How Twitter communalised the rape and murder of a 25-yr-old vet in Hyderabad, and how local police mucked up the investigation

  • The Cyberabad Police delayed the filing of the complaint by almost five hours

  • Only the opposite of the word immediate can be used to describe the manner in which the Telangana Police responded

  • The selective outrage of many stays fixed on using the violence a woman faced to only further communal and political propaganda

A day after the gang-rape and murder of a 25-year-old veterinarian in Hyderabad, Twitter is ablaze. The fury isn’t about the pitiable condition of the Telangana law enforcement or about such incidents continuing unabated. It is about the religious identity of one of the accused.

A press note by the Cyberabad Police detailed the events in the following manner:

The 25-year-old veterinarian had parked her bike at Tondupalli Tollgate in Shamshabad at 6 pm on Wednesday. Mohammed Areef, Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen and Chintakula Chennakeshavalu, all from Narayanapet District, saw the victim park her bike and leave. After this “while consuming alcohol, they discussed about the lady and hatched a plan to commit the crime.” As a part of the plan, Jollu Naveen punctured the rear tire of the vehicle. When she returned and noticed this, Mohammed approached her and volunteered to help her out. Promising to get her bike fixed, Mohammed’s colleague Jollu Shiva took her vehicle to a nearby puncture repair shop while the victim waited next to the toll plaza. In the minutes to follow, others dragged the 25-year-old into a compound nearby where she was raped by all of them and eventually killed.

After this, Mohammad and Chintakula Chennakeshavalu drove their lorry with the victim's body towards Shadnagar while Jollu Shiva and Jollu Naveen followed them in her scooter. Enroute, Shiva and Naveen stopped at different petrol bunks and collected loose petrol in bottles. The four of them congregated next to an underpass near Shadnagar crossroads, placed the victim's body there and set it on fire. All four of them left immediately but two of them went back to check if the body was burnt properly after a while.

The note ends with “the police officers and staff of Shadnagar and Shamshabad divisions have put in continuous and dedicated efforts in detecting the case and taking the accused into custody in short time.” The second page also reiterates this, stating that a lot of effort has gone into making these arrests. In the fourth paragraph of the press release, ‘immediately’ has been used thrice to describe the actions of the Telangana Police.

 How Twitter communalised the rape and murder of a 25-yr-old vet in Hyderabad, and how local police mucked up the investigation

Representational image of Telangana Police. AFP

Unfortunately, only the opposite of the word ‘immediate’ can be used to describe the manner in which the Telangana Police responded to this rape and murder.

The veterinarian contacted her sister at 9. 22 pm, informing her that she was stranded at the toll plaza. The 25-year-old was tense and scared, according to her sister. Fifteen minutes after this, her phone was switched off. In less than half hour, the victim's sister was at the toll plaza. When she couldn’t find the 25-year-old, she proceeded to the RGIA Police Station, which is less than ten minutes from the Shamshabad toll plaza.

This is where the ‘immediate’ actions of the Cyberabad Police unravel. The veterinarian’s sister was told by the officials to approach the Shamshabad Rural Police Station. They told her that the toll plaza wasn’t under their jurisdiction and that they can’t help her, only the Shamshabad Rural Police Station can. While a crime was underway just ten minutes from this station.

The crime occurred at a compound near the toll plaza, which is around ten minutes away from the RGIA Police Station and Shamshabad Rural Police Station. Google maps

The crime occurred at a compound near the toll plaza, which is around ten minutes away from the RGIA Police Station and Shamshabad Rural Police Station. Google maps

After arguing with the RGIA Police officials, the victim’s sister then made her way to the Shamshabad Rural Police Station where the bickering about jurisdiction continued. The press release mentions the time of the complaint received from the veterinarian’s sister at 3.10 am. This is a full four-and-a-half hours after the victim’s sister approached the RGIA Police Station. After receiving the complaint, a couple of constables were told to assist the family to look for the 25-year-old.

In a couple of hours, at 5 am, the victim’s body was found burning near an underpass in Shadnagar.

In their press release, the Cyberabad Police “advise the public, especially women, children and old persons in distress to utilize the services of Dial 100 at all times whenever they are in need of any kind of assistance in emergency circumstances.”

This statement falls flat in the face of what the Cyberabad Police actually did.

The Shamshabad Toll Plaza is located on a busy National Highway, which the Cyberabad Police claim they regularly patrol, especially after 9 pm. Where were the patrol vehicles?

Forget Dial 100, the sister of the victim approached the closest police station, and pleaded with them for help. The urgency of their actions manifests in how they directed her to another police station. This behaviour is routine. The law mandates that a police station can register a complaint immediately even if it doesn’t fall under its jurisdiction, and later forward it to the concerned police station. Nowhere does the law mandate evasion of responsibility in the face of a matter of such urgency.

The Cyberabad Police delayed the filing of the complaint and launching the investigation by a full four-and-a-half hours.

The press release further mentions that after the victim's body was found “DCP Shamshabad Prakash Reddy immediately requisited the services of clues team, dog squads, etc. Further, DCP Prakash Reddy formed ten teams to collect details of witnesses, CCTVs, etc." The Shamshabad Police had a full four-and-a-half hours to do this. The  crime occurred in their neighbourhood. Yet, their press release is highly appreciatory of the ‘immediacy of their actions.’

Instead of outraging at this monumental evasion of responsibility by the Cyberabad Police, the hashtag #Balatkari_Mohammed_Nikala is trending on Twitter. The news of the rape and murder started to trend on Twitter only after news reports selectively carrying the name of the Muslim accused were shared widely. For a full day before, neither did the news of this rape and murder make it to Twitter, nor was it reported on national television. It was carried by a few local television channels.

52,000 tweets have been posted using this hashtag, with a majority of the tweets giving the incident a communal colour or attributing it to being orchestrated in ‘Muslim majority Shamshabad’. The truth is that all the four accused, three Hindu and one Muslim, are from Narayanapet district.

While the police pats itself on its back for doing nothing, the selective outrage of many stays fixed on using the violence a woman faced to further communal and political propaganda.

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Updated Date: Nov 29, 2019 22:43:23 IST


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