Those who live by the sword, die by the sword. This probably sums up Tuesday’s murder of a panchayat president.

R. Purushothaman, president of Mannivakkam village panchayat, belonged to the ruling AIADMK and his wife was a district representative of the party unit in Kancheepuram.

On Tuesday morning, more than a dozen people armed with knives descended on Mannivakkam and launched attacks, resulting in Purushothaman bleeding to death.

The assailants informed the police over phone that they would surrender at a court in Cuddalore district, but after diverting a police team to the coastal town, turned up at a court in neighbouring Tiruvallur.

Among the six men, the prime accused is Krishnan, a former vice president of the same village panchayat and a member of the opposition, DMK. Krishnan is involved in a few murder cases, just as Purushothaman was.

In Kancheepuram district, probably no other place has witnessed daring, daylight murders more than Chengalpattu sub-division, police office said.

With the Chennai City Police cracking down on goons within city limits, notorious gangs enjoy a free run in the metropolitan’s fringes.

Senior police officers in the city suburbs and other police stations in the immediate vicinity in Kancheepuram district attribute rivalry over ownership of vacant government land as the single-most factor for discord between opposing groups.

With vast tracts of land classified as ‘poramboke’(waste land), land for grazing, pathways, water channels and so on, property is up for grabs in various place in the districts. Often, musclemen with political support take over such land and make a quick buck by turning it into plots for housing.

Revenge killings

On Tuesday, police and others who had assembled at the scene of crime and later, at the funeral of Purushothaman, were shocked to hear cries of young boys seeking revenge for the murder of a person, whom they described as a ‘father figure.’

According to police officers, in the event of a deal gone wrong or at the first instance of trouble, many criminal elements restrict their movements and make very closely-guarded trips outside their homes or areas of work. One false can spell doom for them, an officer said.

On May 19, 2003, Muthu, who was then the Tambaram town secretary of AIADMK, was hacked to death by an armed gang early in the morning on Chennai Bypass, minutes after he left home on a motorcycle.

In the immediate aftermath, a number of people, including government officials were arrested, but it took some time for the police to zero in on the real culprits.

In Chengalpattu sub-division, most murders arising out of personal enmity have taken place in the ‘triangle’ of Guduvanchery-Urapakkam-Mannivakkam.

Poor conviction rate of assailants and criminal masterminds, according to a number of residents, has resulted in mercenaries roaming about scot-free. And under such circumstances, acts of violence go on unchecked, they say.

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