Friday, December 8, 2023

1992 Vachathi violence against tribals: Madras HC upholds conviction of all 215 officials

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Photo courtesy to Fountain Ink

The Madras High Court on Friday dismissed all appeals filed by 215 convicts, including several officals of the police and forest departments, in cases related to mass crimes against tribals of the Vachathi village of Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu in 1992.

On Friday, Justice P Velmurgan of the Madras High Court dismissed the appeals by the accused persons, who had challenged a sessions court that had held them guilty in 2011, and called for stringent action against the then district collector, district forest officer and superintendent of police.

Justice Velmurugan directed the Tamil Nadu government to pay Rs 10 lakh as compensation to 18 women who had been raped in 1992. The court ordered that half of the compensation amount should be paid by those convicted in the rape cases.

The court also directed the government to provide employment to the villagers whose house had been destroyed during the raids.

The Vachathi case involved a mass crime that occurred on 20 June 1992 in the village of Vachathi, in Dharmapuri district. A team of 155 forest personnel, 108 policemen and six revenue officials entered the Tribal-dominated Vachathi village, searching for smuggled sandalwood and to gather information about Veerappan. Under the pretext of conducting a search, the team ransacked the villagers’ property, destroyed their houses, killed their cattle, assaulted around 100 villagers, and raped at least 18 women.

Initially, the Madras High Court had dismissed a petition filed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), saying that government officials would not have engaged in such activities. Later, the Supreme Court directed the High Court to take up the matter expeditiously. The High Court then ordered an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

On 29 September 2011, a special court convicted all 269 accused officials under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities act and 17 for rape. Fifty-four of the original accused had died by the time of the convictions; the remaining 215 were sentenced to jail.

The entire incident has been made into a film by the name Vachathi, and in the background of the Veerappan nabbing operation, many atrocities and human rights violations were committed by special task force police. The Tamil novel Solagar Thotti, written by S. Balamurugan, exposed the same. Vetrimaaran’s film Viduthalai Part 1 is also based on the same incident.

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