17 get life term for Melavalavu massacre
SALEM, JULY 26. In the Melavalavu murder case, 17 persons have been convicted and awarded life imprisonment. The judgment was delivered by the Principal District and Sessions Judge, Mr A.S.Ramalingam, here on Thursday.
In all, 41 persons were chargeseeted, and 23 acquitted, while one died during trial. The convicted were found guilty under Section 302 (murder) read with Section 34 (group attack), and Section 148 (rioting with deadly weapons) of the IPC.
Those who have been awarded life imprisonment are Alagarsamy (50), Ponnaiyah (45), Jothi, Manikandan, Andisamy (31), Manoharan (39), Ranganathan, Markandan (50), Rasam alias Ayyavu (60), Sarkaraimurthi (21), Azhagu (33), Rajendran, Sekar, Chokkanathan (45), Selvam (25), Chinna Odungan alias Chinna Ulaganathan (28) and Ramar.
Another accused who died during trial, was Jayaraman. Heavy police bandobust was provided in the court complex, and all incoming vehicles were searched and the visitors, including the lawyers, frisked.
Six persons, including Murugesan, president of the Melavalavu Panchayat Union, near Madurai, were hacked to death in broad daylight by a group of the same village. The severed head of Murugesan was found in a well two furlongs away from the place of occurrence. Ever since the village was declared a reserved constituency, a rift occurred between two communities. One group could not reconcile itself to the possibility of a Dalit heading the panchayat union. The elections had to be put off thrice.
Finally, in the election held on December 30,1996 Murugesan was elected. In the post-election period, the rift between the two communities widened.
Hence, a conspiracy was said to have been hatched to elimiante the incumbent president and other office-bearers. The design was executed on June 30,1997 when Murugesan and five others were returning by bus from Madurai (where they had gone to meet officials) to Melavalavu.
Those who fell victim to the frenzy of the group, besides Murugesan, were Mookkan (vice-president), Sevagamurthi, Chelladurai, Raja and Bhoopathi, all panchayat members. A case was filed in the Melur magistrate court, which was then transferred to the Madurai District Sessions Court.
After the accused secured bail, a plea was made for the transfer of the case ``for extraneous reasons.'' The matter was referred to the Madras High Court, which directed that the case be posted to the Salem District Sessions Court and appointed Mr. P. Thirumalairajan Special Public Prosecutor.