Uttar Pradesh under ‘Yogi’ Adityanath resembles the wild wild west, rather than a scene of calmness usually associated with ascetics. The police records are an eye opener; it speaks volumes about the penchant of policemen to kill in fake encounters.
In the last 10 months (up to February 3) 1,143 encounters took place in Uttar Pradesh in which 38 top criminals were killed and 298 others were injured and around 3,000 criminals were arrested. Besides, the police have imposed National Security Act (NSA) against 167 criminals and seized assets worth nearly ₹150 crores in this period. Four police officials have also been killed and 257 others injured during these encounters.
In the most recent shoot-out, four young men who were returning from a wedding reception on February 3 were stopped by a trainee police inspector Vijay Darshan at a busy crossing in Noida at 10.30 pm. They were told that their crime was playing loud music in their SUV. The police opened fire at Jitendra Yadav, 25, a gym owner, who was at the wheel and received a bullet injury on his neck. His condition is still unstable.
The three others who were in the car said that the inspector had threatened them with “encounter” because killing them would give him an out-of-turn promotion. In the FIR Dharmendra Yadav, who was in the car, wrote that Inspector used the word “encounter” and “out of turn promotion” when he opened fire. The police, in a jiffy, suspended the erring inspector.
“Such behaviour from a police officer is unacceptable,” says Love Kumar, Superintendent of Gautambudh Nagar. But, the message is that the recent encounters in the name of controlling crime are nothing but cold-blooded murders where trigger-happy police officers have gunned down criminals just to get promotion.
The National Human Rights Commission Chairman Justice S Rafat Alam has sought a report from the Gautambudh Nagar SSP saying the report which has appeared in a section of media seems to be a violation of human rights. In his February 5 order, he asked the SSP to file report within 15 days.
Majority of these encounters have been reported from western Uttar Pradesh with 449 such cases reported from Meerut zone followed by 210 in Agra. Around 200 cases are reported Bareilly zone and 98 from Kanpur zone.
Such a high number of encounters has raised an eye-brow with opposition parties calling it planned murders. Samajwadi Party spokesman Rajendra Chaudhry said, “This seems to be a planned cleansing with an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The police have become trigger happy because of the award associated with the killings.”
The SP leader is not off the mark. The Yogi government has now authorised the Director General of Police to declare an award of ₹2.5 lakh and the district police chief can announce an award of ₹25,000 for any wanted criminals. This has everyone wondering if the government had announced these payments to allure policemen to kill people in the name of controlling crime.
Senior police officers such as HR Sharma defend police action saying such efforts are necessary to control crime. The ADG (Law and Order) Anand Kumar said that the police is targeting only those who are creating problems. “We ask them (criminals) to surrender and if they open fire then the police retaliates. In these firings, many cops have been injured too,” he said.
The police justification will not stand court scrutiny. In a majority of the encounters where criminal has been killed, there is a clear modus operandi. A criminal is arrested but he escapes from police custody. After a few days, the police traces and kills him in an encounter. However, the accomplice of the dreaded criminal always manages to escape.
This happened in Saharanpur too, where the police claimed to have gunned down a wanted criminal Shamshad in an encounter. Three days before this encounter in September 2017, Shamshad had absconded from police custody in Gagalhedi area. The SSP announced an award of ₹12,000 after his escape. The report says Shamshad sustained bullet injuries. One of his aides managed to escape. The police claimed that Shamshad had threatened a local doctor Piyush Sanawar and demanded ₹15 lakh. A similar pattern was followed in the case of Sunila Sharma, for whose head an award of ₹15,000 was announced. He too fled from police custody and was killed in an encounter in Gomti Nagar in Lucknow.
In Azamgarh, the police claimed to have gunned down a criminal Sujeet Singh aka Budhwa, who had a cash reward of ₹50,000 on his death. Police said that Budhwa escaped from police custody while being taken back to Rampur district after being produced in a Mau court in connection with a robbery on August 11. In this encounter the aides of Budhwa escaped. Police claimed that Budhwa was injured in a gun battle with the police and on his way to hospital the injured criminal confessed that he was involved in the heist of an SBI bank in Mau, a bank robbery in Madiyaho (Jaunpur) and half-a-dozen other robberies.
Lenin Raghuvanshi of People’s Vigilance Committee of Human Rights (PVCHR) says that such encounters damage the rule of law and criminal justice system. “This also leads to politicisation of criminals as fearing police action, they join the ruling party. They continue their criminal activities under the patronage of local leaders,” he added.