Armstrong murder is symptomatic of deteriorating law and order in Tamil Nadu; Time for DMK to review

For the Opposition — busy with internal battles — the deteriorating law and order has come in handy as a stick to beat the DMK government.

ByDr Sumanth Raman

Published Jul 07, 2024 | 5:00 PM Updated Jul 07, 2024 | 5:00 PM

MK Stalin at the election rally

It was a routine evening on Friday, 5 July for Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) Tamil Nadu president K Armstrong. He was building a new house and was supervising the construction with a couple of his associates when six men on 3 motorcycles descended on the scene.

Dressed in the T-shirts of food delivery aggregator Zomato — to give the impression they were delivery boys — the men pulled out their weapons and hacked Armstrong to death.

His associates who tried to intervene sustained injuries. Within a few minutes, the men fled the scene and a few hours later surrendered to the police admitting they carried out the ghastly murder, claiming it was a revenge killing.

Also Read: BSP chief Mayawati pays tributes to slain leader K Armstrong

Other incidents

A couple of days earlier an AIADMK branch leader, Shanmugham was hacked to death in Salem, allegedly for objecting to the sale of Ganja and illicit liquor in the area.

A few weeks earlier Tirunelveli Congress leader Jayakumar was likewise brutally murdered.

On 6 July, just a day after the murder of Armstrong, a PMK leader was hacked in Cuddalore. He survived the attack and is in hospital.

In the intervening period was the Kallakurichi hooch tragedy where 67 people lost their lives after drinking illicit arrack laced with methanol.

These incidents have firmly shifted the spotlight on the deteriorating law and order situation in Tamil Nadu under the DMK government led by MK Stalin.

After each incident the government has acted predictably, setting up special police teams to nab the culprits. Beyond this, though, little has been done.

There are serious concerns about the functioning of the Intelligence Department of the state police.

A senior journalist accused the Intelligence and the Law and Order wings of the state police of being at loggerheads.

Nonetheless, the government is scrambling to explain how the police were caught napping each time, as the body count steadily increased. As yet there are no satisfactory answers.

There have also been a string of custodial deaths over the last couple of years raising more questions about the functioning of the state police.

DMK and the control over law and order

For the DMK, the image of being a party that has poor control over law and order is an old bogey.

Previous DMK regimes have also been haunted by the perception of poor law and order with criminals feeling emboldened and the police accused of being compromised.

With the chief minister himself holding the home portfolio, the embarrassment caused is even more acute.

The DMK has been buoyed by the massive victory in the recent Lok Sabha elections. However, that victory was largely on the back of a split Opposition vote rather than any great enthusiasm to vote for the ruling party among the electorate.

The vote share of their alliance came down by a sizable 6 percent compared to 2019. The Assembly elections in 2026 will be a different ball game altogether and the anti-incumbency is building up steadily.

MK Stalin has, for whatever reason, been loath to make tough decisions. Non- performing officials in the bureaucracy and the police force have been given long ropes and there is a perception of dithering at the top.

Also Read: Illicit brew kills in Kallakurichi but lives on in ‘dry’ Tamil Nadu

Way ahead for the party

The Armstrong murder may have been due to a gang rivalry but the series of killings and general lawlessness on the streets has raised memories of the 2006-2011 rule of the DMK, when rowdyism reigned.

The public of Tamil Nadu banished them from power for 10 years from 2011 and this time there was hope that the party would have learnt its lessons. That does not seem to be the case.

For the Opposition — busy with internal battles — the deteriorating law and order has come in handy as a stick to beat the government.

Even allies of the DMK have found it difficult to stand up for the party. While the allies have thus far confined their criticism to officials, it may not be long before they start to raise questions about the DMK leadership.

Almost 2 years are left for MK Stalin to take corrective action. There will have to be a zero-tolerance policy against violent crime.

A revamp of the top echelons of the police is also a necessity. In 2021, the people of the state placed their trust more in the persona of Stalin than they did in the DMK as a party.

It is time for him to prove they did not make a wrong decision.

(Dr Sumanth Raman is a health innovation specialist and television personality, an avid quizzer, sports commentator, columnist and political analyst. Views are personal.)

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