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Updated: September 30, 2011 13:29 IST

A long, agonising wait for justice ends

V. S. Palaniappan
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Victims, families and activists happy over verdict but upset over “inadequate compensation”

The excruciating wait for justice was nearly two decades long for the people of Vachathi, a tribal hamlet in Pappireddipatti taluk, 50 km away from Dharmapuri and 16 km from Harur. Jubilation was writ large on the faces of the victims and their family members, as the final verdict of the trial court came. Some of them broke down on hearing the verdict.

‘I was just 13 then when dragged me by the hair, abused me in foul language and raped me on the bund of a lake,” recalled a victim, now 33 years old, who came to the court premises with her husband and children to watch justice being meted out.

“When I pleaded that I was a small girl studying eighth standard, the men in khaki responded saying ‘Being a girl is enough'. I was waiting with bated breath for the 19 years hoping that the long arm of justice will not spare the offenders,” he said. Her entire family was happy as the verdict, she said, came as a healing balm after barbaric acts had pushed them to the edge of their lives.

“Though it was done by men in the lower ranks, the officials were in the know of the whole incident and watched everything from a distance and it all happened with their sanction."

Paranthayi, a woman in her late 30s, said her 16-year-old daughter (name withheld) was dragged and stripped right in front of her. The men forced their way into the house showering choicest abuses. “My daughter who was taken away by 2.45 p.m. was brought back only at 9 p.m., only to be taken to the forest office at night. She has managed to survive the trauma and is in court today with her husband and three children. Our only mistake is that we hail from a suppressed community," she said.

Reacting to the judgement, P. Shamugam, State president of the Tamil Nadu Tribals Association, said in this case the verdict made up for the long and agonising wait. The delay was primarily due to the lack of co-operation and dilatory tactics adopted by those who held high offices in government. Mr.Shanmugam said though Rs 1.25 crore had been disbursed as compensation in two phases, it was disappointing.

CPI(M) MLA P. Dilli Babu said the case and the verdict were historic. “The verdict has assuaged the hurt feelings of the victims. The efforts taken by Tribals Association, AIDWA and CPI(M) have not been in vain. With regard to higher compensation for the victims of rape and those who lost their property and livelihood, CPI (M) will fight legally,” he said.

S. Chrisa Mary, president of the Dharmapuri District Unit of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), said: “It is a victory for the poor and the suppressed, and a befitting lesson to the bureaucracy and the Government.”

D.S. Kavitha, AIDWA Dharmapuri unit secretary, said the compensation of Rs 15,000 each to the 18 victims of rape is inadequate and AIDWA will fight for getting it enhanced.

Keywords: Vachathi case

This is not justice but mockery of justice. Is the court actually supporting the criminals by "imposing" a paltry fine - a fine for the sake of a fine after such a long time? Will the Supreme Court sit and look back - its time to change the laws from scratch. For people in power committing such crimes, laws should prescribe death sentences as a minimum sentence and a maximum time frame for judicial proceeding - like 2 years. There are too many cases of torture, rapes, assaults and even deaths involving police that are not even reported. The next time one sees a news item "died of heart attack in jail" - it is certain that it is murder. Custodial and police involved should imply death warrants to all those involved as a minimum and compulsory punishment.

from:  Varadhan
Posted on: Sep 30, 2011 at 15:13 IST

At last justice prevails. But it is a shame on us to say that it has taken 15+ long years for the judiciary system to come on to a conclusion and pronounce their verdict. We are all human beings, and we should therefore have a heart on others. Some of the stories told by the victims are heart breaking and the trauma they have undergone is far too much - considering this the punishment is too less. As said by Saran - Government should seize all salary, PF and pension which should be paid to the victims. The convicts whether being a high ranked officers or from a high class society – have neither shown humanitarian heart nor have acted to their ranks/class. This is a pity in our society development and education system. The society needs refinement and not only such humanitarian considerations can be brought into society but also other facets of the society can be improved IF AND ONLY IF the civic knowledge and being part of the society is inculcated to our younger generation at their budding age in school. Education needs to be holistically seen rather than being bookish.

from:  Bala Viswanathan
Posted on: Sep 30, 2011 at 13:30 IST

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied. Luckily, this was not the case here. However, the atrocities on tribals are happening more concurrently than expected. Remember the heinous crimes committed by the SPO's (so called) on villagers of Tarmetla recently? All this should be taken into consideration and justice should be meted out expeditiously.

from:  bharath
Posted on: Sep 30, 2011 at 12:49 IST

It is a shame that it has taken 15 long years from the date of filing chargesheet for the court to decide this matter. Where is the justice and what is the cost of such justice.. The judiciary needs to take a hard look at this..Feel very sad for the victims, that too when the compensation is a paltry sum of Rs.15000/- after nearly 20 years of the incident.

from:  Chokkalingam M
Posted on: Sep 30, 2011 at 11:31 IST

I salute the wronged hamlet, her women of indomitable courage, the menfolk with the heart of gold and the justice that was at last rendered. The so called upper class ,to which some of the convicts belong, obviously lack the culture and refinements of Vachathi hamlet. This saga will be enshrined in our history for all times to come.

from:  Soundararajan Srinivasa
Posted on: Sep 30, 2011 at 11:23 IST

Atlast there came a verdict to soothe an entire village. Do we have to wait for so long to get a justice? Fines charged to criminals (Rs. 2000) is way too less. Goverment should seize their entire salary, PF and give to victims.

from:  Saran
Posted on: Sep 30, 2011 at 11:06 IST
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