HYDERABAD, India - Four men accused of the rape and murder of a 27-year old woman veterinarian in Hyderabad, India died while in police custody on Friday morning.
The men were killed by police in suspicious circumstances, despite police claims that the men were killed in self-defence.
Adding to concern about the circumstances is that despite police saying the men were being taken to the scene of their alleged crimes to reconstruct the order of events, the encounter took place in the early hours of the morning - sometime between 3:00am and 6:00am.
Whilst police say it was self-defence there were no police injuries, and no injuries by the four men - they were all killed.
The police report say the accused men were being taken to the scene of the crime, where the charred body of the veterinarian doctor was found, when they allegedly tried to escape.
"The accused Mohammed Arif, Naveen, Shiva and Chennakeshavulu were killed in a police encounter at Chatanpally, Shadnagar today in the wee hours, between 3:00am and 6:00am. I have reached the spot and further details will be revealed," Cyberabad Police Commissioner V C Sajjanar said Friday.
The men had been arrested and were in judicial custody. They were being detained in high-security cells at Cherlapally Central Jail in Hyderabad.
"Cyberabad Police had brought the accused persons to the crime spot for re-construction of the sequence of events. The accused snatched a weapon and fired on police. In self-defence the police fired back, in which the accused were killed," DCP Shamshabad Prakash Reddy said Friday.
When reports of the news of the mens' death began to circulate, local residents started to assemble at the scene where the deaths occurred, and were heard chanting 'DCP Zindabad, ACP Zindabad'. According to local media reports they showered police with rose petals.
"It has been 10 days to the day my daughter died. I express my gratitude towards the police and government for this. My daughter's soul must be at peace now," the father of the woman veterinarian raped and murdered told ANI News.
According to ANI, neigbours of the family offered sweets to police officers.
"I can't put it into words. I felt happiness but also grief because my daughter will never come home," the victim's mother told the BBC.
"My daughter's soul is at peace now. Justice has been done. I never thought we would get justice. No other girl should experience what my daughter did."
Some politicians praised the killings, while others ere concerned about the impavct on the country's judicial system.
Kanumuru Raghu Rama Krishna Raju, of the YSR Congress Party said, "They deserved to be shot dead. God has been kind that they were shot dead, this is a good lesson. They tried to run away and they were killed. No NGO should oppose it and if they do so, they are anti-national."
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday said while the people of the country are rejoicing it is also worrisome that they have lost faith in the justice system. "The rape cases that have come to light of late, people are in anger whether it is Unnao or Hyderabad, so people are expressing happiness over the encounter," he said.
"It is also something to be worried about, the way people have lost their faith in the criminal justice system. Together all the governments will have to take action on how to strengthen the criminal justice system," he told reporters.
Union minister Maneka Gandhi described what occurred as 'dangerous.' "Those people were in any case going to get hanging as punishment for the heinousness of their crime. But you cannot kill people because you want to," she said.
BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi told News18, "As you sow so shall you reap...they tried to flee so police shot them."
"What is wrong with recreating a crime scene at 3 am, that was the tentative time of crime... Law will take its own course...FIR will be registered, an inquiry will happen into police action, but one hopes this will prove to be deterrent for future rapists," Lekhi said.
"Had the Delhi govt swiftly disposed off Nirbhaya killers file, perhaps deterrent would have come earlier."
Police said that the veterinarian was brutally raped and killed by the accused men who burned her body in the Shamshabad area on 27 November. Her charred body was recovered on 28 November. Thousands of people took to the streets to protests the crime.
(Photo credit: the pioneer).