Trigger Warning: Just a reminder before proceeding to read this article, that it contains true graphic references to sexual violence, suicide, and violence. Please read it keeping that in mind.
The mathematics of human behavior is hard to pinpoint. It is impossible to determine what true human nature is. For animals, it is much simpler. You will never find a hungry wolf wanting to play fetch with you or a wasp sitting on your hand without stinging you. Humans are more complicated and are capable of a wide variety of paradoxical behaviors. We inhabit a world where a member of the most evolved species runs into a burning building to rescue helpless children and simultaneously in the same world, exists men who butcher newborn children. Where there is light, there will always be shadows, and in that spectrum of grey lies human behavior.
When we read about some gruesome crime in the newspapers, most of us exclaim, “How can someone do this?” or “This is inhuman”. However, crime and violence are as old as our very existence on this planet. There is no magical solution or remedy to crime. It is “not inhuman” but rather, entrenched within human nature and can only be tackled through structural change in society. A criminal’s behavior is a reflection of the society that has raised them. Dehumanizing a criminal only masks the problem plaguing society. Rather, we should know and understand more about them and attack the very source that creates crime and mayhem.
If you are fascinated by true crime stories, love reading exciting crime thrillers, or binge-watching serial killer documentaries, that does not make you strange or weird. On the contrary, it is natural for human beings to be fascinated by the world of true crime. Clinical psychology explains that we feel driven to understand the minds and motives of killers because we’re evolutionarily wired to try to make sense of threats in the world around us. Our brains want to study or know the details of violent crimes as a rehearsal for how we might act if we ever find ourselves in the real world becoming a victim of a violent crime. Our attraction to true crime stories also has a lot to do with the ability to process all our fears from a safe setting. It's the same reason why horror novels or films are so popular. The final reason which makes true crime stories so alluring is the way we get invested in the outcome of the stories — knowing whether the bad guys are finally brought to justice.
It is common knowledge that The United States Of America has the most number of serial killers ever convicted. It is worth pondering what is it about American society that produces such a statistic. However, over the years, our country also has had some of the most d heinous serial killers history has ever witnessed. We have curated a list of some of the most notorious serial killers from India.
I. Cyanide Mallika
In the outskirts of Bangalore, five women were found dead within a span of three months. You would assume some dangerous man behind it but that’s not the case. This was the work of India’s first convicted female serial killer, K.D. Kempamma, also infamously known as ‘Cyanide Mallika’. Her modus operandi was befriending female victims, who were temple devotees. Kempamma played the role of a deeply pious woman. After gaining the trust of these women, she would call them to another temple, ask them to dress in their best clothing and jewelry, and give cyanide to drink, under the guise of ‘holy water’. She was caught red-handed by the police trying to dispose of the victims’ jewelry. She confessed in jail and was sentenced to death in 2012, becoming the first woman to receive the death sentence in Karnataka.
II. Cyanide Mohan
Kempamma was not the first Indian to wield the lethal poison, cyanide as a mass murder weapon. Born in 1963 in Karnataka, India, Mohan Kumar, infamously known as Cyanide Mohan, was a primary school teacher known to have killed 20 women between 2005 and 2009. His method was rather twisted. He would have sex with his victims, mostly non-consensual sex, otherwise known as rape, on the day before their marriage. He would then force them to take contraceptive pills, which were actually cyanide pills. He has also allegedly been involved in several bank frauds and financial forgeries. For the longest time, Mohan continued the elude the clutches of justice as most of his murders were deemed as suicides. One day he ran out of luck and was arrested in October of 2009 in relation to several committed murders and was sentenced to death.
III. Auto Shankar
Born on January 21, 1954, in, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, Gowri Shankar, known by the nickname 'Auto Shankar', was one of the most dangerous Indian criminals, serial killers, and gangsters. His criminal career began as a smuggler and influential pimp. Soon it took a darker turn when he graduated from smuggling illicit liquor to human trafficking and prostitution. He fell in love with a performer named Lalitha, but she eloped with Shankar’s friend Sudalaimuthu, which is where it all began. Shankar, in a fit of anger, killed both of them and buried Lalitha’s body in a plot in Periyar Nagar. He burned Sudalaimuthu’s body and his ashes were disposed of in the Bay of Bengal. This was just the beginning of a spree of murders and rapes that he went on to commit over the years. By the late 1980s, he was a renowned gangster but his downfall would soon come. He was arrested, sentenced to death along with two of his accomplices, and ultimately hanged in Salem Central Prison in 1995.
IV. Thug Behram
Thug Behram is one of the most prolific serial killers in the history of India. He is also known by other names such as “Buram,” “Buhram Jemedar,” and the “King of the Thugs.” He is said to have been the leader of the Thuggee cult active in Oudh and central India. He is famous as one of the most notorious 'Thuggees' of the 18th century. He used to strangle people to death with a yellow handkerchief, known as rumaal, and a coin. Today, the infamous rumaal is preserved in a private museum by an unknown collector. He has over 125 confirmed victims and is suspected to have claimed over 931 lives.
The last serial killer on our list is the only one who has managed to elude the authorities. Stoneman is the nickname given to the serial killer, who murdered at least 13 sleeping homeless people in Calcutta in 1989 by crushing their heads with a heavy stone. The same name is assigned to the unidentified murderer who terrorized the streets of Mumbai from 1985 to 1988 using the same modus operandi to kill. There has been no conclusive evidence to indicate if the murders were committed by the same person, a group of persons, or a copycat killer. To date, the murderer or murderers remain at large.
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