits were
brutally hacked to death in the Tsundur village of Guntur on August 6, 1991, and their dead bodies packed in gunny bags and thrown in nearby drain canals. There was much uproar and Dalits and Dalit democratic rights organisations agitated over the issue.
In this sensational case, the police ultimately charge-sheeted 219 persons (28 are no more) belonging mostly to the Reddy community under the SC&ST (Prevention of Atrocities ACT) and sec. 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of IPC etc. by the end of the year. The prosecution proposed to examine 135 witnesses. However, the case has dragged on for the last 12 years due to the apathy of successive state governments compounded by the delay tactics of the accused in this massacre, which has no parallel in the recent history of Andhra Pradesh (AP).

Delay till July 2003
For two years the case could not reach the spl. sessions court under the SC&ST (PA) Act, Guntur, as eight accused had not been arrested by the police. Later, the case against the absconding accused was separated and the case of the remaining accused (about 200) was committed to the spl. court in 1993. In 1994, the case reached a stalemate as the accused raised an objection that the victims belonged to the Christian faith and hence there could be no charge under the SC & ST (PA) Act. The matter was then taken to the AP high court by the accused after the spl. judge held that the victims were Hindus. Later, a trial date was fixed for October 1994 but the government took no steps to ensure that it was held in Tsundur village as promised to the victims even though a school building in the village was remodelled and furnished with a budget of about Rs. 4 lakh to hold camp court. So, renewing their demand for the trial to be held in their village, Dalit witnesses in the case had refused to receive summons. Later, the judge decided to hold the case trial at Tsundur village itself. The case was further stalled by efforts of the accused challenging the choice of Tsundur as the location for the trial. The case was once again taken to the AP high court in 1994. However, in 1995 the AP high court remanded the issue to the trial court. Ultimately, in 1995 the trial judge decided to hold the trial at Guntur instead of Tsundur.

Spl. PPs appointment delayed
The Dalits made two requests: 1) The trial should be held at Tsundur. This they insisted on for the safety and security of witnesses. 2) They demanded the appointment of special public prosecutors. As the appointment of public prosecutors goes by political patronage, the Dalit community of Tsundur wanted special public prosecutors, whom they had confidence in, to be appointed.
It took five years for the appointment of special public prosecutors as demanded by the victims. In August 2000, the government issued a GG in that regard. The GO advocated for appointment as spl. PPs two human rights activists who could take steps to get the case appearance in the spl. court and get the case tried speedily. Nevertheless, the district civil and police administration has been indulging in creating all manner of hurdles to delay the trial process.

Camp court building not renovated
As for the provision of a camp court at Tsundur, the facts are as follows:
On 5.8.2003 the spl. public prosecutors filed a memorandum before the spl. judge to try the case in the camp court at Tsundur. The GO appointing them, they pointed out, made it clear that the trial should take place at Tsundur. Earlier, in 1997 as well, the AP high court had requested the government to provide protection to the trial court in Tsundur while holding camp