The Vakapalli gang-rape survivors’ struggle to get justice has reached a significant stage as the trial of the accused is set to commence on August 23 at Vishakapatnam SC/ST Special Court.
On August 20, 2007, in the undivided Andhra Pradesh, 11 Adivasi women, belonging to Kondh tribe of Vakapalli hamlet in the Nurmati panchayat of the Agency area, Visakhapatnam, were allegedly gang-raped by the Greyhounds personnel, an elite anti-Naxal force, at gunpoint. Of the 11 rape survivors, two died subsequently.
Following Supreme Court orders in September 2017 direction, the SC/ST Special Court at Vishakapatnam started the hearing in January 2018.
The survivors had earlier moved the High Court seeking advocate Palla Trinadha Rao as the Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) in the case, as per the Prevention of SC/ST Atrocities Act. However, although the Court accepted the request and directed the government to appoint Rao, the government and the accused challenged the direction.
Trinadha Rao was arrested on December 30, 2017, while he was travelling to Vakapalli, and was charged under CrPC 108. A few rights groups then alleged that the police planted photographs of the accused to frame him in the case.
Later, Adivasis and rights activists took out a rally in G Madugula, alleging that the police are making efforts to subvert the judicial procedure to get away with the crime.
Later, Sunkara Rajendra Prasad, a Vijayawada-based lawyer, was appointed as a special public prosecutor by the court after consulting with the counsel of the rape survivors, advocate Vasudha Nagaraj.
Earlier this month, on July 23, the Vishakapatanam SC/ST Special Court scheduled a fresh hearing for August 23, as the SPP has sought some more time until he received the case details and other information.
Speaking to TNM, Vasudha Nagaraj, counsel of the Adivasi women, said, "The survivors are convinced with the appointment of the SPP.”
During the trial, “all the accused will be examined,” she added.
Speaking on the development in the case, Human Rights Forum's (HRF) general secretary VS Krishna said, “ Survivors have stood their ground for justice in the teeth of intimidation by police and the government. They say that they were subjected to injustice and so the accused must be punished. They are resilient and hopeful.”