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Karamchedu massacre refers to an incident that occurred in Karamchedu, Andhra Pradesh on 17 July 1985, where a conflict between Dalits and Kamma landlords predominantly resulted in the killing of six Dalits and grievous injuries to 20 more. After a long legal battle that went up to the Supreme Court, one person was given life imprisonment and 30 more were sentenced to a prison term of three years. The initial main accused, Daggubati Chenchu Ramaiah, father of then-MLA of Parchur, Daggubati Venkateswara Rao was brutally assassinated by Naxalites in 1989 as Retaliation.
The people of one off the caste raised cotton, tobacco and other cash crops with traditional crops to become the richest community in Andhra Pradesh. They monopolized trade, moneylending business and particularly cinema industry. The village landlord, Daggubati Chenchuramaiah, was a very close relative of TDP founder N. T. Rama Rao (NTR). His son, Daggubati Venkateswara Rao, was married to NTR's beloved daughter.
Malas, Madigas, and Yerukulas were living side by side in Karamchedu. After NTR had formed the Telugu Desam Party, almost all castes joined it. Dalits choose to remain in the Congress Party. NTR's son-in-law and Chenchuramaiah's son Daggubati Venkateswara Rao contested as an MLA and got hold of power.
Potina Seenu and Rayineedu Prasad, took their buffaloes to the drinking water tank in Madigapalle. They fed the buffaloes with washings of rice in buckets. While they were washing the dirty buckets in the tank, Katti Chandraiah, a Dalit boy, objected to it. His courage angered Seenu and Prasad. They were about to beat up Chandraiah when Munnangi Suvaartha, a Madiga woman, came to the tank to collect water.
She tried to protect the boy from the attack. Seenu and Prasad threw hunters at her. She lifted her vessel and warded off the hunters. Suvaartha's lifting of vessel in self-defence became a pretext for land lords, who were itching for a fresh quarrel with Madigas after the election clash. They used the trivial occasion for a ghastly attack on Madigas. Duddu Moshe, Duddu Ramesh, Tella Yehoshua, Tella Moshe, Tella Muthaiah and Duddu Abraham were axed to death. Eight Dalits were killed by the land lords' attack.
Subsequent to the massacre, the People's War Group killed the key accused Daggubati Chenchu Ramaiah, father of Venkateswara Rao. The Naxalites claimed that the murder of Ramaiah was a fitting reply to the upper castes of the village. The furious agitations of Dalits under the banner of Dalitha Mahasabha (DMS) led by Katti Padma Rao, now a PRP leader, made the government accept all their demands, including naming of about 150 people accused in the case.
The government had to announce a special package for the victims. The government provided jobs to all the family members of the victims in addition to granting agriculture land, industries, and loans. The separate Vijayanagar Colony was constructed to cool the frayed tempers of Dalits. Though the NTR government did a lot to control the damage, it ultimately lost power in the 1989 elections.
Bojja Tharakam -- a well-known poet, writer, social and political activist, and a senior human rights advocate -- was a committed lawyer fighting for problems of Dalits in Andhra Pradesh State High Court, he resigned from the High Court as a sign of protest in 1984 against the attacks on Dalits in Karamchedu.
The trial court in Ongole convicted 159 people to life imprisonment, which was later struck down by the AP High Court. Though a special leave petition was filed in the Supreme Court on October 24, 1998, it was on December 19, 2008 -- 10 years later -- that a bench of the apex court, consisting of Justice B N Agarwal and Justice G S Singhvi, upheld the conviction of the trial court. However, it sentenced the main accused, Anjaiah, to life term and 29 others to three years of jail in the case. Justice (retd) M N Rao appeared on behalf of the state of Andhra Pradesh at the proceedings.
In 1994, the additional sessions judge, Guntur, had given life sentences to five accused and three years' imprisonment for several others. However, a division bench of the AP High Court set aside the conviction on July 24, 1998 and acquitted the accused.
There are two cases with identical charges of conspiracy, rioting, rape, and murder against them. The police had 94 people as the accused in their case for trial; in the other case, by the Dalits, another 70 have been named.
After examining 90 witnesses from among the Dalits, the third Additional Munsif Magistrate, Chirala, M. Ramadas felt there was a prima facie case against 140 out of the 164 accused. Of them, 49 were charged with murder, and the others with rape, rioting and unlawful assembly.