Conviction in Gokulraj murder should deter caste criminals, say activists

The convict Yuvaraj’s carefully cultivated image as a hero has been destroyed with this verdict, Gokulraj’s lawyer says.
Gokulraj and Yuvaraj, who has been convicted for his murder
Gokulraj and Yuvaraj, who has been convicted for his murder
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A ‘warrior’, ‘king’ and ‘lion of Kongunadu (western Tamil Nadu)’ – these were some of the labels used to describe S Yuvaraj by his supporters after he was named in the brutal murder of a young Dalit engineering student named Gokulraj in Namakkal district in June 2015. The murder accused is also the founder of Kongu Vellalar Gounder caste outfit Dheeran Chinnamalai Peravai of the Backward Class (BC), which has gained notoriety for being an aggressive pressure group to prevent inter-caste mariages. Seven years after the murder, the long arm of the law has finally caught up with Yuvaraj and nine others, who were convicted by a special court in Madurai for the barbaric crime.

Twenty-one-year-old Gokulraj was kidnapped from the Tiruchengode Ardhanareeswarar temple on June 23, 2015 by a group of men while he was with a female friend Swathi, who is from the Gounder community. The men took Gokulraj away saying that Yuvaraj wanted to speak to him. The next day, Gokulraj’s headless body was found by the railway tracks at Pallipalayam. The brutal murder shook Tamil Nadu as yet another innocent life was lost to caste politics. That said, the investigation in the case and the road to justice was not an easy one.

Yuvaraj went into hiding after he was named the prime accused in the case. For more than three months, the Tamil Nadu police had to face massive embarrassment as Yuvaraj kept releasing audio and video messages and even went on to participate in a TV channel debate. His messages were aimed at triggering caste pride among youngsters in the Gounder community.

The brazen manner in which Yuvaraj evaded the law and incited the youth not only shocked the entire state but also raised questions about the way in which the police were handling the case. Added to this, Deputy Superintendent of Police R Vishnu Priya, who was probing the Gokulraj murder case, died by suicide, raising suspicions about the pressure she was facing. Amidst this, the stoic silence from major political parties in the state on the brutal murder and the subsequent developments in the case was deafening, and further emboldened the fringe.

Harrowing time for Gokulraj’s family

Speaking to TNM, Gokulraj’s mother Chitra recounted the ordeal she went through during those 109 days when her son’s murderer was absconding from the law. “My stomach was burning when I saw my son’s killer Yuvaraj releasing audio and video messages while in hiding. How can a mother bear to watch all this? The police were unable to nab him. Then later, he disguised himself and came on a bike to surrender at the CB-CID office,” Chitra recalled.

In addition to the trauma that Gokulraj’s family was undergoing, they were also subjected to tremendous pressure from all sides. While on one hand key witnesses were turning hostile during the trial of the case, on the other the family was urged to give up their fight for justice. “A lot of people told us to give up. Some asked why we should run from pillar to post to fight the case. We were cornered and faced troubles from all sides. This only strengthened our resolve. We were scared, but not even once did we feel like giving up,” Gokulraj’s brother Kalaiselvan told TNM.

Support from lawyers

On the legal side, the lawyers who fought the case on behalf of Gokulraj’s family left no stone unturned to make sure that they built a watertight case against the accused. 

The case was first handled by lawyer Santhiyur Parthiban, who chanced upon Gokulraj’s parents at the Tiruchengode police station. “I had gone to the police station for some other purpose and I saw Gokulraj’s parents trying to lodge a complaint about their missing son. I understood the gravity of the case and argued with the police till they paid serious attention to the complaint,” Parthiban told TNM.

When Gokulraj’s dead body was found on the railway tracks, Parthiban’s timely intervention in approaching the Madras High Court seeking to set up a team of experts led by Dr P Sampath Kumar, head of the Forensic Department, Sri Ramachandra Medical College, to conduct the post mortem proved to be a turning point in the case. It helped in demolishing the fabricated theory circulated by the accused and their supporters on social media that Gokulraj died by suicide.

“The post mortem report was conclusive. It revealed that Gokulraj was not only beheaded, but his tongue was chopped off before his body was thrown on the railway tracks. This put an end to the attempts by some to portray his death as a case of suicide,” added Parthiban.

However, as the trial progressed in the Namakkal court, key witnesses including Swathi turned hostile. Gokulraj’s mother Chitra then petitioned the Namakkal District Collector requesting the appointment of senior advocate BB Mohan as the Public Prosecutor in the case. Later on, Chitra approached the Madras High Court seeking transfer of the case out of Namakkal as she believed that the trial was being influenced and derailed by vested interest groups. The Madras High Court admitted her plea and transferred the trial to a Special Court for SC/ST cases in Madurai.

Speaking to TNM, Public Prosecutor and human rights activist BB Mohan said that the courts played a very proactive role in the case. “It is a historical judgment on the basis of the fact that this is not a case where the crime was committed due to an inter-caste marriage or relationship. The Dalit boy was brutally murdered because he was seen sitting together with an upper caste girl,” he said.

With key witnesses turning hostile during the trial, the prosecution faced an uphill task to prove the case against the accused and had to rely on documentary and circumstantial evidence. “It is a settled law that witnesses may lie, but the evidence will not. The evidence against the accused was unimpeachable, the evidence was subjected to forensic examination and scientifically proved,” Mohan said.

Gokulraj’s family and lawyers believe that this verdict will act as a deterrent to caste pride criminals in the coming days. Advocate Parthiban says Yuvaraj was considered a hero among youngsters in the western region of Tamil Nadu and his conviction has demolished his carefully cultivated image. “It is clear that no one can escape the law. There is a chance that caste-related atrocities and crimes due to inter-caste marriages will come down in the western part of Tamil Nadu,” he added. 

Though the court verdict convicting Yuvaraj and nine others in the case has come as a huge relief for Gokulraj’s family, they are now anxiously awaiting the quantum of punishment, which will be pronounced on Tuesday, March 8. “My family was shattered when they killed our son. But we are alive today because we wanted to see the guilty getting the due punishment. We want them to be hanged,” said an inconsolable Chitra.

If you are aware of anyone facing mental health issues or feeling suicidal, please provide help. Here are some helpline numbers of suicide-prevention organisations that can offer emotional support to individuals and families.

Tamil Nadu

State health department's suicide helpline: 104

Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre - 044-24640050 (listed as the sole suicide prevention helpline in Tamil Nadu)

Andhra Pradesh

Life Suicide Prevention: 7893078930

Roshni: 9166202000, 9127848584


Sahai (24-hour): 080 65000111, 080 65000222


Maithri: 0484 2540530

Chaithram: 0484 2361161

Both are 24-hour helpline numbers.


State government's suicide prevention (tollfree): 104

Roshni: 040 66202000, 6620200

SEVA: 09441778290, 040 27504682 (between 9 am and 7 pm)

Aasara offers support to individuals and families during an emotional crisis, for those dealing with mental health issues and suicidal ideation, and to those undergoing trauma after the suicide of a loved one.

24x7 Helpline: 9820466726

Click here for working helplines across India.

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