Four suspects accused of raping and burning alive a veterinarian in Hyderabad were killed by police at Friday dawn.
Except Telangana police which insisted the four were killed in self-defence when they attacked the investigators, few in India pretended it was anything but cold-blooded retribution to the heinous atrocity committed on the woman.
Any misgivings about what a few described as extra-judicial murders were quickly swept away in a wave of countrywide euphoria at the “speedy justice”.
Celebrations broke out in many parts of the country and several public figures supported the police action, holding it up as an exemplary instance of instant justice that the people had been yearning for in the face of an endless cycle of brutality on women.
December 6 has a history of injustice and today’s incident is another shameful chapter. Today, we are mourning Babasaheb Ambedkar’s demise. When a nation cheers an encounter, time to mourn the demise of his Constitution as well!
Ramesh Singh, A Twitter user
Rights groups were outraged that the suspects never got a chance to face trial and accused the police of acting like a lynch mob. Some of them accepted that the celebratory national mood owed to the growing lawlessness in the country and the perceived failure of the judicial system in punishing criminals.
Details of the “encounter”, which purportedly occurred between 5.45am and 6.15am, remain sketchy, raising suspicions about the role of a police force keen to absolve itself of the charges of initial inaction levelled by the murdered woman’s family.
Senior officers, however, claimed such encounters never take place without the knowledge and approval of the political leadership.
The rape and murder of the 25-year-old near a toll plaza last week had triggered countrywide outrage, with hundreds hitting the streets and MPs seeking legal reform to foreclose options of appeal or death-row clemency for those accused of heinous crimes. One MP had called for such accused to be lynched.
I guess people cheering the Telangana police will also cheer when their car windshields are smashed by traffic police if they are caught speeding, maybe a thumb being snipped off if they write a false certificate …. Speedy justice is what we want, isn’t it? Let’s all clap and cheer until we ourselves face some kind of ‘speedy justice’
Jai Ranjan Ram, Psychiatrist
Over the past week, social media users had demanded that the four suspects, lorry workers aged 20 to 24, be stoned to death, hanged publicly or even killed in fake encounters.
“Justice has been done. My daughter’s soul will be at peace now,” the murdered vet’s mother told reporters on Friday.
Her neighbours distributed sweets and burst firecrackers. People cheered the police at the encounter site and showered rose petals on them.
The vet’s sister said: “People will now think twice before doing something like this.”
Cyberabad police claimed they had taken the accused — who had not been handcuffed — to the crime scene where they snatched weapons from the police and opened fire.
Cyberabad police commissioner C.V. Sajjanar said 10 armed policemen had accompanied the four suspects. The police were looking for the rape victim’s missing phone, power bank and watch, he said.
“The accused attacked the police with stones and sticks and also snatched weapons from two officers and began firing,” he said.
He clarified that none of the cops were hit by bullets although a sub-inspector and a constable suffered head injuries from the sticks and stones. The police fired only after initially asking the accused to surrender, the police commissioner said.
Asked how lorry drivers without criminal histories would know how to handle firearms, he said the snatched weapons were “unlocked”.