Police Kill Four Men Arrested for Rape, Murder of Hyderabad Vet

The encounter took place at 3 am on Friday, close to where the accused had allegedly burnt the woman's body.

New Delhi: The four men accused of raping and killing a vet in Hyderabad were shot dead in an encounter early on Friday, the Telangana police has said.

According to the police, the accused were taken from Cherlapally Central Prison to Chatanpally, 50 km from Hyderabad, where they had burnt the woman’s body, for “crime reconstruction”. They then allegedly tried to attack the police and escape, at which point the police say the opened fire in self-defence, according to Indian Express.

While early reports suggested the encounter took place at 3 am, the police claim it happened around 5:45 am.

The police is held a press conference on the encounter only late in the afternoon. It claimed that two Telangana policemen – S.I. Venkateshwarlu and Arvind Goud – had also sustained injuries in the encounter.

According to Cyberabad Police Commissioner V.C. Sajjanar, the police took the accused to the crime scene to find where they had hidden the victim’s cell phone. He said ten policemen had accompanied the accused to the spot.

To justify why they were taken to the crime scene so early in the morning, police said the accused “faced threats from the public”.

As The Wire has reported, Friday’s encounter bears many parallels with the 2008 Warangal encounter, when three men accused of throwing acid on two women were killed. Sajjanar was then the superintendent of police in Warangal. Briefing the press on Friday, he refused to answer a question on the parallels between the two killings.

The police said that the investigation has led them to believe that the accused are involved in more cases of rape and murder. The police have gathered information from police in Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to look into the possibility that they are involved in more cases.

Multiple concerns have been raised about the police’s version of events already, though no official response has come through. The National Human Rights Commission has taken cognisance of the killings and asked the director general (investigations) to send an immediate fact-finding team to the site.

National Commission for Women chairman Rekha Sharma has said that India judicial and constitutional processes must be respected, and ideas of “justice” should follow those principles.

Vrinda Grover, a human rights lawyer, said on NDTV, “This is absolutely unacceptable. We don’t want this form of trigger happy justice. There must be an independent judicial enquiry into this ‘encounter’. There must be accountability of the police.”

Supreme Court advocate Karuna Nundy also raised questions on the lack of judicial process in the case.

The All India Progressive Women’s Association has condemned the killings, and said that this is no way to make women feel safer in India. “A system that offers murder as “justice” is a system that is telling women – we can’t ensure the streets are safe, can’t investigate crimes against women to ensure there’s enough evidence to prove guilt, can’t protect rape survivors (one was burnt alive yesterday in UP), can’t ensure that survivors get dignity in Court. All they can do is act like a lynch mob and ask us, the people, to accept lynching as the only possible justice,” a statement from the CPI(ML)’s women’s wing says.

Other women’s groups too have condemned the police action, and even demanded that the chief minister and police chief step down from their positions.

The rape and murder had led to widespread outrage and protests across the country. MPs in the Rajya Sabha also raised the issue, and said that the accused deserved to be given the death sentence or even “lynched” in public.

The accused – Mohammed (26), Jollu Shiva (20), Jollu Naveen (20) and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu (20) – had been arrested on November 29, two days after the vet went missing from Shamshabad toll plaza. Her burnt corpse was recovered on November 28.

The woman’s family has thanked the police and Telangana government for “delivering justice” by killing the four accused. The woman’s sister also told NDTV that this would “serve as an example” and “nobody will even think of doing something like this again”. The accused had not yet been tried or convicted.

Political reactions

Several Bharatiya Janata Party leaders have celebrated the police’s “swift” action.

The party spokesperson’s official response, though, was more tempered and said more details were needed. “…India is not a banana republic and is bound by legal and constitutional framework. Politics over crime, cannot set a right precedence,” the statement signed by K. Krishna Saagar Rao, chief spokesperson of the BJP’s Telangana unit, said.

The BJP state unit also said the police hold a press conference immediately.

Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati also lauded the police action, and said she wished the Delhi gangrape had been dealt with in the same manner. “Rape cases are reported from across the country, especially from UP. I feel we should take strong action like this. Here, we see that rape-accused are being treated as guests and not criminals. Hope the attitude changes for the better,” she said.

K. Narayana, Communist Party of India national secretary, welcomed the police action. “We are happy that the police killed the four accused. To prevent such crimes from occurring, this is required. Yes, this may create law and order problems in the future.. but in this moment, we do not need to debate about that. The encounter is necessary to prevent more brutal crimes in the future. We welcome it.”

Congress leader Karti Chidambaram called encounters a “blot to our system”.

On Sunday, Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao had ordered a fast-track court to be set up for expeditious trial in the case and assured all necessary help to the woman’s family.

You can follow live developments on the encounter here.