Chennai has been witness to a number of police encounters, with 28 persons, primarily notorious gangsters, five bank robbers and two extremists, gunned down. But the flamboyant gangsters of the city that has a history of notoriety have often bounced back with gang wars.
The city’s four police zones have all had their share of criminals who made big bucks through real estate deals and fought foes for territorial supremacy. But it is the northern parts of the city which have been particularly synonymous with savagery.
The first half of 2013 witnessed a surge in gang wars, particularly in the north, with petty gangs settling scores almost on a daily basis over clashes. Following media observations on the law and order situation, a handful of transfer orders were issued by the police commissionerate to strengthen the police force monitoring the north.
The anti-gangster squad, an elite team, was handpicked by the city’s police commissioner in June 2013 to curb the chaos. The squad set up a network of informers, including ex-cons, and strived to pin the trail of gang activity.
Many mobsters who ran riot in the northern parts of the city ended up behind bars. Reports filed by the anti-gangster squad in 2013 list a total of 108 men, who were locked up for at least a year.
The man who was dubbed the most-wanted, Balaji alias ‘Kakkathoppu’ Balaji (35), too reigned in the north, with more than 42 crime cases against him, including involvement in seven murders and over 15 attempts to murder.
With his arrest in a covert operation in mid-July, other notorious names like ‘Appala’ Prakash, ‘Kudirai’ Venkatesan, Kodungaiyur Panneer, ‘Rettai Mattai’ Jagan soon fell in the police net.
While south Chennai saw the arrests of ‘Market’ Siva, ‘Pattarai’ Suresh, ‘Padappai’ Guna and ‘Auto’ Sekar, ‘Arcot’ Suresh, ‘Karimedu’ Anbu, ‘Nettai’ Karthi, Madurai Saravanan, Kundrathur Vairam and ‘Body’ Senthil in the west zone and ‘Periya’ Mahesh and Mylapore Siva in the east were effectively tackled by the squad. Some surrendered, fearing the worst after their leaders were put behind bars. The toughest catch was said to be that of ‘Pattarai’ Suresh who murdered his rivals and covered up the incidents to look like road or rail accidents.
Once a two-wheeler mechanic, he was rounded up a few months ago in Kundrathur when he was in the city to eliminate Teynampet-based rival C.D. Mani.
However, there are some who continue to give police the slip. Notorious ‘Thambi’ Raja (45) of Tuticorin and ‘Kattai’ Raja (33) of Tiruvallur, who, according to informants, visit the city for assignments, remain untraceable.
Despite stringent police action, close to six gangs are still active in the city with some of its kingpins who are in prison orchestrating operations from the inside. However, records reveal that gang war-related murders have been on the decline in the last four months.