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Day after lawyer couple killed, TRS leader detained; father points to ‘illegal’ land deals

On Wednesday, between 2:15 and 2:30 pm, Rao and Nagamani, parents of a teenaged son, were pulled out of their vehicle and hacked to death.

FIVE MONTHS before they were hacked to death on a busy highway in Peddapalli district of Telangana on Wednesday afternoon, lawyer couple G Vaman Rao (52) and G Nagamani (48) had sought protection from the high court, alleging police harassment over their PIL which sought a probe into an alleged custodial death.

This was just one of the many cases that Rao and Nagamani — who practiced in the Telangana High Court and were known for their activism — had taken up. According to a friend of the couple, they had also filed several police complaints against some local political leaders over “suspicious” land deals.

On Wednesday, between 2:15 and 2:30 pm, Rao and Nagamani, parents of a teenaged son, were pulled out of their vehicle and hacked to death. Scores of people witnessed the attack — at least three state transport buses, dozens of cars and two-wheelers stopped on the highway as the couple’s car was blocked by the two unidentified assailants. Several people also videographed the attack.

In one of the purported video clips of the incident, an injured Rao has named Kunta Srinivas, a local Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) leader. Srinivas, president of the party unit in Manthani mandal, and two others, identified as Veldi Vasantha Rao and Chiranjeevi, were detained on Thursday.

Srinivas and Veldi Vasantha Rao have been named in the FIR, on the basis of a complaint filed by Rao’s father, G Kishan Rao. The FIR, filed at the Ramagiri police station, also names a third suspect — Akkapaka Kumar.

In his complaint, Kishan Rao has said that his son and daughter-in-law were killed because they had threatened to expose “illegal” land deals.

The FIR says Rao and Nagamani were targeted because they had objected to the allegedly illegal construction of a temple and house on a plot of land in Gunjapadugu village. Srinivas is alleged to be behind the construction.

On Wednesday afternoon, when Rao and Nagamani reached the outskirts of Kalvacherla village, they were attacked with hunting knives and hacked several times, says the FIR. “As a result, they both sustained severe bleeding injuries. While taking them to Peddapalli hospital, they both died,’’ it says.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Kishan Rao said his son had filed several complaints against local real estate developers for alleged land grabbing. “I have named three persons in my complaint to Ramagundam Police Commissioner, including one who is associated with the ruling TRS. I suspect that these three persons are behind the attack,” he said.

“My son used to help people draft missing person’s complaints. If police did not take action, he would file petitions in court. He would not remain silent if he came to know of land grabbing or illegal activities in our mandal,” Kishan Rao said.

“Rao had lodged several police complaints against some local political leaders over suspicious land deals. He had warned police that if they did not take action he was prepared to file petitions in court,” advocate Harish Chandra, a friend of the couple, said.

While there has been no official reaction from the TRS, Telangana Home Minister M Mahmood Ali said the state government had taken a serious view of the incident and directed police to conduct a thorough probe and arrest the culprits. “They will be caught soon and the law will deal with them,’’ he said.

The BJP has sought a reaction from Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao. State BJP president Bandi Sanjay said the incident had shaken people, and drew attention to the law and order situation in the state.

On Thursday, the Telangana High Court issued suo motu notice to the state government over the incident. Describing the killings as “unfortunate”, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice B Vijayasen Reddy asked Advocate General B S Prasad to file a status report on the investigation. The court also directed the police to trace all the video clips of the attack and preserve them as evidence.

Ramagundam Police Commissioner V Satyanarayana said call data records of several suspects were being scrutinised. Police said several teams had been formed to track down the attackers.

Last year, the couple – their funeral was held in Manthani town on Thursday – had filed a PIL seeking an investigation into the alleged custodial death of Sheelam Rangaiah, a “poacher” who was found hanging in Manthani Police Station on May 26, after being detained. After filing the PIL, the couple had alleged police harassment and sought protection from the High Court in September.

A week back, Rao had taken a minor to the State Human Rights Commission after she was allegedly raped by her uncle. The lawyer had alleged that the police were not investigating her case seriously.

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