The people of Tamil Nadu have always proudly referred to the state as as ‘Amaithi Poonga’ (peaceful garden). But recent incidents of violence, particularly in the state’s capital Chennai have rattled the city’s inhabitants.
Just as Chennai was beginning to recover from the brutal murder of Infosys techie S Swathi at Nungambakkam railway station on June 24, with the arrest of suspect P Ramkumar, an advocate was stabbed inside his chamber on the Madras High Court premises on Tuesday.
The lawyer Manimaran was attacked by his own son, Rajesh, with what seems to have been a sickle or a knife over family disputes. The lawyer was immediately rushed to the hospital with bleeding injuries to his forehead, cheek and back of the ear. Enraged lawyers thrashed up the assailant, Rajesh, in which he too sustained some injuries, though not serious, and was taken to the hospital.
Manimaran, who has two wives, was allegedly living with the second wife and not being supportive of finding a match for his daughter from his first wife, Rajesh’s sister, said sources. This was likely the issue that triggered a heated argument between father and son, and ended in Rajesh attacking his father.
The incident came just three weeks after the brutal murder of Swathi on June 24 at Nungambakkam railway station at 6.30 in the morning. Swathi had been waiting on the platform when a young man approached her. A heated argument broke out between them, and the man suddenly took out a sickle from his travel bag and assaulted her, cutting her in several places on the face and neck. Swathi bled to death on the platform of the station. The police caught the accused Ramkumar within a week after the incident. Ramkumar allegedly tried to slit his throat when the police closed in on him, but he survived.
Just a day after Swathi was slain, another crime rocked the city. A 35-year-old man was arrested for allegedly murdering his wife and three stepdaughters and sleeping in the same house as the corpses. The incident came to light a day after residents of the building on Muthu Street in Royapettah informed the landlord complaining of a foul odour.
The accused was arrested a day after the incident, following a failed attempt by him to flee.
A month ago on June 5, a lawyer was hacked to death by four men outside an apartment complex which led the police to the arrest of his wife and her boyfriend. Similarly, in two separate incidents a group of 11 members involved in the murder of two lawyers in the city were nabbed by cops on June 23.
Not only were humans targeted by crimes, a young dog too became a victim of a crime. A Whatsapp video of a man shown throwing down a defenceless young dog from the terrace of a building caused widespread outrage in social media circles. People demanded that the culprits, one who flung the dog off the terrace, and the other who filmed it, both students of Madha Medical College, be caught and brought to justice. There were also demands that the students not be allowed to become doctors.
Chain snatching incidents are usually seen as minor crimes. But one recent case led to the death of a school teacher and an evening walker. The incident took place just last week, on July 4, at around 9.45 pm in Neelankarai near East Coast Road. Two men on a bike tried to grab a hold of the gold chain and handbag of the teacher Nandini, who was riding a scooter accompanied by her friend Nazu. Nandini lost her balance in her attempt to stop the chain snatchers, ending up with a serious head injury. She died on the spot.
The chain-snatchers, fleeing the scene, also knocked down an elderly evening walker. He died on the way to the hospital. The crowd managed to nab one of the accused before turning him over to the cops, but not before setting the vehicle of the accused ablaze.
A month earlier, RTI activist Parasmal was murdered in Periamet on June 7 in broad daylight, in a clear attempt to shut him up. Parasmal has filed many RTI’s against the construction of illegal buildings in North Chennai, which many believed had earned him lots of enemies.
Chennai has been considered less prone to crime based on records of the National Crime Records Bureau. A look at statistics produced by the NCRB show that the crime rate (crimes per lakh of population) in Chennai was less than 200 in 2014, whereas cities like Delhi recorded around 830 crimes per lakh of the population. Mumbai and Kolkata too were much safer than Delhi with figures close to 210 and 190 respectively. In comparison, Bangalore fared poorl, with about double the crime rate of Chennai, at around 390.
Even small cities like Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram, located in Kerala, a state that tops the human development indices, have a high crime rate of above 800 and 750 respectively.
But with the increase in the number of gruesome crimes having taken place in Chennai recently, most of them in full public view, the image of Chennai that comes to mind is no longer that of a safe city.