‘Chennai police killed criminals and not some innocent tourists’
Vol 2 | Issue 8
Two daring bank robberies in broad daylight in Chennai within the span of a month! Lakhs of rupees looted from the banks. Suspects at large and believed to be dangerous since they possess guns. There is fear among the people. Where will the robbers strike next?
Then the news comes that the robbers have been shot dead by a police team in an encounter in Chennai. It is also reported that the cops had acted based on specific information from the house owner that the suspects whose sketch had been released in the media were staying in his house.
Top Chennai cops have come under fire from the media following the killing of five persons in an encounter last week (Photos: Nakkheeran)
The police claim they were shot at when they visited the house, and they fired in self-defence. Now, this is a matter that has to be established by a separate inquiry as per due process of law.
But why is everyone competing to depict the cops as villains? Why has it become fashionable for the media to go after the cops after every encounter without going into the merits of each case separately?
Since 2002 I have assisted police teams that worked on various criminal cases, some of which ended in ‘encounters.’ In the recent incident, I helped the police in doing the sketch of one of the suspects, who was identified in the CCTV of a bank while doing a recce.
Employees of the bank, where the dacoits had struck, identified the man as one of the gang members involved in the robberies. There is little doubt that those shot dead were members of a criminal gang that was striking terror in Chennai and not some innocent tourists who had come on a sight-seeing trip to the city.
THE BALANCING ACT
Before proceeding any further let me clearly state that I totally accept the dictum that in a democracy, each institution, like the Legislature, Judiciary, and the Media, has the responsibility of keeping each other in check.
The media plays its role by putting everything in proper perspective. It gives space to various points-of-view, and carries expert opinions on issues.
However, in the aftermath of the recent Velachery encounter, wherein the 5 suspects of the bank robberies got killed, I found at least two leading English newspapers donning the role of forensic investigators. They had gone to great lengths to convince the public that these were planned killings by Chennai police
YOU CAN NEVER SATISFY SOME
This reminded me of a story in mythology.
A king and his minister were taking a stroll when a small sparrow flew around them, badgering the king to donate a coin.
The king tried to ignore its insistent demands, but the minister asked the king to give the sparrow a coin so that it would fly away leaving them in peace. As soon as the king gave the sparrow a coin, it flew around shouting to all, “the king got frightened of me and gave me a coin.”
The irritated king caught the sparrow and took away the coin. The released sparrow now started shouting at the top of its voice, “The king robbed a poor sparrow.”
THE GREY WEB OF POLICING
The media is quick to blame the police when incidents of crime go up in the city. When the cops act tough, they are blamed for acting too tough.
Police officers are caught in a web of demanding political masters, the cynical media, the powerful mafia which has the money and political clout, a burgeoning urban crime graph and the poor clueless law-abiding public who look up to the police for protection.
They have to satisfy all these stake-holders with a field force that lacks in technology and motivation!
Police standing outside the house where the encounter took place
QUESTIONS IN VELACHERY ENCOUNTER
1) Media says the encounter was pre-planned – Calls were pouring in from the public since the morning after TV channels aired the video footage of the suspect. Around 30 teams were following the leads in the city and even in other states. I was talking to the Joint Commissioner of Police at 11pm, i.e 2 hours before the encounter, and we were having only a regular discussion; I saw no undue tension or anxiety in his manner and talk.
2) Why was Police armed if it was a regular enquiry – In both the robberies the criminals had threatened the bank staff with small arms. Having obtained definite information that the suspects were staying in the house, it is only logical that the police team went armed.
3) The suspects could have been captured alive – That would have been possible if the Chennai police had a properly equipped team to face barricaded armed criminals. The reality is ordinary L&O police, without even a bullet proof jacket were doing the enquiry. They cannot afford to have a long drawn out shooting in a crowded residential area. In the US, police teams use a ‘Stun Grenade’ in such situations. I am sure our field force hasn’t been exposed to such technology so far.
Unfortunately, most of the field level reporters look for obvious interpretations which fit into the template of their theories. ‘Fake encounter’ makes interesting headlines, but matured and nuanced reporting is need of the hour.
- KravMaga Sreeram is an Instructor of unarmed combat to Chennai city police commandos. He also assists the police in investigation of cyber-crimes and as an artist does portraits of suspects.