24-year-old Pranay was killed in the presence of his pregnant wife Amrutha and his mother while they were coming out of a hospital

A month after Pranays murder justice eludes his familyFacebook
news Caste violence Saturday, October 13, 2018 - 13:31
Written by  Padmaja Shaw

It is a month since 24-year-old Perumalla Pranay Kumar was hacked to death in the presence of his pregnant wife Amrutha, outside a hospital in Miryalaguda in Telangana.

The police have not recorded any statement under Section 164 of CrPC from either Amrutha or her mother, who were both eye-witnesses. Meanwhile, Pranay’s family is being pressured by Amrutha’s powerful relatives to bring her back.

Pranay belonged to the Mala(SC) community, while Amrutha is the only daughter of Thirunagari Maruthi Rao, a Vaishya real estate businessman. Pranay was murdered on September 14 while he was walking out to the car with his wife and mother as they were returning from a prenatal health check-up.

On October 5, at a roundtable meet held in Sundarayya Vignana Kendram, Hyderabad, to brainstorm on strategies to fight the violent resurgence of caste in Telangana and to review the progress of the cases, speakers feared that this case too would face the same fate as the other similar killings of young people marrying across caste barriers.

The incident deeply disturbed the Dalit-Bahujan community as it was the 19th instance in 20 killings so far by families disapproving inter-caste or inter-community marriages. In each of the instances, it is the spouse from the lower caste who was targeted in assaults - each more horrific than the other.

Speaking at the roundtable, Pranay’s father Perumalla Balaswamy, an LIC employee, said that instead of grieving at home, he has decided to work towards a caste-free society and to ensure that “Pranay’s death is the last such death.”

He narrated how Amrutha’s father, Thirunagari Maruthi Rao and his brother, Thirunagari Sravan Kumar, were politically influential. Both warned Balaswamy through the Nakrekal TRS MLA Vemula Veeresham, a Dalit himself.

Balaswamy said that his own family is economically well-off and does not need any compensation from the government. Both his son Pranay and Amrutha were friends since their school days and continued to be in contact while studying engineering in Hyderabad. Though they did not see each other for two years after Amrutha’s family objected to their relationship, they finally got married at an Arya Samaj in Hyderabad.

Balaswamy says, “Theirs was true love. Amrutha has no intention of going back to her family after this. She wants to stay with us and give birth to Pranay’s child, despite constant pressure from her father to abort the child.”

In the run-up to the marriage, because of the threats, Pranay and Amrutha met Nalgonda Superintendent of Police Srinivas and Miryalaguda DSP to request for protection. The Miryalaguda DSP counselled the two families but advised the couple to leave Miryalaguda for their own safety.

Under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, the police is bound to provide protection when they receive complaints of credible threats. Even after the murder of Pranay, Balaswamy lives with his wife and daughter-in-law Amrutha without any police protection. The 1995 rules of Prevention of Atrocities Act under 12(3) require, “The Superintendent of Police, after spot inspection, shall immediately appoint an investigation officer and deploy such police force in the area and take such other preventive measures as may be deemed proper and necessary.”

Raghunath Verose, a lawyer in the Telangana High Court, said that even as the campaign for justice is on with civil society groups, the case must not be allowed to be diluted. He pointed out that sworn statements of eye-witnesses before the magistrate under Section 164 of CrPC have not been recorded several weeks after the incident.

Raghunath said that even as she was coping with her trauma, Amrutha was being subjected to a vicious social media campaign seeking to malign and abuse her. “The police know about it but are doing little to help. The upper caste group is building a counter-movement justifying the caste murder through social media and by taking out rallies in support of the murderers,” he said.

Raghunath also revealed that the District Collector issued notices to the victim’s father Balaswamy, questioning his caste status, claiming that he is a Christian. Police visited their home to check their caste certificates. Such an enquiry was illegal, he said, unless they are seeking fresh certification.

Whenever the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is invoked by Dalits or tribals, the influential accused, actively assisted by the state machinery, attempt to question the caste status of the victims. This happened in the Rohit Vemula case and several other cases of atrocities like that of Tsunduru.

Raghunath recalled that the Superintendent of Police of Nalgonda district, AV Ranganath, was instrumental in the “breakthrough” in the unfortunate Ayesha Meera murder in Vijayawada, where Pidathala Satyam Babu, a physically challenged Dalit Christian man, was arrested and charged with the crime.

At the time too, names of the kin of powerful politicians from the then ruling Congress party were mentioned. Satyam Babu spent 8 years in jail till he was acquitted by the High Court. The case is being re-investigated to find the “real” culprits.

U Sambasiva Rao, President of Bahujana Pratighatana Vedika, quoted Maruthi Rao’s public statements that he would rather get his daughter married to a beggar or a blind, lame person as long as he is from his own Vaishya community. Rao said that Maruthi Rao, through his brother Sravan, had dubious connections with the murdered gangster Nayeem. (A vast network of revenue, police and political interests were exposed as the backbone of the Nayeem crime empire for over 20 years when he was finally killed.) The multi-crore real estate business built up by the family over the years has been made possible through their deep connections with the revenue, police departments and the ruling political parties, he added.

Now the entire system is being mobilised to slow-down the investigation. The public outrage at the murder is being doused by delaying the procedures and playing for time.

After announcing a rally at Miryalaguda on October 14, which marks one month since the caste-killing of Pranay, B Lakshmaiah, President of the Telangana Kula Nirmulana Poraata Samithi, put forth a set of demands at the meeting which were endorsed by all the 25 civil society groups that attended in solidarity.

Some of the major demands proposed at the meeting were: 1. A fast track court should be constituted at Miryalaguda under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 to complete the trial in two months and to severely punish the murderers and the conspirators; to deny bail to the powerful culprits till the trial is completed. 2. The properties illicitly earned by Maruthi Rao and Sravan must be identified and confiscated by the state as the financial strength for committing the atrocities (hiring killers, for instance) was derived from these properties. 3. A special legislation, Pranay Law, must be enacted to protect individuals choosing to marry outside the caste and community boundaries. 4. The lands of Dalits, adivasis and others that the brothers grabbed must be restored to the rightful owners. 5. Those who aided and facilitated the illegal activities of Maruthi Rao and his brother Sravan must be identified and suitably punished. 6. Police protection must be provided for Pranay’s parents and wife till the final judgment is delivered in the case. 7. An enquiry by a sitting High Court judge must be ordered to identify all those involved in this murder.

The Miryalaguda police have, so far, not given permission for the rally on October 14 and the organisers were forced to push it to October 21. This despite the fact that several thousands of emotionally-charged people spontaneously converged in Miryalaguda on the day of Pranay’s funeral and dispersed without any untoward incident. Such a rally would provide great strength to the family who are fighting for justice against powerful forces.

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