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Chennai: As colleges reopen, police gear up to curb ‘route thala’ menace

The youth addressed as ‘route thala’ is considered the boss of that particular route. The 'route thala' culture has led to gang rivalries among students, and violence and nuisance on Chennai streets.

Written by Janardhan Koushik | Chennai | Updated: December 8, 2020 8:24:15 am
Police said they have shortlisted current and former students who are part of such gangs, and explained to them the legal consequences of their actions. (Photo: YouTube/screengrab)

With colleges and universities in Chennai reopening on Monday, the city police are gearing up to tackle the ‘Route Thala’ culture, which has led to gang rivalries among students and violence and nuisance on the streets.

The student addressed as ‘Route Thala’ is considered the “boss” of that particular route. The thala and his ‘gang’ often pick fights with other students to maintain his ‘gethu’ (pride). Last year in July, one such ‘Route Thala’ rivalry saw students of Pachaiyappa’s college, one of India’s oldest educational institutions, chasing each other with sickles and machetes on the road.

Thus, in a meeting convened by the Chennai city commissioner Mahesh Kumar Agarwal last week, officers have been instructed to take strict action against such offenders. Speaking to Indianexpress.com, V Balakrishnan, the Joint Commissioner of North Chennai, said all sensitive routes and buses have been identified and police officers are strictly monitoring students who have been part of such gangs.

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“We shortlisted current and former students who are part of these gangs. They were called to the police station and a stern warning was issued. We explained to them that they should not get involved in these things and spoil their career, because if a case is registered against them, they won’t be able to get jobs or fly abroad. We explained to them the legal consequences. Their parents have also been informed. We have identified the sensitive routes and police officers have been deployed there. Apart from that, the officers will also be present inside busses in plain clothes,” he said.

The police officer added that these route thalas are usually not students, but alumni or someone entirely unrelated to the colleges.

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Before the Pachaiyappa’s college incident, in June 2019, on the pretext of celebrating bus day, close to 25 students had created a ruckus by climbing on top of a moving bus. They were seen hanging onto the window bars and performing dangerous stunts, terrifying the passengers inside. The students fell down and got severely injured when the driver applied brakes to avoid collision with a bike.

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