HYDERABAD – The four accused arrested in connection with the rape-and-murder of a 25-year-old woman veterinarian near here last month were killed in an alleged encounter with the police Friday morning, police said.
“The four accused were killed in an encounter with the police,” Cyberabad Police Commissioner V C Sajjanar said.
The four men, all lorry workers, aged between 20 and 24, were arrested on November 29 for allegedly raping and killing the woman by smothering her and later burning her body.
They were in remanded to 7 days’ judicial custody.
They were taken to the crime scene Friday morning by the police as part of the investigation, a source said.
“They fired upon the police team and we retaliated in self-defence. Two of our men are also injured in the incident,” the source told PTI.
The gang rape-and-murder triggered a nation-wide outrage with the public and lawmakers demanding speedy punishment to the perpetrators.
The state government has ordered setting up of a fast track court to expedite the trial.
Killings draw mixed political reactions
The ‘encounter’ killing of the four men accused in the rape and murder of a woman veterinarian in Hyderabad evoked mixed political reactions on Friday, ranging from fulsome praise to outright condemnation, with some preferring to exercise circumspection in their response.
With many political parties being of the view that the encounter killing may have drawn some public support, even the strong rivals of the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi such as the BJP and the Congress refrained from criticising the police action, which has drawn condemnation from civil right groups, and left it to individual voices within their organisations to offer a mixture of views.
The Left parties, however, took a strong stand with CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury asserting that extra-judicial killings cannot be the answer to the serious concerns over the safety of women. The CPI’s D Raja said no one can justify encounters in the name of speedy justice.
“How we must secure the lives and dignity of each of our citizens, must be what civilised societies are about. Justice can never be retribution. Why is the tough law put in place on the safety of women after the 2012 Delhi crime not being implemented properly?” CPI(M) general secretary Yechury said.
BJP leaders such as Meenakshi Lekhi and Rajyavardhan Rathore hailed the police action while another party leader Maneka Gandhi slammed the encounter, saying it has set a “horrifying” precedent.
Senior Congress leaders like P Chidambaram and Shashi Tharoor reacted cautiously with the former finance minister saying that the incident should be thoroughly enquired into to find out if it was a genuine encounter.
Another Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury noted that a magisterial inquiry is already on and his party will wait for its outcome.
Chidambaram told reporters, “I don’t know the facts of what happened in Hyderabad. As a responsible person all I can say is, it must be thoroughly inquired into to find out if it was a genuine encounter, whether they were trying to flee or it was anything else.”
Tharoor said people should not rush to condemn the encounter until details emerge. He, however, added that extra-judicial killings are otherwise unacceptable in a society of laws.
The Hyderabad police has claimed that the four accused tried to flee and fired at the force’s personnel, leading to an exchange of fire and their death.
Congress leader and lawyer Abhishek Singhvi virtually endorsed the police action, saying the mood of the country sometimes takes “precedence over human rights logic”.
“Sometimes in spite of all the debates and human rights logic, we shall understand the mood and sentiments of the people of the nation and stand with them. After all, democracy is all about the people,” he tweeted.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said it is the anger in people against such incidents that is making them happy about the encounter killings.
“The rape cases that have come to light of late, the entire country is in anger whether it is Unnao or Hyderabad, so people are expressing happiness over the encounter, he said.
The AAP leader, however, struck a note of caution, saying, “It is also something to be worried about, the way people have lost their faith in the criminal justice system. Together all the governments will have to take action on how to strengthen criminal justice system.”
Hailing the encounter, BJP’s Rathore also praised the “leadership” that allowed it.
“I congratulate the Hyderabad police and the leadership that allows the police to act like police. Let all know this is the country where good will always prevail over evil. (Disclaimer for holier than thou- police acted swiftly in self defence),” he said.
Lekhi also appeared to approve the encounter as she said in the Lok Sabha that arms are not meant to be a showpiece for police. However BJP MP Maneka Gandhi was unambiguous in her condemnation of the encounter killing.
“What happened was horrifying for the country. You cannot kill people because you want to. You cannot take law in your hands. They would have been hanged by court anyway. If you’re going to shoot them before due process of law has been followed, then what’s the point of having courts, law and police?” the former Union Women and Child Development minister told reporters.
Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan, who had recently called for lynching of those accused of such ghastly crimes, said “better late than never” in her reaction to the encounter.
Kathua rape victim’s family expresses satisfaction
The family of an eight-year-old girl, who was gang-raped and murdered in Kathua in January last year, expressed satisfaction over the encounter killings in Hyderabad, saying at least the family of the victim will not have to face “nightmare” of lengthy trial.
The biological father of the Kathua victim, Mohammed Akhtar, told PTI over phone from his residence in Samba, 30 km from here, that if these people had indulged in the heinous crime, “I feel justice has been done with the victim and her family”.
They deserved death for what they have done and their end would at least relieve the veterinarian’s family of the ordeal of the courts and lurking threat of the acquittal of the accused.
All four accused in the rape-and-murder of a 25-year-old woman veterinarian last month were killed by police on Friday morning. The incident took place around 6.30 am when the accused, lorry workers aged between 20 and 24, were taken to the scene of the crime near Hyderabad for a reconstruction of events as part of the investigation, a senior police official said.
Akhtar said, “My daughter’s case moved to a court in Pathankot (Punjab) on the direction of the Supreme Court and after a lengthy trial, one of the main accused was released while another, who is reported to be a juvenile, is still under trial (in Jammu). I am not sure whether he gets the punishment for his role in the crime.”
He said everyday is a nightmare for the family of the victim and, therefore, the delivery of justice in such cases should be speedy and the punishment to the accused exemplary so that it works as a deterrent against anti-social and criminal elements.
“In my case, one of the main accused evaded punishment because of the lack of evidence. We have moved to the court against his acquittal, he said.
The family, which moves between Kashmir and Jammu in search of greener pastures during winter and summer, is presently living in Samba district of Jammu region.
Shortly after the court verdict in July, the girl’s father had sought enhancement of the convicts’ sentence to capital punishment and also challenged the acquittal of one accused.
The court had issued notices to the Jammu and Kashmir government and six men convicted in the case in response to a petition filed on July 10 before the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Mohammad Yousuf, who adopted the girl and was the first to report her disappearance in January 2018, said, “I felt glad and relieved after coming to know about the killing of the four accused provided they are the real culprits.
“If they had done wrong, they deserved death…,” Yousuf, who along with his wife has returned to the Kathua village from where the girl went missing, said.
He said the family was expecting capital punishment for all the accused, especially the main culprits, in their case.
The district and sessions court at Pathankot had convicted six people in the case and sentenced Sanji Ram, the mastermind of the crime, Deepak Khajuria, a special police officer, and Parvesh Kumar, to life imprisonment.
The court had also ordered five year imprisonment for special police officer Surendra Verma, head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta. However, son of Sanji ram was set free for want of evidence.
The family of the victim have urged the Punjab and Haryana High Court for enhancement of punishment besides challenging the acquittal of the son.