Raman Raghav or Psycho Raman went on a killing spree over three years in the 1960s, spanning from 1965 to 1968, casting a spell of fear over the city of Bombay (now Mumbai.)
He is said to have killed 40 people. His victims were all poor people who either slept on the pavements or lived in ramshackle huts and temporary shanties in the northern suburbs of the city, those who eked out their living rather precariously. They included men, women and children – even infants. His modus operandi was to bash their heads in with hard and blunt object.
Ramakant Kulkarni was the young police officer who took over as the head of the crime branch in 1968 and whose team eventually captured Raghav on 27 August 1968. Mr Kulkarni retired in 1990 as the head of Maharashtra police and died in 2005. He wrote detailed accounts of the case in two books: “Footprints on the Sands of Crimes” and “Crimes, Criminals and Cops”.
“The murders were motiveless… if any petty gain had been achieved in the process, the violence inflicted on the victims was totally disproportionate to any such gain,” he wrote (source: Ramakant Kulkarni’s Footprints on the Sands of Crime)
As new murders were reported almost daily, rumours began circulating about “a mysterious assailant… gifted with supernatural powers” who could “assume the shape of a parrot or a cat” and the press dubbed him “India’s Jack the Ripper”, recalled Lily Kulkarni, the wife of Mr Kulkarni.
More than 2,000 policemen patrolled the streets at the time, but the city was in the grip of panic, especially in the suburban areas.
Parks and streets emptied out at dusk and in many areas, nervous residents carrying sticks patrolled the streets.
There were several incidents in which beggars and homeless men were badly assaulted by panicky crowds.
The murders took place in two lots – the first between 1965 and 1966 when 19 people were attacked. Raghav, who was found loitering in the area, was picked up then as well, but let off because police couldn’t find any evidence against him.
The second round of killings took place in 1968, and on 27 August, a sub-inspector from Mr Kulkarni’s team recognised him from photographs and descriptions given by those who had survived his attacks.
As the news of the arrest spread, a large crowd gathered outside Mr. Kulkarni’s office. People celebrated the capture of the very man that had an entire city biting their nails in cruel anticipation.
There is little known about Raghav’s childhood or early life. Reports from the time describe him as a Tamilian, who was tall and well-built, had little school education and was homeless.Raghav had worked as a mill hand for a few years.
During interrogation, he proved to be “a tough nut” who refused to say anything for two days, but the police had a breakthrough on day three.
Mr Kulkarni’s book describes how one of Raghav’s interrogators casually asked him if there was something which he really wanted and “without a moment’s thought”, he said “murgi” – chicken.
After he was fed a dish of chicken, he was asked if he wanted something else.
He asked for more chicken.
Next, he said he would “like to have a prostitute, but I guess the law does not permit that while one is in custody” – so he settled for hair oil, a comb and a mirror instead.
“He massaged his whole body with the coconut oil, appreciating its fragrance, combed his hair and looked admiringly at his own face in the mirror.”
Then, he asked the police what they wanted from him.
“We want to know about the murders,” one officer said.
“Well, I shall tell you all about them,” he said, and led the policemen to the bushes in Aarey Colony where he had hidden his tools – an iron crowbar, knives and other weapons.
During his confession before the magistrate, Raghav admitted to killing 41 people, though police said they believed the numbers to be higher. He also admitted during court proceedings that he went by the pseudonym of Sindhi Dalwai. He claimed to have been arrested a few times on trumped-up theft charges. He meticulously detailed his crimes, and also claimed to have had sex with a female corpse.
In his confession, he said he had done it voluntarily and that he had been instructed by “God” to do so.
During court proceedings it was observed “that the confession of the accused, if it is accepted, and the answers given by him in examination under Section 342 (Punishment for wrongful confinement) of the Code clearly show that though the accused knew the nature of the act committed by him, he was acting pursuant to a command which he described as “Kanoon”. The accused has thought, or has suffered from a delusion, that he was acting under the command of a law which was higher than the law of the land. He also regarded that it was obligatory upon him to follow the “Kanoon” which told him to kill persons.” (State Of Maharashtra vs Sindhi Alias Raman, S/O Dalwai … on 4 August, 1987)
Further details that were revealed during the proceedings wereas follows:
- He believed that there are two distinct worlds, the world of ‘Kanoon’ and this world in which he lived.
- He held onto a fixed and unshakable belief that people were trying to change his sex, but that they are not successful, because he was a representative of ‘Kanoon’.
- He also nurtured a fixed and unshakable belief that he is a power or ‘Shakti’.
- He assumed that other people are trying to put homosexual temptations in his way so that he may succumb and get converted to a woman.
- He claimed that homosexual intercourse would convert him into a woman.
- He declared that he was “101 percent man”. He kept on repeating this.
- He appealed that the government brought him to Mumbai to commit thefts and made him commit criminal acts.
- He had a stringent belief that there are three governments in the country – the Akbar Government, the British Government, and the Congress Government and that these Governments are trying to persecute him and put temptations before him.”
The court subsequently declared that he was suffering from a psychosis called chronic paranoid schizophrenia or paraphrenia, the latter being an old term for chronic paranoid schizophrenia plus auditory hallucinations. He was deemed dangerous to the society and hence certified as insane.
Raghav was initially sentenced to death by the Bombay High Court, but his sentence was commuted to life after he was declared insane. He spent his life in Yerwada Central Jail near Pune, and died at the age of 63 on April 7, 1988, from kidney failure.
His life and crimes have acted as inspiration for a number of movies like the 70-minute short film, starring Raghuvir Yadav, produced byIndian filmmaker Sriram Raghavan.Sigappu Rojakkal, a 1978 Tamil movie, was reportedly loosely based on Raghav. It was then dubbed in Telugu as Erra Gulabilu. Remade in Hindi as Red Rose, it starred Rajesh Khanna and was also made in Japanese as Red Roses and as Krasnyye Rozyin Russian. Raman Raghav 2.0, a Bollywood film directed by Anurag Kashyap, is about a fictional serial killer who is motivated by Raman Raghav, stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the titular role. It premiered at the 2016 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and released worldwide on 24 June 2016, receiving a fairly well response from critics as well as viewers.