Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why this Kolaveri in Velachery?

The Chennai police fired at and killed the five criminals who had earlier robbed two bank branches in the city suburbs. Questions have been raised on the legitimacy of police action. Could they not have captured the criminals alive? Did they take the law into their own hands and commit inexcusable excesses?

The official version is that the police asked the criminals holed up in a groundfloor flat of a large apartment in Velachery to surrender. Instead the criminals switched off the lights and then started firing at the police. In order to protect themselves and the other residents in the thickly populated vicinity, the police had to open fire. In the process, all the five criminals were fatally wounded and two police officers sustained injuries. This version may or may not be true. Future investigations may throw up the truth.

The police has been under tremendous pressure of late on account of a series of unsolved crimes, big and petty, in the city. The police was convinced that they had identified the wanted criminals and therefore there was no question of being accountable for killing the innocent. Further, the criminals were from distant states and public sympathy for them, if at all, would be muted.

Could the police have caught atleast one or two alive? Perhaps yes, but would not the survivors keep taunting the police, truthfully or otherwise, in the inevitable legal proceedings?

In many cases, the culprints are granted bail after which they jump the bail and get back to crimes. Such court-assisted recidivism has now become an open challenge to reputation of the police. Therefore the police action in the instant case was only to be expected. There is necessarily an uneasy trade-off between zealous protection of human rights of proven criminals and safety and security of the innocent public. We have unfortunately veered too much in favour of the former. It is time for a substantive correction.

Update on 26th Feb.:  Today some self-appointed "human rights activists" visited the place where the incident took place. They were driven away by the residents of the place. People's patience with the criminals and the misguided protagonists of their (criminals') rights is running out.

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