The temple city of Madurai, set on fire by the mythical Kannagi of Tamil epic Silapathikaram, seems to be in the midst of a raging gang war.
The rivalry, which started as a tiff between two men as many decades ago over sticking posters, seems to be never ending, law-enforces say.
VK Gurusamy, a political aspirant from Ramanathapuram district, moved to Madurai at a young age. He started working with the DMK under the guidance of Azhagiri, DMK patriarch and former chief minister M Karunanidhi’s son. Gurusamy soon rose to be a weighty DMK functionary in the Keerathurai locality. He secured a ticket to contest the local body polls in the late 1990s.
Rajapandi, who was also a native of Ramathapuram, joined the AIADMK in the early 90s. In the late 90s, Rajapandi too got a ticket to contest the local body polls from Madurai, an elderly man familiar with the events told The Federal.
Gurusamy and Rajapandi soon became the rich rivals during the 2001 local body polls. It was a matter of prestige to show off their strengths in the Keerathurai region of Madurai.
Their rivalry soon took an ugly turn after Rajapandi’s elder brother’s son was killed by Gurusamy’s men over sticking of party posters in the Madurai city. Since then, at least 20 people have been killed in gang-related violence,” a police sub-inspector with 10 years of service in the district said on condition of anonymity.
“The fights initially started as a show of strength. Later it turned out to be domination exercises as both depended on subversive activities to make money,” the officer said.
Another officer said apart from the members of the rival gangs, at least five people with absolutely no connection with any of these had been killed in instances of mistaken identity. A year ago, the police killed Muthu Irulandi and ‘Saguni’ Karthick in an ‘encounter’ in Alanganallur in Madurai district. However, the police department’s usual tactic could not quell gang rivalry beyond one year.
A murder-for-revenge took place again on April 18, 2019. MS Pandian, Gurusamy’s son-in-law and a DMK functionary, was hacked to death by an autorickshaw-borne gang. “With this, the number of people who lost their lives in gang rivalry touched 20 in Madurai,” a senior police officer in Madurai said.
Despite the loss of 20 lives, the gangs had grown in strength. Impressionable young men easily fall for the lure of money and high lifestyle,” officers said. “Similarly, whenever one person from a gang is killed, the pattern is that his relatives join the gang to avenge the murder. This is the big challenge the law-enforcers face,” the senior officer said.
Each gang member had, at least, two murder cases pending against them. “The members of the gang manage to evade arrest. Muthu Irulandi and ‘Saguni’ Karthick could never be arrested at all,” the officer added.
The police could not confirm the gang-wise split-up of deaths but officers familiar with the cases said 11 from Gurusamy’s gang and eight from Rajapandi’s team had been killed.