It was an unusual sight for residents of Chennai on Sunday, as 10 imported cars - including a Mercedes, two Lamborghinis, a Ferrari and an Audi - were parked one after another at the Kanathur police station in the outskirts of the city.
The cars had been impounded, allegedly for racing along the East Coast Road, a two lane highway from Chennai all the way to Kanyakumari. The men behind the wheels, all under 30 years were booked for rash driving and criminal intimidation. One of the accused, identified as Raghav Krishnan, was reportedly arrested after his car ran over the foot of a police inspector.
According to a report in the Times Of India, the police had said there were several complaints from the residents in the area about car and two wheeler racing on the East Coast Roads (ECR). The crackdown on Sunday, was reportedly, carried out based on this tip off. The drivers were even accused of spreading panic among the residents.
The owners of super bikes and cars in the city however, have a different story to tell. One of them alleged harassment and intimidation by the police department.
29-year-old Chennai based businessman Ankur Khandelwal sold his 650 cc Ninja in June, after what he alleges to be harassment from the police. "In April last year, my friends and I who are part of a motorcycle Club were riding on the ECR when we were stopped by the police. We were riding at a speed of 80km/hr, which is within the prescribed limit on that road," claims Ankur. "The police stopped us and immediately demanded Rs.2000. We are easy targets for them," he adds.
Super bike owners claim that pre-conceived notions regarding bikers work against them. "We wear helmets, leather jackets and leather pants for safety reasons, despite the heat in Chennai. But people take one look at us and assume we are all set to race on the roads. We are concerned about our safety, but policemen try to take us for a ride," says Ankur.
A 70-year-old super bike owner, who did not wish to be identified, told The News Minute that he has been riding on Chennai's roads for over 40 years. The businessman who owns a CB 1000 claims that regular bikes are the ones that get into more accidents. "People on superbikes are experienced riders and we know that city roads are not meant for races. Sunday mornings are the only time we take our bikes out," he adds.
Owners of super bikes and cars further claim that the vehicles are designed to make the loud noise and that is confused with speed by officials and the public. "All our bikes are street legal," says the 70 year old who belongs to a Chennai based club. "That means we have certificates from manufacturers for the silencer," he adds.
Even the drivers who were arrested on Sunday, denied speeding, according to multiple media reports. The Times of India, says the drivers of the cars even put up a video on Facebook claiming that their vehicles produce noise even if they were driving at 50 km/hr.