The killing was so brazen and brutal that it shocked the nation and even prompted the Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa to call an emergency meeting of her top officials on Tuesday to review the deteriorating law and order in the state.
S Swathi, a 24-year-old Infosys employee, was hacked to death early morning last Friday as she waited for a train at Chennai’s Nugambakkam station. The gruesome act done, the assailant walked away briskly, leaving her bloodied corpse and shocked onlookers behind.
While the gruesome crime continues to make headlines, what has gone unnoticed in the clamour to bring the guilty to book is the silent spike in similar blood-curdling killings in the state. Five people were reportedly hacked to death in Chennai this month alone. Another six were cut down to pieces during the same period in the rest of the state.
Why hacking has emerged as a preferred mode of killing in Tamil Nadu is not clear. But that public apathy facilitates such crimes is getting reinforced.Swathi lay dead on the station platform for two hours before RPF officers arrived. Press reports suggest that fellow passengers witnessed the murder but did nothing. Some in fact boarded their daily trains and went about their routine.
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“There is a term we theorists use called money economy,” says Dr M Thamilarasan, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Madras. “This is when a society gives more importance to the individual rather than the collective.”
The modern nature of urban society, Thamilarasan argues, means that people are largely concerned about themselves, which may explain why none of her fellow passengers sought to help Swathi, or alert railway authorities.
The fear of repercussions, coupled with a distrust of the police force, contribute to so many public murders going unreported, he says.
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It was also an indifferent crowd that watched a group of assailants go about their gory job almost in a businesslike fashion last Sunday in Anna Salai. They killed an alleged gangster Velu and left. “There was blood everywhere,” recounts a shopkeeper who witnessed the attack. “I saw a group of men hacking him to pieces before leaving on scooters.”
“If the public does not help us, how can we help them?” asks G Thilakavathy, a retired IPS officer from Tamil Nadu.
The growing indifference has resulted in a string of killings: A school teacher in Paramakudi was hacked by his brother-in-law after he deserted his wife on June 27. Three days earlier, a college student was hacked to death in Tuticorin following a dispute over some innocuous posters.
“Why is it that the murder of a techie has provoked such intense feelings, while if a fisherwoman gets murdered in, say, Parry’s Corner there is no outcry?” asks Latika Saran, a retired IGP.
In recent years, Tamil Nadu’s police force has succeeded in lowering the crime rate with effective patrolling. But the disturbing prevalence of brutal hackings will continue unless this public apathy and selective outrage is addressed, argues Saran.
Chopped to death
Last week’s murder of an IT professional at a railway station in Chennai has shocked the country. The city seems to be gaining notoriety for its brazen crimes. Here are few recent incidents of murder in the state