2008 ‘encounter’ replay
Cyberabad police commissioner Vishwanath C. Sajjanar, whose team killed four gang-rape-and-murder suspects on Friday, has had a cult following as an “encounter” specialist and came under the scanner for extra-judicial killings a decade ago too.
In 2008, when Sajjanar was the district superintendent of police in Warangal, three men accused of throwing acid on two women were gunned down under his watch.
In both instances, the suspects had been in custody over a crime against women that had triggered public outrage. In both, the accused were shot when they allegedly attacked their police escorts after being taken to the scene of crime.
The acid-attack suspects had been arrested within two days of the assault, which had killed one of the victims. The women had been attacked apparently because one of them had spurned the advances of the prime accused.
The night after their arrest, the trio were taken to the crime scene where they had allegedly hidden their motorcycle. They were gunned down after they allegedly attacked the police with weapons hidden in the two-wheeler.
Sajjanar had then told reporters the accused had shown no remorse during their interrogation.
On Friday, the four men accused of raping and burning alive a woman vet had been taken to the crime scene before dawn. They were shot when they allegedly attacked the cops with sticks and stones and then snatched a couple of their firearms.
The 2008 incident had turned Sajjanar into a heartthrob, with college girls thronging his office with flowers.
The encounters continued after the mild-mannered 1996-batch officer from Hubbali in Karnataka was sent to the special intelligence branch, which spied on Maoists in undivided Andhra Pradesh and later Telangana.
During his stint there, from 2010 to 2018, a series of police offensives pushed the Maoists into neighbouring Chhattisgarh. The media linked Sajjanar to at least two encounters during this period.
In 2016, Maoist turned police informer-cum-gangster Mohammed Nayeemuddin was killed on Hyderabad’s outskirts when he allegedly fired on the elite Greyhound anti-insurgent commandos who had cornered him.
Nayeemuddin had as a Maoist killed IPS officer K.S. Vyas in 1993 but later turned against the rebels, killing several of their leaders and civil rights activists, allegedly at the behest of the police.
He was eliminated after he had turned to extortion and allegedly killed two Maoist turned Telangana Rashtra Samiti politicians.
Less than a fortnight before his transfer last year from the special intelligence branch, where he had risen to the rank of inspector-general of police, Sajjanar added another feather to his cap.
In an encounter, the Greyhounds killed 12 Maoists, believed to be key functionaries in the banned party’s Telangana unit. The CPI Maoist’s Telangana state secretary, Hari Bhushan, and senior leader Bade Chokka Rao narrowly escaped the police dragnet, although Bhushan’s wife Samakka was reportedly killed.
When Sajjanar returned to regular policing as commissioner of Cyberabad, his reputation followed him.
After the gang-rape and murder of the veterinarian, social media had been abuzz with speculation of a repeat of the 2008 “encounter”.
The Deccan Chronicle newspaper reported last week the police were mulling “something more than arrest” to placate the public, furious at reports that the cops had made the woman’s family wait three hours when they complained she was missing, telling them she must have eloped with someone.