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Updated: August 23, 2013 08:37 IST
Madras 374

‘Auto’ Shankar: a ride of terror in the Madras of the 80s

K. Manikandan
Comment (15)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Shankar’s influence peaked in the mid-1980s and lasted just a couple of years until his murders were exposed. Photo: The Hindu Archives
The Hindu Shankar’s influence peaked in the mid-1980s and lasted just a couple of years until his murders were exposed. Photo: The Hindu Archives

Among the many brutal and gruesome murder cases that have rocked Chennai in its recent history, none comes close to the multiple murder cases by ‘Auto’ Shankar and his group between 1987 and 1988

Among the many brutal and gruesome murder cases that have rocked Chennai in its recent history, none comes close to the multiple murder cases by ‘Auto’ Shankar and his group between 1987 and 1988.

Born Gowri Shankar in 1955 at Kangeyanallur village in Vellore district, Shankar settled down at Periyar Nagar. Starting out as a painter, Shankar later started driving autorickshaws, transporting illicit arrack from coastal hamlets areas between Tiruvanmiyur and Mamallapuram to the city. His autos were also used for ‘savaaris’ of young women exploited in the burgeoning flesh trade then.

With the help of his younger brother Mohan, his brother-in-law Eldin and trusted accomplices Shivaji, Jayavelu, Rajaraman, Ravi, Palani and Paramasivam among others, Shankar soon established himself as the uncrowned king of all nefarious activities in Tiruvanmiyur. He ran prostitution dens from a line of huts in Periyar Nagar as well as from a lodge on L.B. Road with the connivance of the police.

Shankar’s influence peaked in the mid 1980s and lasted just a couple of years until his murders were exposed. In 1987, a young woman Lalitha, according to the police, was Shankar’s first officially known victims. Part of his inner circle, she ran away with Sudalaimuthu, one of his confidantes, but they were tracked down and brought back to Periyar Nagar. While Lalitha was clubbed to death and buried in a vacant plot in Periyar Nagar, Sudalaimuthu, was set on fire and the remains were packed in a blanket and disposed in the Bay of Bengal

It was not until nearly 15 months later that Lalitha’s remains were dug out.

The gang continued to operate with impunity, until Shankar was confronted by three men, Mohan (not his younger brother), Sampath and Govindaraj. They had picked up a quarrel with Shankar’s men when they attempted to take away one of his women from the L.B.Road lodge.

The three were rounded up, beaten to death and their bodies buried on a small plot in Periyar Nagar. In addition to these five murders, Shankar was also involved in the killing of one Ravi.

After the passing away of former Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran in December 1987, the State was plunged into a political crisis until Governor’s Rule was imposed between January 1988 and 1989. The parents of some of the missing men later approached Governor P.C. Alexander as the Tiruvanmiyur police had failed to act on their earlier complaint. Following the Governor’s direction to Jaffer Ali, deputy inspector general of police, Chengai range, a new team of policemen was formed. It included inspectors Thangamani and Ranganathan from Pallavaram circle, sub-inspectors Subramanian and Sengeni and constables Rajan Babu, Natarajan, Devadas and Perumal. The team also roped in Aari, a constable from neighbouring Tiruvannamalai district, who was very well known to Shankar.

Aari’s inputs were invaluable and once Shankar’s accomplices were rounded up and interrogated, they spoke about each of the murders and how they had disposed of the bodies. The unearthing in 1988 of the bodies of Lalitha and the three men created a sensation among the residents.

After Shankar’s arrest, the policemen made a thorough recovery of his property and found his diary which had photos of policemen of different ranks posing with him.

At least a couple of policemen who had served in Tiruvanmiyur were immediately suspended, while a third – an officer of the rank of a deputy superintendent — was sent on long leave and later suspended.

Shankar and his men were interrogated at Pallavaram police station before they were transferred to Chennai Central prison, from where Shankar made a daring escape with the help of a woman. He was subsequently tracked down at Rourkela Steel City, Odisha, and brought back and subsequently hanged at Salem prison along with Eldin and Shivaji. Three jail wardens were also punished for helping Shankar escape.

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More In: Chennai | News

I filed a complaint to the Tamilnadu police recently on behalf of a
NRI victim of much hyped "land grab cases" with a forged signature.
Prima facie evidence was given to the police as to the absence of the
NRI in India bearing the signature of the NRI on the date of
registration in the sale deed registered by the Registration
Department of Tamilnadu, in India, you will be amazed to see the
brazen response from the police apparently after receiving bribes from
the culprits. In their response coming up with a lame excuse of
receiving a complaint, only from the victim will warrant their action.
In fact, I have to believe that all those land grab cases were indeed
foisted for political vendetta....as usual in Tamilnadu politics...

from:  Krishna S Bala
Posted on: Aug 24, 2013 at 03:56 IST

There was movie taken with the story behind. Thanks to the Shoukath Ali,
auto Shankar was arrested. Tamil Nadu police sometimes work for normal
people also.

from:  Vijay
Posted on: Aug 23, 2013 at 21:33 IST

Speaks volumes about our police department. At their best, they track
down the fugitive who chose to hide few states away in a country with
such a large population, and, at their worst, colluding in his
activities and helping him escape. We have very capable law
enforcement, but is very susceptible to bribery and some elements of
which are morally bankrupt. The government should sanction a study to
find out what causes this and take measures to address the issue.

