Gokulraj murder case: Convicts Yuvaraj, 9 others sentenced to life in jail

Ten of the seventeen accused in the brutal caste murder of Dalit youth Gokulraj were convicted by a special court in Madurai.
Yuvaraj sentenced to life in Gokulraj murder case
Yuvaraj sentenced to life in Gokulraj murder case
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A Madurai court on Tuesday March 8, sentenced Yuvaraj, the prime convict in Gokulraj caste murder case, and second accused Arun, to life imprisonment on three counts. The three life sentences will run concurrently, Judge T Sampathkumar of the Madurai Special Sessions Court said, delivering the quantum of punishment.

Yuvaraj is the President of Dheeran Chinnamalai Peravai, a Kongu-Vellalar caste-based outfit, and has been accused of abducting and murdering Gokulraj in 2015. Gokulraj was abducted and killed on the suspicion that he was in a relationship with a woman from the dominant Gounder community. Ten of the seventeen accused in this brutal caste murder case of Dalit youth were convicted by the Madurai Special Sessions court on March 5.

Five others – Arun, Kumar, Sathiskumar, Ragu alias Sridhar, Ranjith and Selvaraj — have been awarded two life sentences each (imprisonment for life); and Chandrasekaran has been awarded one life sentence. Two other convicts – Prabhu and Giridhar – have been awarded life imprisonment, plus five-year rigorous imprisonment along with a Rs 5,000 fine each.

While seventeen were arrested as accused in the case, five of them – Shankar, Arul Senthil, Selvakumar, Thangadurai and Suresh – were acquitted. During the course of the case, one person died while another accused is still absconding.

Yuvaraj had been running an intelligence-network preventing inter-caste relationships between members of the Gounder community and others. This highly sensational case was further sensationalised when the Investigating Officer of the case, Deputy Superintendent of Police Vishnu Priya, allegedly died by suicide. It was alleged that she was facing pressure while probing the murder.

On June 23, 2015, 21-year-old Gokulraj was abducted from the famous Tiruchengode Arthanareeswarar temple, which he was visiting along with a woman friend called Swathi who was from the Gounder community.  A group of men took him away in a car, saying that Yuvaraj wanted to speak to him. The next day, on June 24, his headless body was found by the railway tracks at Pallipalayam in Namakkal district.

During the intial stages of the investigation, attempts were made to pass of Gokulraj’s murder as a sucide. A month later, in July, Sankar and Kumar, who were arrested for their role in the murder, had confessed to the crime. Before killing Gokulraj, the accused coerced him to record a video and write a suicide note, the police had said. The accused shared the same on social media to try and change the narrative.

The main accused, Yuvaraj, was a member of the caste-outfit, Dheeran Chinnamalai Peravai, which is the same organisation that participated in the harassment of author Perumal Murgan for his book Madhuorubagan (One Part Woman) that was set around the Tiruchengode Arthanareeswarar temple and local practises. The harassment of Murugan by the Dheeran Chinnamalai Peravai and Hindu right-wing organisations led to the author's books being withdrawn from bookstores and Murugan himself declared that “the author was dead.”

Incidentally, PPTV reports that Yuvaraj saw Gokulraj and Swathi at the temple while agitating against Perumal Murugan’s book.

Yuvaraj went into hiding after he was named the prime accused in the case. For more than three months, the Tamil Nadu police faced public 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. When Yuvaraj finally surrendered after evading the police for a 109 days, he was given a hero’s welcome during his surrender by Gounder youth. He was described as a  ‘warrior’, ‘king’ and ‘lion of Kongunadu (western Tamil Nadu)’.

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