The killing of two murder suspects, Prabhu and his accomplice Bharathi, in Sivaganga district on Friday night “is not the first such incident and probably not the last one as well,” responded a senior police officer in Madurai city, on Saturday, when he was asked about the alleged encounter with the police in which they were shot dead.

In this part of Tamil Nadu, ‘encounters’ date back to the early 1990s. In 1992, a notorious anti-social element ‘Thendral’ Mohan was killed along the Lake Road in Madurai by a special team from the Tallakulam police.

Prior to this, in a secret operation, Guru alias Rajaguru, a habitual offender in Madurai, was gunned down by the police near the famous Mariamman Teppakulam. Since then, there had been at least half-a-dozen incidents reported as police encounters in Madurai, Dindigul and Tuticorin districts. In all cases, the police said they opened fire in “self-defence”, after they were attacked with weapons.

Police officers in Tuticorin district recalled the killing of ‘Tuticorin’ Jayakumar in Chennai in April 2008, followed by ‘Kora’ Gopi, wanted in many grave crimes in southern districts, who was done to death in November 2008.

In February 2010, the Madurai City Police killed Kaviarasu, a notorious robber, and his accomplice ‘Kal’ Mandayan near the Madurai-Ramanathapuram Road. A series of chain-snatching incidents reported in Madurai city led to public apprehension. When the police had a tip-off that the duo were about to strike in a big way, a special team led by ACP Velladurai (who was then part of Madurai City Police) opened fire as they attempted to attack the police team. Only a month before that, based on confessions, the police had recovered over 700 sovereigns from the duo and returned them to the complainants, police said.

In an incident reported in a lodge in Dindigul, a Kerala-based suspect, Sinoj, who was identified as an accomplice of ‘Varichiyur’ Selvam of Madurai, died at the hands of the police.

Data reveals that regardless of whether the DMK or the AIADMK was in power, the State has witnessed ‘encounter’ killings, said Human Rights activist and advocate R. Satyamurthi of Madurai, who is also closely associated with People’s Watch. Condemning the act, he said that such killings have become common. The judiciary should take a strong view and put an end to the atrocities.

When there are so many avenues to tackle the law offenders through courts, the autocratic manner of the custodians of law had to be tried under laws, he asserted.

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