The showering of petals by local residents on the Telangana Police team that shot dead all the four accused in the gangrape and murder of a veterinary doctor in Hyderabad found an echo far beyond the scene of the crime. From Parliament to social media, from chief ministers to actors and sports stars, several invoked the “delay” in the judicial system to justify the killings. The shrill clamour was amplified through Friday, forcing much of the political establishment to mirror it rather than reflect on its implications.
Nothing illustrates this better than a statement in the morning from the BJP’s Telangana unit: “India is not a banana republic and is bound by legal and constitutional framework. Politics over crime cannot set a right precedence.” By evening, the tone had changed. Asked to explain this, a senior BJP leader told The Indian Express: “We began by being critical of the Government since we are in the opposition but then realised we had to respond to public sentiment.
Consider some of the reactions — in words and tweets:
Former Union Minister and BJP MP Rajyavardhan Rathore: “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)…Speak up for our daughters: Rapes, sexual assaults, will not be tolerated, Don’t ever look at any women & feel you own her even for a moment. Pseudo liberals standing with the 4 rapists — your utopian world will shatter if you think of Hyderabad doctor as your own daughter”
Badminton star Saina Nehwal: “Great work #hyderabadpolice ..we salute u.”
Actor Anupam Kher: “Congratulations and #JaiHo to #TelenganaPolice for shooting down the four rapists…in an “ENCOUNTER”… (All those who raised their voice against such a heinous crime and wanted a most dangerous punishment for the perpetrators, say Jai Hind loudly with me).”
Not to be left behind, the UP Police boasted about “103 criminals killed and 1859 injured in 5178 police engagements in the last two years. 17745 criminal surrendered or cancelled their own bail to go to jail.” They were responding to former UP Chief Minister Mayawati who asked police to “learn” from their Telangana counterparts.
Former Supreme Court Judge Justice Madan Lokur said that such cheerleading is reflective of a serious problem. “The ‘celebrations’ by eminent persons is a clear indication that they believe that the justice delivery system has collapsed and that speedy justice is not possible, however grave the offence. The views expressed in Parliament of lynching in public were perhaps the trigger for that expression. The time to introspect and improve justice delivery is perhaps over — tragically,” Lokur said.
As for the clamour on social media, Raman Cheema of the Internet Freedom Foundation said: “It is not about the Internet and social media alone, this has been happening for some time, a world view that there must be a swift end to the lives of those suspected of crimes, especially in such crimes or terror-related crimes. Of course, social media and the Internet allow people to respond swiftly. What is worrying is that to put people on trial, give them a chance to make their case is essential to prove and demonstrate that we are a democracy. When people lost sight of that too, it is disturbing.”
Dr Surabhi Ranganathan, Lecturer of Law at Cambridge University in the UK, described the killings as “disheartening”. “It places bloodlust above the due process of law. What we should expect from the police is first prevention and then, if a crime does happen, proper investigation. The random act of violence that was chosen instead should not fill anyone with confidence. Are celebrities cheering this so sure that they are safe from similar police action and killings?” she said.
Dr Aparna Balachandran, Professor of History in Delhi University, who writes about society and urban history, is “dismayed by the celebrations”. “There seems to be an unwillingness to reflect on what the abdication of law means for us all,” she said.
Balachandran says it might be the result of “the intersection of many things — a lack of belief in the legal system, the inability to think about the lives of those considered to be inconsequential, and a frenzied social media”.
Praise for “swift justice”, cutting across party lines, was loud in Parliament where BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi said the police are not given “weapons for show” and that it is a case of “reaping what one sows”. “Better late than never,” said Jaya Bachchan, SP’s Rajya Sabha MP.
PDP’s Rajya Sabha MP Mir Mohammed Fayaz said this “is how justice should be delivered”. “Look how swiftly justice is delivered in Saudi Arabia. Does anyone wait there?” he said.
Congratulating the police, BJP’s Diya Kumari tweeted: “At times, Karma has its own way of delivering justice. Congratulations to #HyderabadPolice for vigilantly doing their duty”.
TMC’s Saugata Roy said he was “not a supporter of encounters” but “saw on Facebook that many people have praised this… people have this feeling in their hearts”. Roy also wanted death penalty for rapists to be “served swiftly” — the call was endorsed by NCP’s Supriya Sule.
There were also attempts to compare the Telangana case with the Unnao incident when a 23-year-old woman, who was gangraped, was set on fire by the accused Thursday.
Speaking in the Lok Sabha, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said: “The accused tried to run away and the Hyderabad police shot them dead… the UP police let the accused go free on bail because of which he got the chance…” In Raipur, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said “justice has been done”.