Syed Amin Jafri in Hyderabad
All 33 persons accused of the sensational murder of Congress legislator Vangaveeti Mohana Ranga Rao at Vijayawada 13 years ago have been acquitted by the Rangareddy district court.
Ranga Rao, popularly known as Ranga, was brutally murdered in the early hours of December 25, 1988, in Vijayawada City when he was on an indefinite fast to demand personal security.
His murder sparked unprecedented caste riots in the entire coastal Andhra region, leading to scores of deaths and destruction of properties worth billions of rupees.
Delivering the verdict on Monday amidst tight security, Rangareddy District Sessions Judge N Vidya Prasad acquitted all the 33 accused, including then Telugu Desam Party legislator from Kankipadu, Devineni Rajasekhar, and dismissed the case on the ground that the prosecution had failed to prove their guilt.
The prosecution contended that the accused, including Kadiala Buchibabu and 43 others, had attacked Ranga with bombs and knives at his hunger strike camp. Ranga was chased and hacked to death while trying to flee the place.
The Vijayawada police registered cases against the accused and the case was transferred to the criminal investigation department of the state police. Later, the Central Bureau of Investigation took over and filed the charge sheet.
The trial was transferred from the Vijayawada court to the Rangareddy court after Ranga's widow and former legislator Ratnakumari said the lives of the witnesses would be under threat if the trial was held in Vijayawada.
Eleven of the accused persons died over the last 13 years. The remaining 33 faced prosecution.
The Rangareddy court examined 96 witnesses. Incidentally, Ratnakumari did not support the prosecution. Most of the other witnesses too turned hostile.
Ratnakumari, who was elected to the assembly on a Congress ticket for two terms from Vijayawada East after Ranga's death, later joined the TDP. On the other hand, prime accused Devineni Rajasekhar, who was elected to the assembly for four terms on a TDP ticket between 1983 and 1994, joined the Congress on the eve of the 1999 assembly election.
While Ratnakumari was denied a ticket by the TDP, Rajasekhar lost the 1999 election.
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