| Call it gangsta rap or streetland killing. But when 31-year-old Nandakumar was hacked to death on a warm Sunday afternoon right in front of his house by a machete-wielding trio of gangsters at Muneshwara in south Bangalore, it seemed like just another entry in Silicon Valley's horrible crime diary. The killers just got away after slicing the victim to death. |
Bangalore has witnessed more than a hundred murders in less than six months. "Be it chain-snatching, car theft or murders, safety in the city has become a growing concern for everyone and that is scary," says corporate executive B. Saritha, who stays in the outskirts and regularly travels by bus to the city. "The scariest thing is to witness public brawls that are common these days," adds Saritha.
More than anything, it is the murders that take place in daylight, sometimes even near police stations, that have unnerved the 7 million people living in the city. While Joint Commissioner (Crime Branch) Gopal Hosur dismisses the presence of the underworld, he cites personal enmity as the prime reason for most of the murders. "We have taken serious note of the crime scene in Bangalore and are taking several measures to curb it," he says, adding that his men have detained nearly 60 people with criminal antecedents. Hosur admits to have suspended two inspectors in the past for failing to keep a check on the crime rate in their areas. Street hoods, however, don't seem to be scared of the cops.
In August, 28-year-old welder Manjunath was hacked to death in front of shocked onlookers in a busy shopping area at around 8.30 p.m by four gangsters, who sped away while the shop-owners downed their shutters in panic. Senior police officers say the public just refuses to inform the control room in time. "There is no fear of the baton or the police revolvers," says sales executive R. Manjunath, who travels a lot around the city. Take the killing of Shanmugam, 30, who was knifed to death by fellow gangster Ravi while he was walking home around lunch time near Bangalore airport. Ravi was arrested and jailed. He came back only to join another gang until he was murdered by a Shanmugam associate. For Mallesh it was avenging the murder of his mentor. For the public, it was yet another street killing. And, for the police, one more entry in their books.
"It is disheartening to see Bangalore turn into a hub of crime. We'll combat this menace soon."
HOME MINISTER, KARNATAKA
Two Kannada films used real life rowdies to play reel characters. Karriya, a film by director Prem had 20-odd rowdies, while Upendra's Om also starred underworld elements. The excuse being that they reflected the society as it was.
Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy-worried about the image of his otherwise progressive state-has asked the police to strictly implement the Goonda Act (Felonious Activities Prevention Bill) to suppress anti-social activities in Bangalore. State Home Minister M.P. Prakash has called a meeting with some senior police officers this month to draw up a strategy on growing crime graph and rowdyism.
"It is disheartening to see Bangalore turn into a hub of crime," he says, adding, "We will try to combat this menace at the earliest".
The chief minister had raised the issue of Goonda Act soon after Palani, 40-a man involved in several criminal cases-was hacked to death by a rival gang inside a well-known hospital, next to the senior police officers' mess.
The police have started setting up nakabandis and stepped up night rounds. The department is also in the process of recruiting nearly 4,300 police personnel-half the number for Bangalore alone. Bangalore Police Commissioner N. Achuta Rao has instructed his officials to take serious action against anti-social elements. "You will notice a big change soon," he says. The police have also identified close to 1,600 history sheeters, but are having problems accommodating them in jails. The only big jail in Bangalore is in Parappana Agrahara village and it houses 4,500 inmates, which is double its capacity. Where six inmates should use one toilet, there are 17 who are currently sharing it.
Meanwhile, Kumaraswamy has warned the police against any association with the land mafia. With land prices skyrocketing in certain areas and the gap increasing between the rich and the poor, land disputes have attracted hordes of small-time criminals in the city. Former Bangalore police commissioner H.T. Sangliana says, "You have to use brutal force or persuade gangsters to surrender and not take to arms again, and that is the only way to clean up the crime scene in the city. The ideal ratio is one for every thousand citizens, but we have only 4,000 police personnel for a city of 7 million."
With nearly three dharnas and two public functions involving senior politicians every day, a huge portion of the police force is always busy manning the venues or protecting the politicians. Senior officers admit there is a big manpower shortage, especially in the crime, law and order wings. There is hardly any intelligence gathering at the local level where gangsters can be netted en masse. Proposals for modernisation of the force and recruitment have been floated from time to time, but they are gathering dust in the home department. About 5,000 additional posts were sanctioned about five years ago, but the additional personnel are yet to be deployed. "Presence of policemen in the public square will act as a deterrent to some extent," says Hosur.
Whether it is an old broad daylight murder of 28-year-old cloth merchant Mohammed Azam or the September 10 killings of Suresh and Toni by hired killers at Jnanabharati layout, it seems Rao and his men will have to do a lot to dispel the fears of Bangaloreans.