New Delhi: Just months after he was released on bail, T. Maruthi Rao, the prime accused in the caste killing of Perumalla Pranay, was seen sharing a stage with the local MLA from Telangana’s ruling party at an event held to celebrate Dussehra. Apart from Miryalaguda Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) MLA N. Bhaskar Rao, Telangana legislative council chairman Gutha Sukhender Reddy was also present on the stage.
In September last year, Pranay, a Dalit man, was hacked to death, allegedly for marrying Amrutha, an upper caste Vyshya woman in Miryalaguda of Nalgonda district in Telangana. Maruthi Rao, her father, plotted the killing and contracted a man to murder Pranay, the police have said.
Though Maruthi Rao was arrested, he was released on bail in April after the Telangana police botched the court case, as The Wire‘s analysis showed. The Telangana high court said that the police had invoked the Preventive Detention Act “without application of mind” and left it with no choice but to order the release of the accused.
According to The News Minute, Bhaskar Rao was among the first politicians who visited Pranay’s family after his murder and assured them that strict action would be initiated against the accused. Sukhender Reddy was then the MP from Nalgonda constituency, under which Miryalaguda falls. He also visited Pranay’s family and assured that action would be taken against Maruthi Rao.
Photos posted on Twitter show that Maruthi Rao was part of the organising committee of the Hindu Usthava Samithi, the organisation that conducted the event. Maruthi Rao has been an office bearer in the organisation for many years, according to reports. In a small speech on stage, he thanked all those who attended the event.
Chairman of Telangana Legislative Council #GuttaSukhendarReddy and Baskar Rao @MiryalagudaMla trs sharing dais with Maruthi Rao, a prime accused in a caste killing case who reportedly confessed the crime. This is not a coincidence – #MaruthiRao was organising committee a Gen Sec pic.twitter.com/hYwYTaRRgo
— kartheek (@kartheek777) October 8, 2019
The willingness of legislators from the ruling party to share the stage with a murder-accused has raised questions about the government’s ability to prosecute the caste-killing case. Bhaskar Rao, the MLA, told The News Minute that he went to the event as “a public representative” and the “council chairman was the chief guest”. He admitted that he knew Maruthi Rao would be present.
Bhaskar Rao claimed that his presence at the event was unrelated to the case. “I will be the first one to demand action against him for the crime. I speak frequently to Pranay’s family and Amrutha, and I will do so again now and assure them of the same,” Bhaskar Rao told The News Minute.
This is not the first time that connections between the TRS and Maruthi Rao have come to the fore. Soon after the killing, photographs showing caretaker minister G. Jagadishwar Reddy and Maruthi Rao sharing a stage went viral on social media. Amrutha claimed that a former TRS MLA was also involved in plotting Pranay’s murder.
Pranay was murdered on September 14, 2018, when he and his pregnant wife Amrutha were leaving a private hospital in Miryalaguda. Pranay was attacked with a machete and killed on the spot and the murder was caught on CCTV camera.
The police arrested Maruthi Rao, his brother Sravan Kumar and Mohd Abdul Kareem, a friend of the accused, under charges such as murder and conspiracy. Maruthi Rao was released in April this year on conditional bail. In June, the Nalgonda police filed a 1600-page chargesheet in the case.
Amrutha gave birth to a boy in January.
Though the caste killing sparked outrage within the state and elsewhere, reports also showed that several Facebook groups defended Maruthi Rao’s actions and hailed him as a hero. Many users also changed their display picture to Maruthi Rao’s.