Dalit panchayat president in TN killed for opposing corruption, says NGO report

Narasimhamoorthy, panchayat president of a village in Krishnagiri, was murdered on August 2 and police said that he was murdered because of a dispute about monetary transactions.
Deceased panchayat president Narasimhamoorthy
Deceased panchayat president Narasimhamoorthy

A fact-finding team that probed the murder of Narasimhamoorthy, President of Tharavendiram panchayat in Krishnagiri and a Dalit, have questioned claims made by the police that he was killed following a financial dispute. Narasimhamoorthy, who hails from a Scheduled Caste Comminity was murdered on August 2 this year. The report says the lain panchayat president was considered hard working and not corrupt by residents.

His body was found by his nephew Venkatesh near his native village PP Palayam. Two sons of panchayat Vice-president Jakkama - Krishna and Shankar - panchayat Secretary Prasanna, and eleven others surrendered before the police shortly after. Though the motive for the murder as claimed by the police is that Narasimhamoorthy was murdered by family members of the panchayat vice-president because of financial disputes in an alleged land deal, a fact finding report by Evidence, an NGO based in Madurai, has challenged this version.

Initially, the police said that the panchayat leader was murdered because of a dispute regrarding monetary transactions in the sale of a parcel of land. Krishna and Shankar, who belong to the Gowda community, had sold their land to AVS Quarries for Rs 15 lakh many years ago. The sellers, allegedly, asked Narasimhamoorthy to negotiate with AVS Quarries to give them a higher price for their land. Krishna and Shankar claimed that the panchayat president was able to negotiate successfully and collected the money but did not hand it over to them, which was the motive behind the murder.

However, Evidence’s report debunks these claims. Members of Evidence’s fact-finding team spoke to representatives from AVS Quarries who said that the payment for the land that was bought was settled fully. They added that there is no connection between Narasimhamoorthy and the sale of the land.

TNM spoke to Venkatesh, Narasimhamoorthy’s nephew who said, “My uncle had a good name in our village. You can ask anybody here and they will all say the same. He was very honest and even created a common Whatsapp group with some people from our village on which he shared bills for all the expenses undertaken by the panchayat office.” He alleged that some members of the panchayat office did not like Narasimhamoorthy’s approach as they wanted to appropriate the panchayat fund.

The report published by Evidence states that ever since Narasimhamoorthy was elected in 2019, he had ensured the development of the village. He oversaw the construction of tar roads, compound walls for the local schools, sewers, overhead tanks and water lines. It added that, as the panchayat President, he was a strong voice against corruption and ensured that his administration was transparent, which was not liked by the corrupt panchayat officials.

Venkatesh said: “Once, my uncle got into a heated argument with the panchayat Secretary Prasanna because he tried to claim reimbursements using fake bills. Another time, he filed a police complaint because Krishna and Shankar along with a few thugs came to his house and used derogatory language while demanding the remaining money that came from the sale of the land.” He adds that Prasanna teamed up with Krishna and Shankar to kill Narasimhamoorthy. In his police complaint Narasimhamoorthy stated that they threatened him saying that he has to get more money from AVS or they would kill him.

The report said the Vice-president’s sons and the panchayat secretary wanted a commission for every development project undertaken by the local body, which the President refused to heed.

Evidence’s report asked for the case to be filed under section 3(1)(m) of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (preventing a Panchayat president from doing their duties), a CB-CID investigation, a compensation of Rs 25 lakhs for Narasimhamoorthy’s family and a government job for his wife.

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