The gruesome murder of an advocate couple in broad daylight in Telangana’s Peddapalli district on Wednesday and the alleged involvement of functionaries of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) may add to the woes of the ruling party as the opposition parties are trying to corner it.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress were quick to target TRS over the alleged involvement of its local leader in the killing of Gattu Vamana Rao and his wife Nagamani and sought an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or judicial probe.
The couple, who was returning in a car to Hyderabad after appearing for a case in a local court at Manthani, was waylaid and stabbed indiscriminately by unidentified persons, who came in an SUV, near Kalwacheral in Ramagiri Mandal.
Videos that went viral on social media show Vamana Rao (53) and Nagamani (50) being repeatedly stabbed by two persons on the road. Before succumbing to his injuries, Rao spelled out the name of one Kunta Srinivas.
The brutal killing of the couple, which was caught on camera, shocked the entire state. The High Court, where the couple was practicing, on Thursday, took suo moto cognizance and directed the government to conduct a thorough probe and submit a status report. A division bench comprising Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy remarked that ‘the incident has shaken us all from our stupor’. “The entire state apart from the legal community is looking up to the government to ensure proper working of the rule of law. We are all governed by the law and nobody can take law into their own hands,” Chief Justice Kohli said.
The court made it clear that it does not want to hear about lapses on part of the investigators. It referred to viral videos being circulated about the dying declaration of Rao who spelled out the name of the killer before succumbing to his injuries. It also mentioned pictures in the media show two state-owned RTC buses at the scene and observed that the passengers must be identified and be produced as witnesses.
The killings sparked outrage by lawyers, who boycotted the courts across the state and took to the streets, demanding immediate arrest and stringent punishment of the culprits. Manthani constituency observed a total shutdown on a call given by the opposition parties. They questioned the silence of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and TRS over the killings.
The slain couple’s families alleged that some powerful TRS leaders were behind the murders as Rao was fighting cases in courts against the alleged illegal activities of ruling party leaders. The couple was arguing some cases including a disproportionate assets case they had filed against Zilla Parishad Chairman Putta Madhukar, a leader of TRS.
They had also filed Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the alleged lockup death of a Dalit in Manthani police station. They had also sought protection alleging threatening calls from police. Rao was also fighting cases against Kunta Srinivas as he was allegedly involved in land encroachments. Srinivas is the president of the ruling party’s Manthani Mandal unit.
On a day when police registered First Information Report (FIR) and named Srinivas as the number one accused, TRS tried to contain the damage by announcing his suspension from the party. The killings are likely to provide further ammunition to the opposition ahead of the next month’s elections to two seats of Legislative Council and ensuing by-polls to Nagarjuna Sagar Assembly seat and few urban local bodies.
BJP, which wrested Dubbak Assembly seat from TRS in November and put up an impressive show in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) in December, is likely to become more aggressive in its attacks on the ruling party. Looking to take political mileage, BJP state president Bandi Sanjay Kumar met family members of the advocate couple while other leaders expressed solidarity with the protesting lawyers.
A delegation of BJP leaders also met Director General of Police M. Mahender Reddy, urging to appoint a team of officials to investigate the murders. A representation submitted to the police chief demanded that local police have refrained from the investigation.BJP’s legislator N. Ramchander Rao, who is also a lawyer, requested the DGP to bring to justice the political leaders who masterminded the brutal killing as expeditiously as possible.
Congress leader and party legislator from Manthani, D. Sridhar Babu demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the killings. State Congress chief N. Uttam Kumar Reddy said the party leaders would meet Chief Justice of Telangana High Court Hima Kohli and write a letter to Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde, seeking a probe by CBI.
“TRS-backed sand mafia is behind the murder. The couple was also killed to cover up the lock-up death of a Dalit,” he said and slammed the chief minister for not even condemning the murder. Reddy warned that the Congress party would launch a mass agitation if those involved in the murders were not punished.
(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with a modified headline)
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