The truth behind the rampant police encounters in Yogi’s UP 

After the BJP government came to power in the state, more than 1900 encounters have taken place in which 41 people have died. But common people found merit in hardly one or two cases

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Aas Mohd Kaif

When Saharanpur police killed Mustafa alias Kagga in 2011, a large number of people thronged the site of encounter just to see him. The government had put a Rs 2 Lakh award on his head. A terror among the people, at the time of his death, he had taken ‘supari’ for seven murders including that of an important leader. The police encounter of Rahul Khatta here in 2015 was another major encounter death. Khatta, who belonged to Baghpat, also carried a reward of Rs 2 lakh on his head. There was a feeling of relief and happiness among people after these two killings and the police were praised for it. These criminals were notorious and people were really scared of them. The families of these criminals too remained quiet after the killings.

After the BJP government came to power in the state, more than 1900 encounters have taken place in which 41 people have died. But common people have not seen merit in more than one or two cases. Ajam Shamsi, an advocate from Muzaffarnagar, says, “It is necessary to know when the last case was registered against the people whom the police have killed in the encounters. What is the gap between their old cases and the new ones? Did they give up criminal activities or were they still active?”

These questions have become all the more important because the families of many ‘criminals,’ who were killed in various police encounters in west Uttar Pradesh, have made different claims. Furkan (43) from Titarwada was killed in a joint action by Muzaffarnagar police and STF. His wife Nasreen claims that since he was in jail for seven years, how could he commit a robbery! There is a similar case in Kakrauli area of Muzaffarnagar. Nadeem (32) of Bagowali village was killed by the Kakrauli police. Nadeem’s aunt, Samreen, says he had come back from Tihar jail after eight years. He was arrested in a minor case immediately after and then the police said that he escaped from the police station and was later killed by the police. Yunus from the same village says that he was better off in Tihar jail. Furkan’s case was also the same. Furkan’s five brothers are still in jail and his father Mir Hasan says, “It’s better that they remain in jail. If they come out, the police will kill them.” There is another rumour doing the rounds in Kairana that it was the police who got Furkan out of the jail and that they killed him in a ‘fake’ encounter thereafter.

A third instance of police encounter of old criminals comes in from Bhopa. The Saharanpur police is in a tight spot in this case. Zulfan (41) of Bhopa was a rickshaw driver. On February 17, he was forced into a white Bolero. The local residents raised noise about it. Zulfan’s brother Gulfam took Morna village pradhan Shahzad’s help and gave this information to the police after dialling 100. The local police station was also informed about it but they did not register the report. According to Gulfam, on the third day, he came to know through WhatsApp that Zulfan has been shot in the leg by the police. Gulfam told NH that there was a ten-year-old case against Zulfan in which he was acquitted. Now he is in jail and his wounded leg will never heal. The police shot him right below his knee. Gulfam has filed a complaint in this regard with the state Human Rights Commission. According to Gulfam, the police is now realising its mistake and they are now pressing for a compromise.

The largest protest against these encounters took place in Noida. Here, Sumit Gurjar of Chirchita village was killed in a police encounter and the incident now has become a political issue. People staged demonstrations against this killing and there was a lot of anger in the Gurjar community about this. SP leader Atul Pradhan even got arrested. There was only one case registered against Sumit and he was only 19 years old. There is another person named Sumit in the same village and there are 6 cases registered against him. Sumit’s family claims that police did not investigate the matter properly and killed him because he had the same name. The inspector who killed Sumit in the encounter was promoted.

It is important to note here that Inspector Chaman Singh Chawda of Budhana, who killed Furkan in the encounter and Inspector PP Singh of Khatauli who killed Jaan Mohammad were also promoted to the post of Circle Officer (CO).

The killing of Salim in another police encounter in Saharanpur is a different story altogether. The credit for this encounter was given to Inspector Munendra Singh. He was suspended on the charges of negligence during the clashes between Dalits and Thakurs in Shabbirpur. At that time, he was in charge of Badgaon. The inspector of the close by Deoband police station, Chaman Singh, has now become the CO but Munendra Singh is still an inspector though it is expected that he will soon get a promotion. However, the issue of Salim’s encounter is also gaining traction. His family members have accused that he was killed in a fake encounter. This clash allegedly took place in the sabzi mandi area of Saharanpur. But many officials of the area including the guards have denied hearing any gunshot.

The most shocking story of promotion has come from Kakrauli. Six months ago, Anil Singh was deputed here as the Thana in-charge. He was a sub-inspector at that time and had two stars on his badge. After Nadeem’s encounter, he was awarded with the charge of Jansath Kotwali which is given to the police officers who have three stars. However, now he has been promoted. According to data, 88 police officers have been wounded in these encounters, most of them have been wounded in the arm, mostly bullet grazes. Almost as many criminals have been wounded but they have been shot in the legs in a way that their legs have been irreparably damaged.

Most of the police encounters have taken place in the Meerut zone and during his recent visit to the zone, UP CM Yogi Adityanath praised ADGP Prashant Kumar. ADGP Prashant Kumar said, “We will continue replying to bullets by bullets.” Many big criminals of this area have surrendered and have been jailed. Aditya of Bijnaur and Ruchin Jaat of Muzaffarnagar had Rs 1 lakh award each on their heads but they surrendered in the court.

SP leader from Muzaffarnagar, Sajid Hasan, says, “The Chief Minister should explain why his police shoot 19-year-old Sumit in the chest and Nadeem in the head? Nadeem just had a Rs 10,000 award on his head. But, the big criminals have escaped easily. Why does this happen?”

This is giving rise to ‘encounter rivalry’ too where the police of one district is clashing with the police of another district. When the Muzaffarnagar police killed Vikas Jaat who was accused of murdering SP leader Balander and his mother, the Meerut police SSP Manzil Saini was annoyed and suspended the entire crime branch team.

Another behind-the-curtains story about these encounters is that the newly appointed police officials are not taking any interest in them. Most of the encounter teams have almost the same team members - police officials who have previous experience in encounters. They are called encounter specialists. This shows that these encounters are not taking place abruptly but, instead, are well planned.

The families of the so-called criminals killed in encounters are now preparing to go to the state Human Rights Commission. Some of them have already approached the Commission. At some places, the police have tried in their own way to stop them. Human rights activist Rajiv Yadav says, “The Yogi government will not rule forever. The police officials involved in these fake encounters will have to repent some day.”

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