Naga Ramakrishna, whose family died by suicide on January 2, has accused Kothagudem MLA’s son Vanama Raghavendra of harassing him in exchange for help in a property dispute.

Telangana couple who died by suicide along with their daughters, and the Kothagudem TRS MLA's son Vanama Raghavendra who was accused of abetment of suicide
news Death Friday, January 07, 2022 - 16:38

Relatives of the family who died by suicide in Telangana, allegedly due to harassment from a TRS MLA's son, are now allegedly facing pressure from the accused. On January 2, businessman Naga Ramakrishna, his wife Srilakshmi, and their two teenage daughters — who had been living in Andhra Pradesh’s Rajahmundry for the past six months — hurriedly returned to Ramakrishna's hometown Paloncha in Telangana’s Bhadradri Kothagudem district. Early next morning, Srilakshmi’s brother Janardhan Rao Elisetty received news that his sister, brother-in-law and one of his nieces, Sahitya, had been burnt to death, allegedly by suicide. Another niece, Sahiti, who survived with 80% burns, succumbed on January 6. Kothagudem MLA from TRS Vanama Venkateswara Rao’s son Vanama Raghavendra Rao has been booked for abetment of suicide in the case. 

“They had just returned to Rajahmundry from Paloncha on December 31, after settling a property dispute with his family on December 30. I had no idea why they were going back,” said Janardhan Rao Elisetty. Naga Ramakrishna and his family set themselves on fire on the night of January 2, alleging harassment by local MLA's son Vanama Raghavendra Rao. In a video that surfaced later on January 6, which the victim Ramakrishna had recorded before his death, he alleged that Raghavendra had demanded sexual favours from his wife Srilakshmi in exchange for mediating favourably in a property dispute within his own family.

Now, Srilakhsmi’s brother Janardhan alleges that he has been receiving threats from henchmen of the MLA’s son. "At first, they called me saying they wanted to visit the girl (Sahiti) who was still undergoing treatment, so I asked them to come to the hospital. They came there and threatened me, asking me to withdraw the police complaint and leave Paloncha immediately. They even said I would face the same fate as my sister and brother-in-law if I don’t comply,” said Janardhan, speaking to TNM from Rajahmundry in the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. Janardhan alleged that he received the threat from unknown henchmen of the accused Raghavendra.  

Paloncha town police have registered an FIR (first information report) under section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code, which included the name of Raghavendra, besides victim Ramakrishna's own mother Suryavathi and sister Madhavi Kommisetty, based on a suicide note they found.

Narrating the family’s story, Janardhan said that his sister Srilakshmi married Ramakrishna 14 years ago. After living in Paloncha all these years, around six months back, Srilakshmi moved back to her maternal town near Rajahmundry along with her husband and two daughters, after Ramakrishna suffered losses in his business. Janardhan said he was aware of a property dispute within Ramakrishna’s family. “Ramakrishna's mother Suryavathi wanted to give the family’s ancestral property to her daughter Madhavi. This had caused a rift in the family,” he said. 

He also added, “There was a dispute over some lands, especially in Hyderabad. Ramakrishna never wanted the entire land in his name but an equal share along with his sister. To resolve this, a village meeting was convened with the mediation of the MLA’s son Raghavendra." According to Janardhan, following the meeting on December 30, 2021, Ramakrishna told him that the dispute was sorted out, and returned with his family from Paloncha to Rajahmundry. 

Suspicious phone call on Jan 2

According to Janardhan, Ramakrishna received a phone call on January 2. After attending the call, he and his wife told Janardhan that they were visiting Paloncha to quickly finish some work, and assured him that they would be back the next morning. “We thought they would return, but by morning, we learnt they were dead," said Janardhan. 

In the selfie video that surfaced following the suicides, Ramakrishna alleged that the MLA’s son had demanded sexual favours from his wife, in order to help him out in his family’s property dispute. He also alleged that Raghavendra said he would ensure no one in the town would help him with the dispute unless his demands were met. 

Not the first accusation against Raghavendra

Raghavendra, who is accused of serious offences, is still absconding, and the police have formed as many as eight special teams to nab him. But this is not the first time that the MLA’s son has been accused of abetment of suicide. Raghavendra has also been booked in a similar case in the past. Paloncha Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Rohit Raj had earlier told the media that investigation in a similar older case involving Raghavendra was also ongoing.

According to the NewsMeter, ASP Rohit Raj said that Raghavendra has been booked in two other cases in the past two years, under sections 306 (abetment of suicide) and 307 (attempt to murder) of the IPC. 

In his selfie video, the victim, Ramakrishna, had said, “Another man recently died after blaming him (Raghavendra). Within 3-4 months of that incident, he is committing such atrocities again. How can we bear this?”

Meanwhile, Kothagudem MLA Vanama Venkateswara Rao wrote an open letter on January 6 saying he has asked his son to stay away from the constituency and its politics until the investigation is concluded in all the cases against him and he is proven innocent in all the current and past charges against him. 

Read: Telangana suicide victim’s selfie video emerges, TRS MLA’s son named again

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: 78930 78930

Roshni: 9166202000, 9127848584

Karnataka

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

Kerala

Maithri: 0484 2540530

Chaithram: 0484 2361161

Both are 24-hour helpline numbers.

Telangana

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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