Distraught but defiant, 25-year-old daughter of priest, who was brutally murdered last week in Kancheepuram, continues fight for justice; four accused have surrendered, one absconding

A week after her father was beaten to death and she, brutally dragged along the road opposite her sister’s home, abused and assaulted, Padmasree Raman from Tirupati, is distraught but not willing to give up on seeking justice.

“I came here to perform the annual rites for my mother but ended up cremating my father,” said the 25-year-old M.Com graduate, who works as an auditor in Tirupati.

Sitting on the verandah of her sister Jayashree’s home in Sannidhi Street Agraharam in Venkatapuram surrounded by her relatives, she recalled the horrific murder of her father, V.T. Raman, a 63-year-old priest in one of the Tirumala temples.

Mr. Raman had come to the house of his older daughter Jayashree two weeks ago, along with his younger daughter, Padmasree, for a ritual for his late wife, Amrithavalli, who was also from the agraharam.

Jayashree’s husband and other members of the family run a catering business here.

Abused, attacked

On March 31, a day before they were supposed to return to Tirupati, Padmasree and her father decided to take six-year-old, Akshaya, Jayashree’s daughter, to the shop on the main road to buy her a chocolate. As they were walking down the road, one of three men who were walking towards them, tried to frighten the child with a loud shout.

“Akshaya clung to me in fear. When they did it again, I asked them why they were trying to scare the child,” said Padmasree. “They then began abusing me, calling me all sorts of humiliating names. When I asked them to stop, one of them rushed towards me and struck me on the head with a steel rod. I also remember him dragging me by my hair as I fell down. I started bleeding profusely and my clothes were torn and soiled with blood,” she added.

The drunken gang did not stop with that. When a horrified Raman, who was hard of hearing, frantically tried to save his daughter, one of them struck him on his head. “The injury was so grave that his brain was damaged. He survived for barely twenty-four hours after the attack,” Padmasree said.

Padmasree had to have eight stitches on her head. The three men escaped on two motorcycles immediately after the incident.

One of the family’s relatives helped the police identify the main offender, Muniraj, as he had spotted him trying to escape. While four of those involved, including the two men on the bikes, surrendered in Tambaram and Tindivanam courts last week, the police managed to nab Muniraj. One of the offenders, Vinod, is absconding.

“We are looking for him and he will be nabbed soon,” said a senior police office at the Palur police station.

‘Always helpful’

“My father was a very soft-spoken man. Even after he retired from the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation, he insisted on taking up an honorary post as a priest. He always wanted to help people. And he certainly did not deserve this brutal death,” Padmasree said.

“People here have been telling me they will help me with money and support me. But I want the murderers to be brought to book. I also want my relatives to be safe here after I leave for Tiupati,” she said. “We are not strangers to this place. We used to come here every year as all my mother’s relatives live here,” she added.

Her grandmother said, “Our ancestors have been living here for more than ninety years. We are just seven families now in the agraharam but there were over 30 families earlier. There has never been such a problem, as most of us, especially women don’t venture out alone. We have complained many times that drunkards leave broken bottles and ganja packets here, but no action has been taken.”

Akshaya, her parents said, is yet to recover from the shock. It was Akshaya who ran back home and told her relatives what had happened on that day. Only then, were the victims rushed to the government hospital in Chengalpattu.

“She came running to me, crying that ‘they hit thaatha and chithi,” her mother Jayashree recalled. “Her exams were going on when this incident occurred. Even now, she is so terrified that she wants to keep the doors locked all the time. She does not want any of us to leave the house and keeps insisting that everyone shifts to ‘paati’s home’,” Jayashree added.

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