Tsundur massacre accused let off

Court says prosecution failed to prove offence

Hyderabad: The Andhra Pradesh High court on Tuesday acquitted all the accused in the sensational Tsundur Dalits massacre case on grounds that the prosecution had failed to prove the offence.

Sensing trouble in view of the acquittal of the accused, who belong to upper castes, the High Court directed the superintendent of police, Guntur rural, to ensure that there were no celebrations or protests in the villages of Tsundur and Modukur for at least a period of three months. The court directed that utmost vigilance be kept in both villages.

While allowing a batch of appeals by the convicts in the case, challenging the judgment of a special court, a division Bench comprising Justice L. Narasimha Reddy and Justice M.S.K. Jaiswal pointed out that the prosecution had failed to prove the exact time and place of the death of the victims and the identity of the persons who had attacked them.

The Bench observed that even though the trial court had suggested that there were serious lapses in prosecution, it ignored them by mentioning certain reasons. It was pointed out that quite a large number of accused had been put on trial and the incident had attracted the attention of the nation and that a special court had been constituted for trial of the case, leading to certain accused being virtually morally convicted.

According to the prosecution, eight Dalits were hacked to death in broad daylight on August 6, 1991, with over 400 people chasing them along the bund of an irrigation canal in Tsundur.

The country’s first-ever special court set up for trying a case under the SC/STs Prevention of (Atrocities) Act 1989, delivered the judgment in August 2007, by sentencing 21 accused in the case to life imprisonment and 35 others to one year rigorous imprisonment and penalties of Rs 2,000 each in the case.

The special court had acquitted 123 out of the 179 accused. Of them, in the case of 41 accused, the court did not find any evidence, while 62 were released on benefit of doubt. The other 20 were let off due to omission of evidence or having only single witnesses.

The High Court Bench found that on August 6, 1991, no complaint of attack or murder on Harijans was received by the Tsundur police or any nearby police station. The Bench also found that though the eight persons were said to have been killed on the same day, the dead bodies were recovered over three days.

While setting aside the order of the special court, the Bench said that once the trial court finds that the evidence of a particular witness stating that a particular set of accused attacked the deceased, cannot be accepted, part of that evidence cannot be acceptable.

HC appeals to villagers to ‘bury the hatchet’

The AP High Court on Tuesday appealed to the villagers of Tsundur and Modukur in Guntur district to bury the decades-long differences between the upper castes and Dalits.

While acquitting the convicts in the case, a division bench comprising Justice L. Narasimha Reddy and Justice M.S.K. Jaiswal, appealed to the residents of both the villages, particularly the elderly members from all sections, to take the initiative to bury the hatchet.

The bench said that on account of prolonged differences between various sections, precious lives of eight innocent Dalit persons were lost, and their families were ruined. The help extended by the government cannot remove the agony of the family members of the deceased.

The bench observed that “At least now, wiser counsel must prevail, and differences, if any, must be buried. Every endeavour must be made by the elderly persons as well as the organisations that are active in the village, to inculcate human values and mutual respect towards each other, in the villages.”

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