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Killer lifeline

Last year, there was not a single murder in Vasant Kunj, from January to June. This year, there have been five in the same period. Last year, there were no robberies in the area till June, Vijaita Singh writes.

delhi Updated: Aug 03, 2009 01:40 IST
Vijaita Singh

Last year, there was not a single murder in Vasant Kunj, from January to June. This year, there have been five in the same period.

Last year, there were no robberies in the area till June. This year, there have been three. Incidents of burglary are up 50 per cent, and those of snatching 500 per cent.

Admitted, there have been fewer vehicle accidents and thefts, but that cannot offset the steep rise in heinous crime. Clearly, Vasant Kunj is tumbling down the crime spiral

Killers on the prowl

It is a road named after a Nobel Peace Prize winner, but it conjures up visions of assault and murder in the minds of those who drive down it at night.

And the fact that this eight-lane road — Nelson Mandela Marg — is Vasant Kunj’s main link to the rest of Delhi means most residents venture out in the late hours only out of necessity.

Soumya Vishwanathan (26), a television journalist, was one such. She was murdered on September 30, last year, while driving home from work around 3 am.

“This road snatched away my daughter’s life,” said MK Vishwanathan (67), Soumya’s father, when he accompanied a Hindustan Times team to the road in connection with this story.

While Vishwanathan has slowly come to terms with his daughter’s murder, he is furious about the policing on the road 10 months later.

“Even after her death, nothing seems to have changed. Barricades and night patrolling were promised on this stretch, but nothing was done.”

That lax policing is an inducement for crime on this road is manifest in the confession of the four men accused of killing Soumya. They told the police that they tried to rob Soumya, as she was “vulnerable”, and since the stretch was devoid of police presence, their chances of being caught were minimal.

No lessons learnt

Last week, Ribhu Chawla (16), a class XI student of KR Mangalam World School, Vikaspuri was reportedly kidnapped and murdered by four men, for ransom, in a moving car on the same stretch.

Chawla’s kidnappers also told the police that they chose the route as it remained desolate and there was no police checking on it.

Liquor-fuelled crime

Residents complain proximity to several pubs at the nearby Priya complex in Vasant Vihar makes Nelson Mandela Marg more prone to violent crime.

“People coming out of those pubs tend to speed on this road. Most of them are drunk. Chances of accidents and crime related to road rage are also high,” said Naresh Bhaskar, a resident of C1, Vasant Kunj.

Police claims belied

While the police claim they had stepped up patrolling on the stretch after Soumya’s murder, residents disagree.

“It was only a cosmetic change. After Soumya’s murder, barricades were put up for a few days and vehicles were checked. But things were back to the old routine soon after,” said Mili Sarkar, a resident of C9, Vasant Kunj.

The poor lighting on the road and the thick foliage — unkempt bushes as well as the wide canopies of old trees — at places, also provide criminals the cover of darkness that they need.

‘Cops in plainclothes are always present’

---- Y S Dhaliwal spoke to Vijaita Singh

Residents say there is no police presence on Nelson Mandela Marg...

There is routine patrolling by motorcycles, and even plainclothes policemen have been deployed. If we put up barricades everyday on the road, the element of surprise for criminals is lost.

There are hardly any police control room vans available on the route.

There are four police control room vans deployed in the vicinity, and whenever there is a call, they attend to it. The day the police picket remains unmanned, there are two policemen patrolling the streets on a motorcycle.

What are the measures being taken to improve the security situation on the stretch?

The jurisdiction of Vasant Kunj Police Station will be bifurcated. A proposal has already been initiated and the new police station will come up soon.

Apart from this, incidents of burglary are also being reported from the area. Your comment?

We have conducted meetings with the Resident Welfare Association (RWA) to improve the security situation. In many incidents, involvement of washermen, plumbers and electricians working in the area has come to light. We are conducting a verification drive and would check the credentials of all such people.

Any message to instill a sense of confidence among residents?

People should not fear travelling down Nelson Mandela Marg — we do everything necessary to keep a check on criminals. Plainclothes policemen are always there.