Don Sridhar Dhanapal’s suicide fails to dishearten his lieutenant-duo. They are baying for each other’s blood, in the process killing many others and digging their own graves.
Long story short
It all started with hurling of country bombs at Dinesh’s car by Thanikachalam’s men in November 2017, just a month after Sridhar Dhanapal’s death. The feud that started since saw both sides claiming several lives on either side in the last two years. In the recent months, the rivalry even spilt to the neighbouring districts after Thanika’s men brutally murdered Dinesh’s aide M Satheeshkumar on a moving bus in Cheyyar in Tiruvannamalai district as the latter attempted to murder Thanika’s advocate, Siva. To avenge for Satheesh’s death, Dinesh’s men hacked to death Thanika’s cousin Karunakaran, who is also the nephew of Sridhar Dhanapal, in Kancheepuram. Thanika retaliated, killing another two, Gopi and Jeeva — said to be accused in Karunakaran’s murder case — in Tiruvallur district. Sources in the know say many others from both sides have been murdered similarly, though police prefer listing them as accident cases, playing down the ongoing gang war.
After Dinesh and Thyagu surrendered in November, the former was admitted for treatment at Christian Medical College, Vellore. However, after police came to know that he has been operating from the hospital, he was shifted to the Central Prison in Vellore, while Thyagu has been lodged at the Central Prison in Palayamkottai. Both are now detained under the Goondas Act.
Thanikachalam, meanwhile, remains elusive and it is suspected that some cosmetic changes might be helping him evade police radar.
The beginning point of rivalry
Dinesh also used to shower a few police officers with money and jewellery. No wonder, Dinesh even contravened the Goondas Act twice earlier, despite having many murder and attempt-to-murder cases pending against him.
After all, Dinesh’s own family has no connection with Sridhar except they belong to the same community. A native of Thiruppukoodal, his father was running a grocery shop, while his relatives are into photo studio business. Police said Dinesh got introduced to Sridhar when the former was a juvenile offender with assault cases against him.
While Dinesh was party to Sridhar’s white-collar crimes, Thanikachalam, who was Sridhar’s nephew, was used as a henchman to commit murders, extortion and other offences. Later, Thanikachalam also spearheaded the sand mafia in Kancheepuram. When Sridhar was abroad, Thanikachalam is said to have complained to him about Dinesh’s activities such as projecting himself as the next Sridhar and garnering resources and support from those who once feared Sridhar. However, Sridhar was not perturbed until Thanikachalam informed him of Dinesh harassing Sridhar’s wife and his younger daughter.
Kanniyakumari police superintendent N Shreenath, who played a major role in restricting Sridhar Dhanapal’s movements when he was the ASP of Kancheepuram district, says the rivalry between Dinesh and Thanika started as the latter murdered Dinesh’s friend ‘Vella’ Karthik. “After allegations that Vella Karthik misused Sridhar’s name for extortion, Sridhar asked Thanika to teach him a lesson. Thanika, who nurses grudge against Dinesh, used the opportunity and eliminated Karthik, which irked Dinesh,” he says.
After the gang split, Dinesh, who had more men with him, colluded with Thyagarajan, another history-sheeter, to emerge indomitable over Thanikachalam.
“Dinesh and Thyagu became friends in prison. Thyagu, who only had his mother to claim as his own, wanted to make quick bucks for her and started taking up murder orders. He charged between Rs 3-5 lakh for murder and built a house after four such orders. Now he has about 20 murder cases pending against him and spends most of the time in prison,” said police.
A short-lived dream, say police
“Also, with the Enforcement Directorate attaching Sridhar’s properties worth hundreds of crores, there is not much for Dinesh and Thanikachalam to fight for. What they now do is extorting businessmen using Sridhar’s name which will not last long. It is a fight in vain for an illusionary throne,” he said.
A senior police officer said Dinesh and Thanika are fighting for survival. “Dinesh always claimed before the police that he did not want to kill Thanikachalam and wanted to lead a peaceful life. On the other hand, Thanikachalam is keen to eliminate Dinesh despite several warnings.
They might end up killing each other, putting an end to the Sridhar’s so-called empire,” he said.
Kancheepuram police superintendent B Samundeeswari said all efforts are being taken to nab Thanikachalam. Also, misguided students are being warned against associating with gangsters. “It is not clear who is with whom. Some of these students just claim to be part of one of these gangs just for kicks. We have advised them to focus on studies,” she said.