Kambalapalli carnage probe completed

BANGALORE, MAY 8. Investigation of the Kambalapalli violence, in which seven dalits were burned to death on March 11, has been completed and the Directorate of Civil Rights Enforcement (CRE) is readying itself to file a chargesheet.

Sources in the CRE told TheHindu on Monday that the cell had completed investigation and arrested the accused in two cases. While the first case pertains to the murder of Krishna Reddy, the second deals with the killing of dalits.

Seven dalits had been locked up in a house in Kambalapalli in Chintamani taluk in Kolar District on March 11 and the house was set on fire. The provocation for the ghastly deed was the stabbing of Krishna Reddy the previous day in the village.

Since the case dealt with atrocities on dalits, the State Government had asked the CRE Cell, which is the authority dealing with issues of civil rights abuse, to take over the investigation.

The incident was referred to the CRE on March 15 and it constituted two teams under deputy superintendents of police (DySPs) to investigate the cases. While one team went into the murder of Krishna Reddy, the other busied itself with the burning of dalits.

In 45 days, the CRE Cell was able to solve the case and arrest all the accused named in both FIRs. Sources said 32 persons had been identified in the dalit burning case and they had been arrested. Eleven persons were taken into custody for the murder of Krishna Reddy.

Since Kambalapalli is close to the border of Andhra Pradesh, several of the accused had fled to the neighbouring State. The CRE Cell had managed to nab all of them from their hideouts. All the arrested have been remanded to judicial custody.

Meanwhile, the cell has already recorded the statements of nearly 70 eye-witnesses. Before filing the chargesheet, the CRE Cell wants to record the statements of the arrested. Investigations so far have revealed deep-rooted animosity between the dalits and upper classes as the reason for the violence.

Tension was building up between the two communities after a dalit, Venkataramanappa, was murdered at Iragamapalli, near Kambalapalli, in 1998. One of those accused in the murder was Krishna Reddy. Soon after the murder, the dalits fled the village in fear but returned six months later.

The dalits, under Venkataramanappa's brother, Sriramappa, had been waiting to take revenge. On March 10, a group of dalits, including Sriramappa, saw Krishna Reddy when they were alighting from a bus near the village. A group of 15 persons, including 10 dalits, fell upon Krishna Reddy and stabbed him to death.

Another reason for the simmering discontent in the village was a dalit's affair with an upper caste person. Papamma reportedly had illicit relationship with an upper caste person and this had angered her younger brother, Sriramappa. In turn, Sriramappa had been harassing women of the upper castes. Both groups had filed several cases against each other.

Incidentally, a day prior to the murder, two dalits and Krishna Reddy had a quarrel. The dalits had gone to Chintamani town to lodge a complaint against Krishna Reddy.

Soon after Krishna Reddy's murder, a group of seven dalits, including Sriramappa and Papamma, had taken shelter in a nearby house. Angered by the stabbing, the upper castes people set the house on fire and prevented those holed up inside from escaping.

Meanwhile, there is still no news about the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the incident. The State Government bowed to pressure from several quarters and announced a CBI inquiry into the carnage. However, more than a month after the case was referred to the CBI, there is still no move by the agency to investigate it.

Sources in the CRE Cell said investigation of all aspects of the violence had been completed and only paper work remained to be completed. Once this was completed in the next few days, the CRE Cell file a chargesheet.