On Sunday, October 11, Namakkal in Tamil Nadu was witness to what could be a turning point in the political history of the district. S Yuvaraj, President of Dheeran Chinnamalai Peravai, a Kongu-Vellalar caste-outfit, surrendered himself before the CB-CID office. He was given a hero’s welcome, although for more than 100 days, he had been absconding from the police. He stands accused of the murder of a Dalit youngster fueled by caste-divisions.
His surrender has caused much embarrassment to the state police. A senior police officer told The Indian Express, “He surrendered in style. Our officers had to receive him like a hero. We would forget this shame only if we can get him convicted.”
The sensational murder case, which reached an important milestone on Sunday, has been through several ups and downs.
Gokulraj, a 21-year-old Dalit youngster was last seen along with a female friend at the Thiruchengode Arthanareeshwarar temple on June 23, 2015.
According to his friend, a few men then came to Gokulraj and took him away stating that one Yuvaraj wanted to meet him. His headless body was found by the railway tracks on June 24, in the Namakkal district. A post-mortem has reportedly shown that he was strangulated and stabbed in the neck.
Later, a four-and-a-half minute conversation was released by the victim’s family in which the girl confesses that they were not lovers and both had visited the Tiruchengode temple to seek blessings. Describing the incident, she said a middle-aged man had called out to Gokulraj to talk to Yuvaraj.
Gokulraj went with him and then later the men came back and took her phone and told her to leave. She also mentions in the phone call that “Dheeran Chinnamalai” was written behind their car with a green and red flag.
Yuvaraj, a rig operator, was reportedly known for organising events where he made Gounder students pledge that they won’t marry in other communities.
Two of the main accused, Sankar and Kumar confessed to the crime before a court in Srivaikundam in July. They told the court that they had killed Gokulraj. They stated that Yuvaraj with Arun, Namakkal district president of the Dheeran Chinnamalai and Kumar abducted Gokulraj. He said that they were joined by Sankar, Arulsenthil and Selvakumar, when Gokulraj was taken to Sankagiri in Yuvraj’s car.
Describing the incident, they said that Yuvaraj was strangulated with a string of cloth while Kumar, Arun and Sankar held his limbs before taking him to the railway track near SPB Colony in Pallipalayam.
A purported suicide note and video of Gokulraj was also reportedly circulated on social media later, but police say that he was forced to write the note and record the video before he was killed.
The case was initially registered as a case of suspicious death but following the postmortem report, the case was changed to a murder case (Section 302 of IPC).
Once he realized that the police would arrest him in the case, Yuvaraj went into hiding.
During the three months he was evading the police, Yuvaraj released six audio messages and even gave interviews to Tamil news channels claiming he had no links with the Gokulraj murder case, and also raised questions about the character of Gokulraj.
The police said that Yuvaraj was staying in different locations including Salem in Tamil Nadu, Gulbarga in Karnataka, Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh and Payyanur in Kerala for the past three months.
Through his audio messages and statements, he continued to incite casteist passions, blamed certain police officers and politicians for him being ‘targeted’ and continued to warn and insult the police.
In a sensational twist to the case, on September 18, DSP Vishnupriya, who was the investigating officer in the Gokulraj murder case committed suicide in her official residence in Tiruchengode. Her family and friends claimed that it was due to pressure from senior officials, especially in the Gokulraj case, that she took such a step. However, Vishnupriya had reportedly written in her suicide note that her decision had nothing to do with the case.
On September 21, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa announced the shifting of the Gokulraj murder case to CB-CID.
Following the DSP’s death, Yuvaraj released a 20-minute audio conversation between him and Vishnupriya. In the recording, she said that she had been suffering immense pressure from the senior officers as he was absconding. She said that the others had been ‘unnecessarily’ arrested since the main accused was not surrendering.
Yuvaraj alleged in the conversation that senior officers in the police force where targeting him at the behest of some politicians. Though he named some officers, Namakkal MP SR Senthil Kumar, ADSP Chandramohan and DSP Raju, he did not name any politicians.
He later said that she was an honest officer and when she could not stand the repeated instructions to act wrongfully, she committed suicide.
Following this, five accused in the case were released on bail from Salem Central Prison on October 7, 2015.
In the same week, M. Malaviya, a lawyer had filed a petition in the Madras High Court in which he said that the police was trying to frame him as Vishnupriya’s lover when, according to him, he had just known her since June on a professional basis. He also said that she was facing a lot of pressure from her senior officials in the Gokulraj case.
Vishnupriya’s father M. Ravi has also filed a petition in the Madras High Court stating that her death was a murder and has asked for a CBI investigation into it. It remains to be seen if the Tamil Nadu police will be able to convict Yuvaraj in the case.