TAMIL NADU

End of an ordeal for the victims' families

RELIVING THE TRAGEDY: Kasiammal, mother of Hemalatha, reacts after watching TV reports about the judgment at her house in Madambakkam near Tambaram on Friday. Photo: A. Muralitharan

RELIVING THE TRAGEDY: Kasiammal, mother of Hemalatha, reacts after watching TV reports about the judgment at her house in Madambakkam near Tambaram on Friday. Photo: A. Muralitharan  

Special Correspondent

They feel judgment will serve as a warning to criminals

SALEM: The tears they shed and the prayers they offered have not been in vain. Justice, at last, has prevailed. But none of these comes without a price.

For the families of the three girl students of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University - Kokilavani, Hemalatha and Gayathri - who were burnt alive inside their college bus on February 2, 2000, it has been a long ordeal. But the judgment has provided solace.

"Not that we are happy," says R. Kesavachandran, father of Hemalatha, one of the victims, when asked about the judgment. "How can we? At least the souls of our children who died in a gruesome manner will now be at peace."

The 55-year-old bank employee from Chennai breaks down while recollecting the happy times spent with `Hema', as he used to call her fondly.

"When I saw her like a charred wooden log, I could not bear it. From that day, I lost interest in life itself," he says, tears rolling down his cheeks.

Inseparable in death

All the three girls had got admission to TNAU the same day and even shared the same hostel room. "They remained thick friends and death also was not that cruel to separate them," says Mr. Kesavachandran. The judgment, he feels, will serve as a warning to criminals who use politics to carry out their nefarious activities for cheap gains. "It will be a stern warning to all those who pick up a stone to damage public property or attempt to light a matchstick to burn a bus."

Mr. Kesavachandran thanks the then Madras High Court judge Justice Kanakaraj for transferring the case to Salem and N. P. Veerasamy, father of Kokilavani, another victim, who waged a relentless battle for seven years to get justice in this politically sensitive case.

Both Mr. Kesavachandran and Mr. Veerasamy hope to forget their traumatic past but not their children who lost their lives in the brutal incident. "It is the judiciary again that has come to redress thes grievances of poor and hapless victims in our country," they say, with gratitude.

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