It is not often that we hear of cold-blooded murders in the country.  But the once in a while a case is enough to give us the shivers.

The now apparent murder of a young man at the Central Plaza shopping complex in Lungtenphu, earlier this week, came as a chilling reminder of safety, or rather how of unsafe Thimphu has become.  It was a gruesome murder.  And it happened at a busy place, with some areas under camera surveillance.  From the way the face was mutilated beyond recognition, it was clear it was no accident, and that whoever was behind it was buying time to get away.

More worrisome is that a murderer or murderers are on the loose.  It has been four days and it is still not clear who was responsible, forget apprehending them.  If they are around, prowling, it is a cause of a concern, and not just for residents in the area.  As we still enjoy the reputation of being a peaceful country, news of murder scare people, especially expatriates working and living here.

We are losing that reputation, if we have not already lost it, as crimes like robbery, rape and murder, make occasional headlines.  An expat yesterday said it was scary to walk alone, as they could be targeted for being foreigners.  Our memory is short, but digging through files we find at least one murder case registered every year.  That is too much for a small and peace loving country.  It is the second such incident in the same area of Thimphu.  Last year, an Indian engineer was robbed and killed hereabouts.

If it is not killing or raping or robbing, the capital city has become a sleepless city.  There is an increasing restlessness among the youth.  This is apparent from the frequent scuffles, fights and injuries, which are not even newsworthy now.  While visitors keep complaining of the noise into the wee hours, residents are getting used to disturbances caused by those returning from late night discos.

Outside Thimphu, our small towns are already beginning to see the same trend.  Surprisingly, we are beginning to accept this as being inevitable.  We are developing and urbanising.  As long as we have bars, discotheques, and other nocturnal entertainment centres, we will have this form of violence.  And it would be unrealistic to expect that we will be able to prevent it.

The notion that hardcore crime doesn’t exist in the country is not true anymore.  Crime is getting out of control, although those apprehended are punished according to the law.  Prevention will always be a challenge.

The onus should not be left to the police alone.  The concept of neighbourhood watch, and ensuring safety of tenants by providing security guards, is becoming necessity now.  The urban village demands more than living in close proximity.