When it comes to a count of gangs in the major metros, Chennai may be at the bottom of the table. But the city has a gangster history worth talking about.

In the mid-60s, Burmese repatriates fleeing the military junta were provided shelter by the then State government, near a lake in Vyasarpadi. Within years, the settlement, turned into the notorious B.V. Colony.

According to police records, local groups from the Colony led by Subbiah and Benjamin were among the first known gangs formed in the 70s. The groups had an uneasy relationship, which worsened when Benjamin began to interfere in Subbiah’s business interests. In the mid-80s, Benjamin was murdered in north Madras. In retaliation, Benjamin’s men, led by ‘Vellai’ Ravi, hacked Subbiah to death at MKB Nagar. Subbiah’s nephew Chera alias Che Rajendran, a dismissed cop, took on Ravi and his men. And the cycle of violence continued.

New gangs, many of them splintered from parent groups, took root in the north. As a result, more dreaded names from the north made it to the police files — Appu alias Krishnasamy, ‘Gate’ Rajendran, ‘Aasai’ Thambi, ‘Boxer’ Vadivelu, ‘Maalaikan’ Selvam, Kapilan and ‘Kattan’ Subramanium.

“Rowdies unleashed a reign of terror in the 1980s and the 1990s. Gang infested areas in north Chennai were impenetrable,” recalled a senior officer of the city police and member of the anti-gangster operations squad.

Police sources say some of the gangs in south Chennai have their origins in the north. For instance, Appu and Rajendran migrated to Tiruvanmiyur and set up gangs there.

Areas outside north Chennai also boast home-grown ‘talent’. ‘Punk’ Kumar, ‘Ayodhyakuppam’ Veeramani, Kundrathur Vairam and ‘Market’ Siva, were part of this list in the 90s and early 2000s.

Over the last 20 years, the police have taken firm action against the gangs, across the city. On July 30, 1996, in what is considered the first encounter in the city, the police gunned down ‘Aasai’ Thambi outside Loyola College.

Until now, the police have carried out 20 encounters against gangsters and other criminals, including the flamboyant Veeramani.

Chennai Central at The Hindu celebrates Madras Week

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