TUMKUR: All the nineteen accused – who were also suspected naxalites – tried at the second additional district and sessions judge court here in connection with the brutal massacre of seven policemen and a civilian, in Venkatammanahalli village in Pavagada taluk on February 10, 2005, were acquitted on Saturday.
Judge B Balakrishna, in an open court hall while pronouncing the judgment at about 1:40 pm, stated: “I am setting you all free on the benefit of doubt, which does not mean that you are innocent or do not have a connection with the naxals. There was no proper investigation in the case. Question your conscience as to whether you have really committed the crime and lead a humane life at least from now on.”
That the judge cited lack of proper investigation for the verdict has come as a setback for the Karnataka police. Public prosecutor H T Bikkannanavar left the hall in a sombre mood.
As many as seven personnel belonging to the ninth battalion of Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP), police personnel and a civilian lost their lives when a band of more than 200 suspected naxalites attacked the KSRP camp with grenades and rifles at about 10.30 pm on Feb 10, 2005.
Sub-inspector Kalavad, constables Chikkanarasimhaiah, Siddaramanna, Venkatesh, Jayaram, Raju and Shivahanumaiah, who were shot at, died at Victoria Hospital in Bangalore; a private bus cleaner Hanumanthu, who was washing a bus at the time of incident, was also shot dead.
Five other cops sustained injuries and recovered eventually.
Almost all persons acquitted in the case hailed from villages in the border taluks of Pavagada in Karnataka, and Anatapur and Nellore districts in Anddhra Pradesh, and are aged between 25-35 years.
Nagaraj, Gopi and Peddanna will not be released from the district sub-jail here as they are named accused in three more cases, including the one in which landmines were set ahead of then chief minister N Dharam Singh’s scheduled visit to Venkatammanahalli after the massacre.
Naresh is wanted in a case by the AP police; it is to be ascertained whether the AP police will take him into custody.
Three more accused, including Nallatvagari Hanumnatha Reddy, Jagadish and Anil, who were minors at the time of the incident, are being tried in a juvenile court in Bangalore.
Senior counsels T G Rangaraju, S K Mallikarjun and their assistant V D Venkatswamy, who hail from the village and appeared on behalf of the then ‘accused’, were, interestingly, happy at the verdict.
The Karnataka police arrested a total of 65 persons in connection with the massacre, including naxal sympathisers Varavara Rao.