The 'encounter' killing of the four men accused in the rape and murder of a woman veterinarian in Hyderabad touched a deep chord on Friday with 400,000 tweets and counting in just a few hours, some cheering and others concerned at what they saw as one more instance of vigilantism.
As outrage engulfed the common public with the Disha murder case taking a dramatic turn, what one could see is two kinds of voices emerging after the encounter that took place the on early morning of December 6.
As soon as the news about the encounter broke out, Twitter and other social media sites filled up with praises and voices calling it ‘justice delivered’.
Flower petals were showered on the policemen at the encounter site --
Shadnagar underbridge in Telangana where all four accused were killed in an ‘encounter’.
“Yes, we are celebrating the police action,” affirmed Shama Haidri. “Rule of the land has failed us time and again. The Modi government too has made so many promises of 'beti bachao, but has anything changed on the ground?” she asked, adding, “Is this not justice then?”
Police has done a wonderful job, she reassured saying that there should be appraisals and not enquires against them.
Though many hailed the police action, others were sceptical of it. Around 40 kilometres away from the crime site, students of Hyderabad University have different opinions to share.
“This is not about fighting rape,” said Sanstuti (name changed on request), adding “this is more about fighting patriarchy.”
Students believed that due judicial process is necessary to ensure justice and that changes should be made in the system to ensure faster trials.
Gopi, a second year MA in Political Science student said “What is needed here is to call out the faulty and crumbling judicial system that is not being able to deliver fast justice. This has led to frustration and mob culture.”
“The method that police have used to counter it was as patriarchal. Patriarchy cannot be fought deploying patriarchal methods,” he added.
Activists went on to question the police encounter, while calling out their negligence.
Women activist Brinda Adige said, “How could they (police) not keep their weapons safe? How could they let this happen if they knew they were dealing with rapists and murderers?”
While one section, tired of the lethargic judicial process, is happy with the encounter that promised immediate justice, others believed that justice should have been delivered through due legal process.
The deep schisms on the incident were reflected on Twitter and other social media sites as thousands of people aired their views, many recalling that Cyberabad Commissioner V C Sajjanar, who carried out the "encounter" was involved in a similar incident in 2008.
Hashtags like #justiceforDisha, #encounter, and #Hyderabadhorror started trending on Twitter from early on Friday.
Many people took to the microblogging site to thank and celebrate the police officer for "delivering justice" for a second time.
In 2008, when Sajjanar was the superintendent of police in Warangal, he had shot dead three young men, a day after their arrest in an acid attack case.
"2008: Warangal Acid attack perpetrators killed in an #Encounter. 2019: Hyderabad #DishaCase perpetrators killed in an #Encounter. Name: VC Sajjanar. Job: Delivering Justice, one bullet at a time. #JusticeForDisha," tweeted one user.
"Remembering the encounter of Warangal Acid case accused in this context. Now after 4 accused in #Justicefordisha have been shot dead , salute to the man behind this prevention of escape IPS VC sajjanar. #Thankyousajjanar," wrote another.
Friday's "encounter" took place in the early hours of Friday when the four men were taken to the scene of the crime near Hyderabad for a reconstruction of events as part of the investigation.
According to a senior police official, the accused snatched weapons from police and fired on them and then tried to flee. The police fired back in retaliation, resulting in their deaths, he said.
The four men were arrested on November 29 for allegedly raping and killing the woman by smothering her and later burning her body.
The hashtag #humanrights also started catching on with as more than 20,000 tweets till late afternoon, as more and more people argued that human rights are not meant for rapists. "When terrorists and Maoists were encountered without any court trial then why rapists be left ..#EncounterNirbhaya rapists who were fed like pigs in Tihar jail since 7 years should also be encountered like mad dogs in the streets of Delhi.#humanrights only for humans not brutes," one user wrote.
Another tweeted, "#HumanRights are only for humans not Monsters. Rapiest = Monsters They only deserve #Encounter." In the chorus, there were some who made themselves heard with their criticism of the police action.
Lawyer-activist Vrinda Grover called the killing of the accused "absolutely unacceptable", and added that the act only added to the state's "arsenal of unlimited arbitrary violence!" in the name of equality for women.
"SAY NO TO TRIGGER TRACK INJUSTICE! This is absolutely unacceptable. So all that the state will do in the name of ensuring that women live as equal and free citizens is to add to its arsenal of unlimited arbitrary violence!
"The Supreme Court of India has directed that in every encounter case - There must be an FIR registered against the police and an investigation; and an independent judicial enquiry into this 'encounter'. No Investigation, no Prosecution, these killings distract the public and save the police and state from any accountability. NO POLICE 'ENCOUNTER' IN THE NAME OF WOMEN," she wrote on Facebook.
Women's rights activist Kavita Krishnan shared All India Progressive Women's Association's (AIPWA) statement on "Hyderabad Fake Encounter: No Custodial Killing In Our Name" on both Twitter and Facebook.
According to the statement, the "encounter" had "all the hallmarks of a custodial murder, dressed up to look like an encounter".
"We, as a country, will now be told that "justice" has been done, the victim avenged... But this justice is counterfeit.
"A system that offers murder as "justice" is a system that is telling women - we can't ensure the streets are safe, can't investigate crimes against women to ensure there's enough evidence to prove guilt, can't protect rape survivors (one was burnt alive yesterday in UP), can't ensure that survivors get dignity in Court," it read.
Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nundy asked if the four men were innocent and if so what happens to the actual culprits.
"Now nobody will ever know if the four men killed by the police were innocent men, arrested fast to show action. And whether four of the most brutal rapists roam free, to rape and kill more women. #EncounterNight #Encounter," she wrote.