UTTAR Pradesh will be crime free – was the much-touted slogan of Yogi Adityanath after he became the chief minister. The illegal method of eliminating crime, aka ‘encounters’, started in 2017. “Thok do” (shoot them) was the dictum given to police officials to gun down criminals. It is a different matter that the chief miniter himself is facing 15 criminal cases and 143 MLAs of the state have criminal cases registered against them, of whom 83 are from the ruling BJP.
The policemen are offered promotions in the wake of encounters. In UP, especially in the western region, a series of encounters started in which a majority of those killed belonged to either Muslim, Dalit and other backward classes. The truth is that criminals with petty crimes were targeted and their encounters were planned. In a few cases, criminals who were lodged in jail were brought out and then killed by the police. A retired police official said that Yogi Adityanath had set targets for policemen on killing such people. In all 1,478 encounters have taken place in which 50 people have died and 390 were injured. Among those killed, 70 per cent were Muslims, 15-20 per cent Dalits and the rest from other backward classes.
A delegation comprising AIDWA leaders Sehba Farooqui, Asha Sharma and Madhu Garg and Saroj Verma from the CPI(M) met the families of some of those killed in these encounters in Shamli, Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur on June 3 and 4.
The delegation met two families in Pthanpura and Sherpur villages of Saharanpur. Both the families are poor. Mansoor of Pthanpur village came out of jail about two-and-half years ago and since then was quiet. Because of getting an electric shock in jail, he had become mentally retarded. According to the family, on September 26, 2017, some policemen came in plain clothes to his house and took him for a ride. At 3 am the next day, the policemen turned up at the village pradhan’s house and asked for his signatures. Then they took the thumb impression of Mansoor’s father but did not tell him about his son’s encounter. It was at 7 am when Mansoor’s relative called and told them that he has been killed in an encounter. According to the police, Mansoor was a sharpshooter of the Mukim Kala Gang and had a reward of Rs 25,000 on his head. There were dozens of cases of loot, dacoity, murder etc. registered against him. It is astonishing to note that Mansoor had been at his home for the past two-and-half years and had such cases been pending against him, he could have easily been arrested. He went with the policemen on September 26, so how could he loot a WagonR car, which was the case story of the police. He was shot point blank which confirmed the doubts of the family members that he was killed.
Similar was the case of Shamshad of Sherpur village. According to police report on September 8, 2017, while he was being taken to the court for his hearing he ran away on a motorcycle with the help of two criminals. His body was found on September 11. His wife, immediately after getting the news that her husband “ran away”, approached the human rights commission fearing encounter of her husband. The family members told the delegation that he did not want to come out of the jail and used to say let all the cases finish off only then he will join them at home. So, his running away from the police escort was a mischievous story at the behest of the police. According to the family members, he was killed on September 8 itself as there were ants on the body and no blood on the clothes. There were signs of brutalities all over his body. Signs of rope being tied on his neck and at the back were glaring. He was shot in his temple.
In another shocking incident, Naushad alias Danny (25 years) of Bhura village in Shamli was killed by the policemen on July 29, 2017. He was once jailed for five months in a small fight but that was a few years ago. Since last three years he had not been in jail nor any case against him. On July 29, a woman of the village who was a police informer called him to her place for a Mango feast. He also took his friend Sarvar along with him who is a cloth vendor in Bangalore. The police had laid a trap and killed both of them. The villagers spotted blood outside the house of the woman and saw the police taking the two bodies in their vehicles. The police stated that the two raped the woman and in the end were killed in the encounter. However, no rape has been reported in the official police report. According to the police story, two criminals of Bhura village were ambushed. Both were members of the Mukim Kala gang and had a reward of Rs 50,000 and Rs 10,000 on their heads. When the family members of Naushad approached the human rights commission, false case of gang rape was slapped against the brother and uncle of Naushad. The “victim” happened to be the same woman.
Furkan of Titarwad was shot dead by police on October, 23, 2017. He, according to police, was a member of the Mukim Kala Gang. Abbu Mirhasan, the father of Furkan, filed a petition in the high court against this encounter. In March, 2018, about 20 policemen came to his house and took his thumb impression also warning him with dire consequences in case he made another complaint. Both his mother and father are daily wagers and three brothers are brick kiln workers. Similarly, Aslam (29 years) was killed by the police in an encounter. According to police report, in one of the checking nakas (pickets) at Noida Dadri police station, Aslam tried to run away and fired at the policemen in which two policemen were also hurt. Akbar hailing from Gaddi Daulat was also killed in a police encounter. Akbar used to work as a vendor in Bangalore. Incidentally, the crime which he supposedly committed according to the police version, took place when he was in Bangalore. According to his family a police informer woman called him on his mobile and asked him to come to Shamli so that his name can be deleted from the list of criminals. The family last spoke to him on January 29, 2018 and on February 3 there was news of his encounter. According to police, he too was a member of the Mukim Kala Gang.
Most of the people who have been killed are from poor background and mainly were workers. In majority of the cases, they had been in jail on petty crimes and the police used that record to declare them as history-sheeters about which even their family was not aware of. Then a reward on their head was declared without even the person who was killed knowing that. The houses that were visited did not look like those of “ransom getters”. A few of the families are on the verge of starvation. Majority of the people killed from Shamli and nearby areas were said to be attached to the Mukim Kala Gang. Those who have been killed in these encounters are mostly from Muslim, Dalit and other backward communities. Even the copy of FIRs and postmortem reports have not been given to the families. While doing the last rites and bathing the bodies, the families realised that almost all of them were captured, tortured, and shot from close range. In the case of Shamshad (Saharanpur), this became all the more evident with the postmortem report, which stated that he was killed three days before the ‘encounter’ date as stated by the police.
COMMON PATTERN OF KILLINGS
There is a common pattern in all the cases of encounters. The ‘criminals’ came on motorcycle, on seeing the police they fired in which some of the policemen also got injured. In retaliation, the police exchanged fire in which the criminal was shot dead and the others fled. In many cases, the backbones of those killed were fractured. The policemen invariably in all the cases got minor injuries and were released from the hospital immediately.
The present encounter spree is being carried out as part of the state policy where the money kept as a reward on the criminals is given to the police team carrying out such an operation. The Supreme Court has categorically stated that this cannot happen. The court has also stated that there should be an inquiry after the encounter either by an independent agency or by the magistrate. It is strange that in majority of the cases the inquiry is conducted by the higher official amongst the police itself. If the police station in-charge does the encounter, then the Deputy Superintendent of Police is holding an inquiry. Even magisterial inquiries have not been made public. The SC has also made it clear that in case any of the family members feels aggrieved with the encounter, they can approach the court or the human rights commission. But what has happened is that in such cases the family members have been intimidated and threatened by the police and in actual reality, false cases registered against them. All these facts explain that in the present order, the police have become the biggest criminal of the state. This is turning the state police more savage and inhuman.