Tsunduru (Guntur), July 31: A special court on Tuesday sentenced to life 21 upper caste persons and gave one-year jail terms to 35 others in the sensational Tsunduru Dalits massacre case. The case involved the murder of eight Dalits of Tsunduru on August 6, 1991 by people belonging to Reddy and Telaga castes.
Special Judge Anis of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Court acquitted 123 persons in the case, the trial of which took 16 years to complete. Pronouncing the verdict in the packed court room, the judge said the convicted did not deserve capital punishment as the case was not the 'rarest of rare kind'.
The village had a history of communal feud and clashes between Dalits and upper caste Hindus were common, she pointed out. Public prosecutor B. Chandrasekhar had sought capital punishment for the accused by claiming that it was a rarest of the rare cases. Police had cordoned off Tsunduru village and had imposed prohibitory orders to prevent any untoward incidents after the judgment.
Dalit communities were disappointed at the judgment. At the same time, the family members of those who were awarded life sentences wept outside the court. Modugula Mallikarjuna Reddy, Gudeti Brahma Reddy, Chidipudi Srinivasa Reddy, Padyla Haribabu and C. Punnareddy were sentenced to life for killing J. Mattaiah.
Poluru Prasada Reddy and Kosana Pitchaiah got life sentences for killing Mallela Subbarao. Kosana Nageswara Rao, Kosana Prasad and Kosana Sivaiah butchered one Dalit Mandru Ramesh, whose body was found near a canal. They too got life terms. The murder of Jaaladi Isaac got convictions for Gopireddy Kotireddy and Kolli Sambireddy.
Modugula Sitarama Reddy, Kosana Edukondalu, Myla Siva Prasad and Ambati Prasad were convicted in the murder of one Angalakuduru Rajamohan. His body was found near a railway track. Gorrepati Sambireddy, Topireddy Prasada Reddy and Mani Veerareddy hacked one Devarapalli Jayaraj to death. Modugul Mallikarjuna Reddy and Ikkurthi Sivaiah murdered one Jaladi Immanuel. All of them got life sentences.
The other 35 upper caste persons got one-year terms for moving around the village with deadly weapons. They should also pay a penalty of Rs 2,000 each or undergo imprisonment for one more month. Charges were leveled against 220 persons, of which 33 died during the course of the trial. As many as 179 accused were present in the court on Tuesday. The public prosecutor said he would recommend an appeal against the verdict so that some of those acquitted were also punished.