from:  Sunil
Posted on: Aug 23, 2013 at 21:14 IST


What is the need and benefit of publishing an article like this? When
there are a lot of good things to be reported, why are we still focusing
on these kind of stories?Totally unwarranted

from:  Srinivas K
Posted on: Aug 23, 2013 at 20:54 IST

It feels like the story has come straight out of a thriller novel. It
made up for an interesting afternoon read! thanks.

from:  chetan
Posted on: Aug 23, 2013 at 19:46 IST

auto shankar is not the only one in india who is involved in such nefarious activities. There are many in this country, available in each and every town and act boldly without any fear as they enjoy the full cooperation support from local MLAs and police personnel. Its the police who encourage such people to indulge in such acts as they get a share from the booty enjoyed.

In this particular case, the policemen should have been dismissed from service and sent to life term imprisonment. But alas, in this country, the judiciary always relies on evidence which is seldom able to be produced which is benefit to the abettors.

from:  balan r
Posted on: Aug 23, 2013 at 15:56 IST

Appears The Hindu's celebration of Madras Week is invariably entwined with Lakshmikanthan murder case. I remember reading about the so called sensational case in the Hindu in the past 20 years, probably more than what you would have reported when you were covering the proceedings. Come out of the time warp guys! And that does not mean, make Auto Sankar an alternate hero for a change.

from:  era.murukan
Posted on: Aug 23, 2013 at 13:35 IST

Good Morning..
This article seems to have missed out some pages from the achive's and not a complete one.This case file was transferred from local police to CBI later.
Autoshankar case was finally handled by Late.N.Mir.Shoukath Ali-(Inspector of Police) and later autoshanker was convicted for his murder's.
Chief minister medal was awarded for Late.N.Mir.Shoukath Ali-(Inspector of Police)for his contribution to this sensitive case which shocked madras in late 80's.

With best regards
Mohammed Ali
S/O N.Mir.Shoukath Ali-Retd
(Deputy Suprtd.of Police)


from:  Mohammed Ali
Posted on: Aug 23, 2013 at 12:02 IST

Good recount of what happened. What happened to the Police accomplices? Were any of them put in prison or just suspension??

from:  seetharaman
Posted on: Aug 23, 2013 at 10:54 IST

Why the Hindu chose to revisit third rate stories&what value/lesson the readers 've to get from these.I think this paper is drifting
away from its ethics slowly but surely despite its good
avowed policy of not making use of bikinis/lingeries/scantily clad women ads to earn,its technically superior quality printing/type-set/presentation of news etc.It has good many scoring points when compared with other news papers.

from:  ramachandrasekaran
Posted on: Aug 23, 2013 at 10:50 IST

Really on those days when there was no influence of medias, it was like
a thriller when reading on dailies and the end of Shankar is also well
known at that time. Really the police team has worked without bias,
except a few known to Shankar.

from:  narayanan
Posted on: Aug 23, 2013 at 09:23 IST

Auto shankar was a terror those days.Now the Autos themselves are
a terror for old people even as they take turns,bends and ovetakes
other vehicles,A terror for the parents while sending their children to
schools.A terror for passengers to ask him for fair fare to places
in chennai.

from:  T.S.Gopalakrishnan
Posted on: Aug 23, 2013 at 07:17 IST

Narration is very interesting & shocking too. Yes ,the culprit was
brought to justice ,sentenced and his ill=accumulated properties were
confiscated. I still don't understand as to hwy the ill-earned
properties of big politicians [ nay even a small time politician ] is
yet to be recovered . These people ,you may agree , have caused
enormous damage to our economy . You know it is very difficult to make
both ends meet . When we see people ,talikg moral ,firmly enthroning
themselves to power positions [which will continue to flood them with
money ] ,enjoying without even remorsing a bit [ I remember Kamaraj
,Rajaji ,Sri Prakasam , Omaandhaar Reddiar days ] ,I feel that we have
erred in praising mahatmaji in liberating India . Britishers were
better ,they united India ,gave us education ,administration ,postal
,railway networks ,recognised merits ,sowed seeds of democracy in our
minds etc.I alos feel that chinese leadres are better .A person
indicetd by SC appointed Special Envoy !!!

from:  Prof R Krishnamurthy
Posted on: Aug 23, 2013 at 07:01 IST

This makes very interesting reading, and I would like to thank K. Manikandan for this information. I also would like to thank the staff and Editor of The Hindu for publishing this news. The individuals involved would not be able to carry on their activities without crooked "bent" cops on their payroll - paid in cash or in kind; the crooked and corrupt "city" officials are not mentioned. Also, shows the indifference of the public of that time (not that it is VERY different at present). It took a new team of police officials as named (thank you) to clean up the cesspool. Only, is it still clean now?? I wonder.
from:  Roy M. Ramavarapu
Posted on: Aug 23, 2013 at 04:06 IST

The police who were colluding with this murderer were only suspended?
That is outrageous that they were allowed to continue to be in the
police Department. No wonder the police department is in such a bad
shape now...

from:  Krishna S Bala
Posted on: Aug 23, 2013 at 03:19 IST
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