Gokulraj murder case: Madras HC upholds life imprisonment for Yuvaraj

Ten persons, who were accused in the murder of Dalit youth Gokulraj, had filed appeals challenging their conviction shortly after they were sentenced in March 2022 by the Madurai Special Sessions Court.
Gokulraj and Yuvaraj
Gokulraj and Yuvaraj
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The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court confirmed the conviction of Gounder caste outfit leader Yuvaraj and other accused persons in the murder of Dalit youth Gokulraj in 2015 at Namakkal’s Tiruchengode. Gokulraj (21) was abducted and murdered in 2015 under the suspicion that he was in love with Swathi, a woman from the dominant Gounder community. Ten accused persons in the case had filed appeals challenging their conviction and the life sentence, shortly after they were sentenced in March 2022 by the Madurai Special Sessions Court. Judges MS Ramesh and M Anand Venkatesh dismissed the appeals on Friday, June 2 and confirmed the earlier judgement.

Yuvaraj, the president of Dheeran Chinnamalai Gounder Peravai, a Kongu Vellala Gounder caste outfit, was sentenced to life imprisonment on three counts in March 2022. Along with him, the second accused Arun was also sentenced to life imprisonment. Five others – 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.

Seventeen people were arrested in connection with Gokulraj’s murder, of whom five were acquitted. One accused person had died during the course of the case and another one is absconding.

Yuvaraj had been running a network who would work towards preventing inter-caste marriages, especially between Gounder women and men of lowered castes. This case become highly sensational when the investigating officer of the case and Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Vishnupriya allegedly died by suicide. It was alleged that she was facing undue pressure while investigating the case.

On June 23, 2015, Gokulraj was abducted from the Arthanareeswarar temple in Tiruchengode when he was visiting a temple with his friend Swathi. A group of men took him away in a car claiming that Yuvaraj wanted to speak to him. The next day, his headless body was found at the railway tracks in Pallipalayam in Namakkal district.

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

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

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