Fourteen witnesses of a triple murder at Narasapuram village in Krishnagiri district have been leading a nomadic life doing odd jobs in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka ever since they fled the village three years ago.
Three brothers S Munikrishnappa, S Seenappa and S Muniraj were murdered on September 3, 2003, after a bitter dispute with a powerful caste Hindu local farmer, Muninagappa, over tilling of temple land. Their employing a Dalit complicated matters as he had married Muninagappa’s sister Munirathina. The Dalit was killed in 2010. Venkatasamy (55), one of the witnesses on the run, alleged that those who threatened them with dire consequences had the backing of some influential persons in the village.
Venkatasamy has nine acres at Narasapuram, but can’t even step into his village and has been struggling to make both ends meet. Venkatasamy, his wife Susilamma and one of his sons, Ragu — all three witnesses — were frequently intimidated before they fled, he claimed. “I am now in Karnataka doing odd jobs. I also keep shifting my location of stay to stay out of the killers’ reach. They have dug up the area around my farmland, so we can’t enter it,” he said.
Munirathina (32), widow of Muniraj, one of the three slain brothers, says her biggest challenge is to console her daughter Asha (10), whenever she remembers her dad. She moved to a relative’s house in Krishnagiri district fearing for Asha’s life and works at an export company for a living.
“Asha was three-months old when her father was murdered. She’s now in Class V. Whenever my brother refuses to take her to school, she weeps, saying: ‘My dad would not have done that.’ On such occasions, I go silent,” Munirathina says with tears welling up her eyes.
For Subramaniamma (54), sister of the murdered trio and a witness, life was comfortable earlier. Now she crushes raagi for a living, earning just `50 a day. “Ten people used to work for us then. Now we are struggling to live and are threatened from entering our farmlands. What is worse, the local police continues to favour the powerful lobby,” she alleges. “They even offered `1 lakh in exchange for our silence. But no matter what, we will fight for justice,” she says.
Harish, son of Subramaniamma, too blamed the police for denying protection to the witnesses.
However, Sub Inspector M Sumithra of Barigai police station, seeks to blame the witnesses for dragging the case.
“We are ready to provide security, but the witnesses keep postponing the case. We can provide protection when they present themselves during trail, but Venkatasamy fails to appear in court,” she claims.
For his part, Muninagappa’s son Muniappa claims that “Venkatasamy demanded `35 lakh for withdrawing the case but we refused. We are ready to face them in court.”