Zakeer Hussain, Asian Age Corespondent
Dharmapuri (Tamil Nadu). 30 September 2011. Nearly two decades after the incident, a sessions court here on Thursday sentenced all the 215 men of the police and forest and revenue departments to jail terms ranging from one to 10 years for assault and rape of tribals during a raid targeting sandalwood smuggling in remote Vachathi village in Dharmapuri district.
Of the total 269 accused in what came to be known as the Vachathi case, 54 had died during the CBI investigation and the trial.
Principal district and sessions judge S. Kumaraguru held guilty 126 forest personnel, including four IFS officers, 84 men from the police and five from the revenue department.
Seventeen men were sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment for rape and 12 of them were given an additional 10 years’ RI for offences under the SC/ST Act, with both terms running concurrently. The rest were awarded jail terms ranging from one to three years.
Most of the convicted men were aged and some of them found it difficult to even remain standing in the court, which was packed with Vachathi villagers. Mediapersons had descended from all over considering that this case had shocked the nation for the magnitude of barbarian abuse of helpless tribals.
Several relatives of those convicted were present in court. Some erupted in anger when the verdict was pronounced.
“My husband had gone to provide security for the raid team on the orders of his superiors. He did no wrong,” wailed a woman. But the majority in the huge crowd welcomed the verdict as justice delivered, at last.
According to the Central Bureau of Investigation, a team of 155 forest personnel, 108 policemen and six revenue officials entered Vachathi on June 20, 1992. They dragged the tribals out of their homes, assaulted about 100 of them and raped 18 young women, besides ransacking properties.