During Yogi Adityanath’s tenure as chief minister, UP police followed the `thok diya jayega’ directive and took part in over 1000 encounters and many more `half-encounters’.
It was therefore no surprise that an over confident UP police’s attempt to arrest the noted gangster Vikas Dubey from his house in Dikru village in the district of Kanpur turned out to be a poorly executed affair. The operation was conducted late Thursday night and early Friday morning.
Dubey had obviously been tipped off about their arrival and had reportedly set up a road block in the form of a JCB to prevent their entry into the village. As soon as members of the police contingent got down from their vehicles to arrange for the removal of the JCB, they were met with a barrage of bullets which left eight policemen dead including an officer of the rank of DSP.
The criminals had placed themselves on vantage positions and fired down at the unsuspecting policemen. Then using the cover of darkness, Dubey and members of his gang vanished leaving the shocked top brass of the UP police to figure out how best they could track down and arrest Dubey. Before leaving from the scene of the crime, these gangsters managed to snatch the weapons from wounded and dead policemen. Two gangsters were also killed in this operation.
This was the version given to the local media by the UP DGP police HC Awasthi. But police sources also indicate that two smaller contingents from nearby thanas had been first sent to persuade him to return a large stash of money he had looted from a businessman. Dubey humiliated these two contingents of cops and sent them scurrying. It was only then that a larger group arrived at his home led by DSP Devender Misra and were felled by bullets fired by Dubey’s henchmen.
Two key questions need to be asked are how did the police underestimate a man who they themselves had nicknamed `daredevil’. It was well known that he had boldly walked into a police thana and murdered the BJP minister of state Santosh Shukla in 2002. Two policemen had been killed in this raid. Although Dubey was arrested following the killing, he managed to get acquitted because of lack of evidence.
Amongst the many crimes he has been accused of were the killing of businessman Dinesh Dubey, allegedly murdering Sidheshwar Pandey who had worked as an assistant manager in Tarachand Inter College in Kanpur and also hatched a plan to knock off his own cousin while he was behind bars in Mati Jail.
His clout with the villagers can be gauged from the fact that despite his criminal background he won the Shivrajpur Nagar panchayat election located in Kanpur dehat.
Dubey is also known to have gone ahead and created a veritable army of rural youth many of whom are known to be trained in the use of arms to commit crimes that included dacoity and murder.
Former UP police DG Vibhuti Narain Rai, who had exposed the Hashimpura killings, points out,` It is obvious the UP police rushed to arrest him from his house not factoring in that they might have walked into a trap. They should not have rushed like this especially since the man appears to be a daredevil,’ said Tewari.
On the issue of how these gangsters had such easy access to weapons, Rai believes, ` There is a lot of smuggling of weapons taking place from Nepal. So that is not a problem for them.’’
The area around Mirzapur-Bardah is known to have emerged as a nucleus for the selling of all kinds of weapons from small arms to AK 47 and AK 57 assault rifles. These weapons are being brought into Bihar and eastern UP from Nepal, Bangladesh and Mynamar.
While the UP police have launched a manhunt against Dubey and his gang members, IG SR Darapuri (retd), a staunch critic of Yogi’s encounter policy said, `This is obviously a genuine encounter but the UP police, which was known to be an extremely efficient force, has got bogged down by all these fake encounters.’
`The problem with fake encounters is that it allows the real criminals to roam around scot free and so it turns out to be counter- productive because you are gunning down and maiming those who are not involved in criminal acts. The fact that the police are often not registering actual crimes does not mean they are not occurring on the ground,’ said Darapuri.
A case against these non- judicial killings filed by the PUCL is presently pending before the Supreme Court and we are waiting for them to take a call on this key issue, he added.
Darapuri recalls that during his entire career in the UP police he was witness to only one encounter, ` It happened during the daytime and not at night as seems to be the trend these days. I spoke to the criminals and persuaded them to surrender. That was way back in 1977 in Gorakhpur,’ he said.
Countries around the globe are questioning whether policemen should be armed in the first place given the kind of indiscriminate use of violence and atrocities they have a history of committing. This debate is raging in the US where several experts believe that disarming officers during off duty should be a prerequisite first step.
In the case of the Yogi government which came to power in 2017, there have been over 1,100 encounters in the state that have left 100 killed and 400 injured. It was a bid to quell the uproar around these encounters, that the police switched over to a policy of half-encounters, in which alleged criminals were shot below their abdomens, preferably in the legs. Most of these half-encounters were carried out in non-threatening situations and took place between midnight and 4 am.
The UP police rushed out to arrest Vikas Dubey but Dubey had obviously studied their moves and was in every mood to combat them. Their haste and lack of strategy in dealing with him have left eight policemen dead while four policemen suffered bullet injuries and are undergoing treatment in a hospital.
The UP DGP HC Awasthi has ordered a manhunt to track down Dubey and his men at the earliest. The question is will heads roll at the highest level as the UP police come to terms with this loss of face.