Growing crime leaves Chandigarh jittery (Letter from Chandigarh)

By Alkesh Sharma, IANS
Saturday, November 27, 2010

CHANDIGARH - It is one of the most well-planned and prosperous cities of the country, but a soaring crime graph is spoiling Chandigarh’s reputation as a safe city. Residents have been shaken by a spate of murders, road rage incidents, ATM frauds and now even an assault on a Kashmiri politician.

Chandigarh Police claim to have access to sophisticated technology and intelligence network, but it seems criminals are one step ahead.

“We are taking all cases very seriously and special teams have been made to solve them. Very soon we will nab all the culprits,” senior superintendent of police Naunihal Singh told IANS.

A high-profile case was the attack on Kashmiri separatist leader and Hurriyat Conference chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq by Kashmiri Pandits and Hindu rightwing activists at a seminar here Thursday.

Protesting his anti-India comments, they pelted stones to smash windowpanes and hurled flower pots. Chandigarh Police were taken by surprise and took over 30 minutes to control the situation.

But police deny it was an intelligence failure.

“It was an open seminar where anyone could come. We immediately controlled the situation and took away the miscreants. We also identified various sensitive locations of the city and increased patrolling,” Singh said.

In another case, two pistol-wielding youths robbed a senior bank official of his car and mobile phone from the busy stretch of Sector 8 on Nov 20.

Many murder cases too have left police groping in the dark, including the rape and murder of 22-year-old MBA student Neha Ahlawat a few months ago.

“The situation has become really problematic, especially during late hours. Earlier, we did not feel afraid while venturing out at night, but now it is not possible. After reading about snatching incidents, we have stopped going out for morning walks as well,” a retired defence officer T.R. Sharma told IANS.

BPO employee Akanksha Singhal said: “We feel really scared after reading about growing incidents of snatching and robbery. I do not go out alone at night any more.”

Locals have also been worried by growing instances of ATM frauds. Lakhs of rupees have been withdrawn fraudulently in the past four months, and the culprits are still at large.

Around 725 cases of vehicle theft too have been reported since the beginning of the year, and the recovery rate is a dismal 30 percent.

Chandigarh was designed by legendary French architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s. It was originally designed to accommodate about 500,000 people but is currently home to over 1.1 million people. Besides, nearly 100,000 people come here from the neighbouring towns every day.

It also gets a million foreign tourists annually.

Being the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, it is also home to many VVIPs from the two states. It has numerous important government offices, including the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at

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