News/City Updates

Visakhapatnam court delivers verdict on 1996 Dalit youths tonsure case

A landmark verdict was delivered by the Visakhapatnam court today, on 16 April 2024, in a case involving the tonsure of Dalit youths on 29 December, 1996. The case, which has been pending for 28 years, revolves around five Dalit youths, of whom three were tortured, and two tonsured in Venkatayapalem, located in the Ramachandrapuram mandal of the current Konaseema district. The XI ADJ and SC/ ST Court in Visakhapatnam, found nine men guilty, including the Thota Trimurthulu, the present YSRCP MLA candidate for Mandapeta region. The accused have been sentenced to to 18 months in prison, alongside a fine of Rs 42,000 each.

This case caused a stir in Andhra Pradesh in 1996, and the victims and their families have been waiting for justice for over two and a half decades.

On 29 December 1996, Thota Trimurthulu, who was then an independent MLA of Ramachandrapuram, allegedly tonsured two Dalit youths — Koti Chinna Raju and Dandala Venkata Ratnam — and assaulted three others, Challapudi Pattabhiramayya, Kanikella Ganapati, and Puvvala Venkata Ramana of Venkatayapalem in the East Godavari district, because they had allegedly opposed him in the assembly elections in 1994.

The Dalit youths had been working for polling agents representing the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Following intense protests by various associations, the case was registered in 1997 at the Draksharamam police station in the East Godavari district, based on a complaint by K Chinnaraju and D Venkata Ratnam. The then MLA, Thota Trimurthulu, was among the accused in the case.

Completing the investigation, the police had filed a charge sheet without attaching the victims’ caste certificates. In 2021, the public prosecutor filed two applications to submit the caste certificate of the victims, but this effort was rejected by the trial court. The victims appealed the decision, and moved their case to the high court of Andhra Pradesh. Overruling the trial court’s order, the high court instructed the trial court to conclude the trial by marking the caste certificates as evidence.

As the incident occurred more than two decades ago, some of the accused and witnesses have passed away. The main accused, as per the verdict given for the tonsure of the Dalit youths in 1996, is Thota Trimurthulu, who was elected as an MLA from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in 1999 and 2014. Joining the YSRCP in 2019, he became an MLC.

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