The storming of Siruganur police station by militants, led by a railway employee

They attacked the police station in the village in Tiruchi district in the middle of the night on February 15, 1962, and looted arms and ammunition. Investigation revealed that the attackers, belonging to ‘Viduthalai Padai’, turned out to be self-styled revolutionaries who wanted to take on the system, which they believed betrayed them

Updated - May 17, 2024 08:06 am IST

Published - May 17, 2024 12:07 am IST

The CB-CID said in its report that the conspiracy was masterminded and executed by prime accused Abdul Azeem, an employee of the Tiruchi Division of Southern Railway.

The CB-CID said in its report that the conspiracy was masterminded and executed by prime accused Abdul Azeem, an employee of the Tiruchi Division of Southern Railway. | Photo Credit: CB-CID, Tamil Nadu police

Head constable Muthuvelu of the Siruganur police station in Tiruchi district woke up to the knock at the door in the middle of the night on February 15, 1962. When he opened the door, there was a group of men dressed in khaki uniforms. But they were not police personnel. A man aged about 40, who claimed to be the leader of the ‘Viduthalai Padai’ (Liberation Army), assaulted Muthuvelu with a sword and fired at him using a country pistol. After dragging him to the lock-up, the gang started looting arms and ammunition.

At this juncture, a truck stopped in front of the police station and a middle-aged man jumped out. Unaware of the situation, he walked in as the truck moved away. On seeing the armed gangsters, he revealed his identity as sub-inspector Upendran and warned them to surrender.

A gangster opened two rounds of fire, injuring him in the stomach and the neck. Upendran was also forced into the lock-up, whose floor was covered with blood. The police station was in a less-populated location and no one had heard the gunshots or the cries of the victims.

With just two days to go for the general election, the other policemen of the station were deployed on election duty elsewhere. The gang escaped with the booty. The injured policemen then called for help from the locals who shifted them to a nearby hospital for first aid and then to the Tiruchi Government Hospital.

Misleading suspicion

Investigators initially suspected the involvement of members of a community notorious for burglaries and dacoities. Crucial time was lost in trying to locate fingerprints, interrogating old criminals, and looking for other members of the community with criminal antecedents. However, the description of the gang and its action did not match with the modus operandi of habitual offenders. It was at this juncture that the Crime Branch-CID of the Tamil Nadu police stepped in.

The initial investigation focused on the slang and body language of the gang members. The police had to depend on human intelligence and conventional tactics to track down the suspects.

CB-CID inspector Palaniswamy turned his focus on the probable mode of transport of the gang. Had they come by bus, the crew and other commuters would have noticed their unusual dress. But inquiries ruled it out. The other form of transport was hiring a van or bullock cart. Another angle of the investigation was the hideout of the gang and the logistics such as food and supplies.

It was these inquiries that led the police to a breakthrough in the sensational case. Kathir, a local resident, said he had seen a group of nine men in a mosque in Sathiramanai village. He had even guided them to a restaurant nearby for food. He remembered the names of three brothers — Ameer Khan, Imran Khan, and Jamal Khan — who had introduced one Abdul Azeem as their mentor.

Workshop raided

Acting on these clues, the investigators made extensive inquiries and concluded that the gang could have visited a workshop, owned by one Sayed Umar, near Sathiramanai on February 17, 1962. A special team of the armed police stormed the workshop and found much more than what they had expected. They picked up Abdul Azeem, Rahman Khan, Sayed Umar, Ameer Khan, Imran Khan, and Ameer Basha (who turned approver).

Based on the information given by the suspects during interrogation, the police arrested the other members of the gang and seized the arms and ammunition looted from the Siruganur police station and concealed near Vadakki Malai, a hillock. A tailor, who had stitched the khaki uniforms, was also taken into custody to ascertain the number of pairs he had made and the source of materials. Country firearms, swords, and knives were seized from the workshop. The ‘jhatkawala’, who transported the gang, was also identified and detained.

The gang members turned out to be ideologically driven self-styled revolutionaries who wanted to take on the system, which they believed betrayed them. The CB-CID said in its report that the special team established the conspiracy, masterminded and executed by prime accused Abdul Azeem, an employee of the Tiruchi Division of Southern Railway.

Out to overthrow the government

“He started harbouring the false notion that Muslims were being ill-treated in India and therefore, the existing Indian Government should be overthrown. To achieve this goal, he came up with the idea of ‘Viduthalai Padai’ or Liberation Army and started enrolling his friends and relatives in it. These members of the Liberation Army conducted many secret meetings at the workshop of Sayed Umar and came out with plans to achieve their goal. One such plan was to capture police stations,” the report said.

Abdul Azeem got the khaki uniforms stitched and organised practice sessions for the members to learn shooting with country weapons. These illegal activities started in 1959 itself. He gave himself the title, ‘Timur of Viduthalai Padai’, after Timur, who founded the Timurid Empire in and around modern-day Afghanistan, Iran, and Central Asia, becoming the first ruler of the Timurid dynasty. Abdul Azeem also gave ‘titles’ to other members of the gang, based on their abilities.

The gang had conspired to attack the Siruganur and Padaloor police stations to loot arms and ammunition. Documents containing the sketches of the police stations, escape route, location to conceal the booty were seized. The papers were all handwritten and the stationery used to prepare the documents belonged to Southern Railway. But the diabolical plan was thwarted by the police. The CB-CID booked the accused on various charges and completed the trial in 10 months. On December 21, 1962, the court convicted the accused and sentenced them to rigorous imprisonment of four years and more for other offences.

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