HYDERABAD, India — All day, every day, at a certain point along a highway leading out of Hyderabad, people stop their cars and get out to peer over the guardrail.
It was here, under a highway bridge, that four men torched the body of a young veterinarian after they gang-raped and suffocated her a few weeks ago in a case that horrified the country.
Nearby is another likely crime scene of note: In the green fields that gently roll away from the highway stands a ring of yellow police tape where the police gunned down the four accused men. The police say there was a shootout, and that they killed the men in self-defense. But that is now under investigation, and most people around here seem to believe it was a straight-up case of extrajudicial killing.
None of this happened in an isolated part of India or in some tough, broken place. It happened on the busy outskirts of one of India’s most up-and-coming cities: Hyderabad.
Apple. Google. Facebook. Uber. All have big offices in Hyderabad. So does Amazon, which this year opened its largest office building in the world right here, a futuristic campus with 15,000 employees.
The city, already a huge metropolis of around 10 million, is growing by leaps and bounds. It is famous for its spicy food, fancy shops, rich residents, and good relations between Muslims and Hindus.
Many Muslims in Hyderabad have joined protests sweeping the country over a separate issue — a divisive new citizenship law that many Indians feel discriminates against Muslims in this Hindu-majority nation. But the scourge of gang rape is never far from people’s minds.
Most Hyderabadis seem to believe that the police officers shot the rape suspects in cold blood and then placed guns in their hands. Still, many said it was the right thing to do. One crowd even showered police officers in rose petals.
“It was the need of the hour,” said Akkineni Nagarjuna, a Hyderabad movie star. “Somebody had to put the fear of God in them.”
The shootings have uncapped a wave of vigilante violence against other rape suspects. One was nearly lynched a few days later on his way to court in Indore.
Many Indians are so fed up with the courts — and it’s not just that trials can drag on for years, but so often infamous criminals evade justice — that they crave swift and decisive punishment, however it comes.
“This is what I like about Hyderabad,” said Akash Chaturvedi, the sales manager at an exotic car dealership in the city. “People here are direct. They take action.”
“I meet 20 to 25 people a day: politicians, bureaucrats, big businessmen, celebrities,” he added, as he paused in front of a blue Lamborghini. “Not a single one is unhappy with the action that has taken place.”
Adding to the suspicions of police foul play is that V.C. Sajjanar, Cyberabad’s police commissioner, was the supervising officer in at least two other cases of suspects killed by police. In each incident, the officers said they acted in self-defense.
In this case, the police were under heavy pressure. After the news broke that the veterinarian had been raped and killed, protests erupted across India. Demonstrators demanded that the suspects be hanged.
The outcry was not as seismic as that which followed a young woman being gang raped and fatally brutalized on a moving bus in New Delhi in 2012, but the incidents presented disturbing parallels. In both, the women were on professional tracks, and the weak link was having to rely on nighttime transport that left them vulnerable.
In the Delhi attack, a woman who was about to become a physiotherapist came out of a movie theater around 9:30 p.m. She needed a ride and accepted one from an off-duty bus with few passengers.
The 26-year-old veterinarian, whose name Indian officials have asked not to be disclosed, parked her motor scooter at a toll plaza outside of a central district around 6 p.m. on Nov. 27. She grabbed a shared taxi to a mall about 10 miles away, a common practice to spare drivers a grueling scooter ride.
But she was being watched.
The police said that four men who worked on a freight truck — Mohammed Arif, Shiva Kumar, Jollu Naveen Kumar, and Chintakunta Chenna Keshavulu — deflated her scooter’s back tire right after she left. Then they fortified themselves with bottles of cheap Imperial Blue whiskey, and waited.
India’s rates of sex crimes don’t appear higher than many other countries, including the United States. But activists say India has a gang rape problem.
Last year, for example, virtually the entire male staff at an upscale apartment complex in Chennai conspired to rape an 11-year-old disabled girl.
Some of the most widely publicized criminal cases in India have turned on rape and murder. Sexual violence experts say this is because many rapists feel that if they destroy the evidence, they will have a good chance of getting away with the crime.
“The problem in India is the failure of the criminal justice system,” said Sunitha Krishnan, who runs an anti-sexual trafficking organization in Hyderabad.
According to police, the veterinarian came back from the mall at 9:30 p.m. and when the men offered to help her with her flat tire, she sensed danger. On her last phone call, to her sister, right before going with them, she said she was scared.
The men pulled her into a vacant lot. They raped her. She bled badly and fainted.
When she came to, Arif, the ringleader, according to police, decided to kill her, smothering her with his hands. The four dragged her body into their truck and drove off to the stretch of fields and highway where they set her on fire.
The police were able to use closed-circuit video footage to identify the truck, which led them to the suspects, and all four confessed, police said.
They were in custody on Dec. 6 when the officers took them out of jail and back to the crime scene, at 3 a.m. The police said that they needed the men to reenact the crime, and that two of the suspects grabbed officers’ guns, provoking a shootout.
Several legal activists in Delhi have filed lawsuits against the police, saying the shooting amounted to a summary execution. And the families of two of the suspects said that they were minors. But you would struggle to find any others in Hyderabad willing to take the dead men’s side.
“Justice is good,” said Minhaj Obaid, who works in a call center for Dell computers, as he stood on the highway bridge.
“And instant justice,” he said, smiling, “is even better.”