In December 2008, two engineering students were attacked with acid outside the gate of their college in Telangana’s Warangal town in a suspected case of spurned love.
Amid outspread public outrage over the incident, the three suspects were swiftly gunned down by the police in what was widely seen as a fake encounter.
Though the encounter was clearly stage-managed, the killing of the attackers was largely welcomed by the people.
VC Sajjanar, a 1996 batch IPS officer who was the Warangal district superintendent of police when the incident occurred, was praised for “quickly eliminating the culprits and bringing justice to the acid attack victims.”
He is now the commissioner for Cyberabad under whose jurisdiction a veterinary doctor was gangraped and murdered near Shamshabad on the city outskirts on Thursday (November 28). The officer is now under immense public pressure to “repeat Warangal-type instant justice”.
There is a growing demand from people across a cross-section of society, including politicians of all hues, artistes and women activists, for capital punishment for the rapists. The relatives of the victim and a large number of people, who staged a protest before the Shadnagar police station, demanded public hanging of the four culprits who have since been remanded to judicial custody.
“We will seek stringent punishment,” Sajjanar said as the horrific incident sent shock waves across the country, reminiscent of the public anger following the 2012 Nirbhaya case in Delhi.
The issue rocked the Parliament on Monday (December 2) with several MPs demanding punishments ranging from castration to death penalty to lynching for the accused.
While Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan said the accused should be lynched in public, the Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said the need of the hour was not a new bill, but “political will, administrative skill, change of mind set and then go for kill of the social evil.”
The city police came under severe criticism for failing to act swiftly in registering the case. Three policemen—Shamshabad Sub-Inspector M Ravi Kumar, and head constables at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport police station A Sathyanarayana Goud and P Venu Gopal Reddy—were suspended for dereliction of duty. What made the matters worse was the jurisdictional confusion in registering the case.
“All the officers of Cyberabad Police have been once again instructed to register cases irrespective of jurisdiction whenever a complaint related to cognisable offence is received at the police station,” the commissioner said.
The prime accused in the case Mohammed Ali, a lorry driver, did not have a licence. The officials of the Road Transport Authority (RTA) had a chance to impound the lorry used by the killers. But, they failed to do so.
Ali was stopped by Mahaboobnagar RTA officials on November 24 while transporting a load of iron and bricks from Gangavathi in Karnataka to Hyderabad. But, he was let off. The horrific rape and murder would not have happened, had the RTA officials impounded the vehicle.
Doors shut on visitors
Vexed with the intrusive media coverage and frequent visits of politicians, the family members of the victim have shut the doors on visitors. A placard saying “No entry for media, politicians and police” was put up at the entrance of their house in Shamshabad.
The victim’s parents said that they did not want sympathy but expeditious justice. They insisted that timely action by the police could have saved the life of their daughter.
A steady stream of VIPs had descended on their house in the last few days. They included the state’s Governor Tamailisai Soundararajan, Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy and state Congress and TRS leaders.
Highway police force
The absence of mobile police patrolling is cited as one of the reasons for failing to spot the trouble near the Thondapally toll plaza in Shamshabad, close to the Hyderabad-Bengaluru highway on Wednesday (November 27) night.
Recently, the Chairman of the Road Safety Authority in Telangana, T Krishna Prasad, wrote to the Bureau of Police Research suggesting the setting up of a National Highway Road Safety Police Force.
Though National Highways constitute only 2 per cent of the total road length in India, they carry 40 per cent of the traffic. The unfortunate fallout is that they account for 31 per cent of the total accidents and 36 per cent of total accident fatalities.
Prasad had suggested that this force should report to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
“Nearly 75,000 deaths occur every year on national and state highways. No one largely polices them,” Krishna Prasad said.
Three days after the tragedy, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao broke his silence and called the crime as “inhuman”, adding “animals in human form are roaming around”. He also announced that a fasttrack court would be set up to expedite the trial. He drew flak from the opposition for keeping silent on the horrific crime.
His son and the State Industries Minister KT Rama Rao sought capital punishment for the culprits. He appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to amend the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to ensure that those who commit heinous acts of violence on women and children are given capital punishment with no provision for a review.
The minister took to Twitter, to urge the Prime Minister to have a day-long discussion on the safety of women in the Parliament.
The state BJP unit attacked him for giving sermons on Twitter instead of apologising to the victim’s family for his government’s incompetence to protect her life.
“It is a shame that he is trying to shift the goalpost instead of owning up and being accountable for the criminal negligence in dealing with this case,” BJP spokesperson Krishnasaagar Rao said.