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'Very serious' encounter deaths

Very serious encounter deaths

The fact that 49 people were killed and 370 injured in 1,100 encounters since Yogi Adityanath's  extreme Hindutva ministry took office in Uttar Pradesh,  has been noted as a 'very serious issue' by the Supreme Court.  The apex court's bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi made this comment and asked the state government to give an explanation about this.  The court's order came in response to the public interest litigation by the NGO championing civil rights, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).  The petition has been posted for hearing again on 12 February.  

The petitioners said that  'massive administrative liquidations'  have been taking place and that the State has been guilty of 'open defiance' of human rights and civil liberties.  Thus the State machinery chose to end lives instead of bringing people for trial.   The PUCL petition also contented that murders in the name of encounters and bypassing the judiciary have to be viewed only as state-sponsored terror.  The petition also quotes the words of Yogi Adigyanath that "criminals will be jailed or killed in encounters" and "everyone should be guaranteed security,  but those who want to disturb peace of the society and believe in the gun,  should be given the answer in the language of the gun."   In response to the chief minister's statement, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had warned in a message to the government that "creating an atmosphere of fear is not the correct way to deal with the crime."  Even as per the figures  given by the State government to NHRC,  there is an admission that within one year from March 2017 when Adityanath took office,  45 people were killed.

According to a report in The Wire online news portal,  an average of four encounter deaths take place in UP every day.  Most of these incidents have happened in the districts of western UP -  Muzaffarnagar,  Saharanpur,  Shamly and Bagpat.   The notable fact in this is that these are districts where the proportion of Muslim population is relatively high;  and 13 out of 14 people killed over the last 10 months are Muslims.   The government version about these deaths is that they were necessitated for self-defence of the police.  Not only that,  instead of making any serious probe into encounter deaths,  Yogi government declared a reward of Rs 5 lacs to the police officers who performed the 'heroic' acts.  And this step of the 'model Hindutva' government was taken with scant regard to the Supreme Court verdict that no reward should be declared for police officers involved in encounter deaths.   Worth recalling is the case of Furqan, a weaver who was liquidated by the police on the allegation that he was a culprit in dacoity cases in Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur.   After seven years in jail,  Furqan,    even to the surprise of his family,  was released.  In fact the police had asked his family for a huge amount of money for his release.  When the family expressed their inability to give the amount,  he was released from jail and then killed within two weeks.   The family had been asking how he could be guilty of dacoity when he was in jail for seven years.  And not stopping with that,  it was only after taking bribe from his wife Naseema that they even released the dead body of Furqan.    Five brothers of Furqan are also in jail under different cases.  Their fate and future in Yogi's regime remain to be seen.  Most of those killed in the police encounter deaths of the four districts are aged between 17 and 40,  and the police narrative about all of them is of similar nature.  But none of the names figures in the Most Wanted list of the police either.

UP's polilce force called Police Armed Constabulary (PAC) had even earlier been notorious.   And in whatever crimes the police was made responsible to  prevent, and to catch the culprits responsible for, the role of the police was to the extent of outdoing the criminals.   Add to this the police's hallmarks of  extreme communalism and casteism.   In the rule of Yogi Adityanath,  which has broken all previous records in the number of communal riots,  the majority of riots are those in which the police become direct participants.  No enquiry is completed in the right manner or the real accused brought before law.   Most recently,  the probe into the incident in which a top police officer was killed in Bulandshahr,  the country is witnessing how slow enquiries move. Now, let us wait and see the Supreme Court's decision on PUCL's demand that separate vigilant enquiry has to be conducted on each encounter incident.

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