special: in Yogi regime, po­lice re­turn to en­counter raj

In Yogi regime, po­lice flaunt en­counter-killing toll with pride

Governance Now - - FRONT PAGE - Ajay Singh

The ut­tar Pradesh po­lice on Septem­ber 15 re­leased of­fi­cial data on crime con­trol un­der the new dis­pen­sa­tion of chief min­is­ter Yogi adityanath. it re­vealed that in the first 180 days of the new gov­ern­ment, 420 en­coun­ters had taken place lead­ing to the elim­i­na­tion of 15 sup­pos­edly dreaded crim­i­nals. The last ten of the 15 were killed in 48 days lead­ing up to Septem­ber 14. That is a fu­ri­ous pace of one crim­i­nal felled ev­ery five days.

Two days later, in Muzaf­far­na­gar, Jan mo­ham­mad was killed in an en­counter when he ap­par­ently opened fire on a po­lice party. The next day, in etawah, Sun­dar Ya­dav was killed in an en­counter when he ap­par­ently opened fire on a po­lice party. The next day, in Greater noida, Bavin­dra was killed in an en­counter when he (what else?) opened fire on a po­lice party.

The up po­lice force is on steroids. They have just got back their li­cence to kill and they are killing at a fair clip, if not at free will. of course, they don’t call it “killing”. For elim­i­na­tion of life by the state there is a more legally sani­tised, more ma­cho term. it has a Rambo-like ring to it and the pub­lic just loves it: en­coun­ters.

So, it is rain­ing en­coun­ters in up. From 15 en­counter deaths in six months be­fore Septem­ber 15, it has risen to 18 deaths in the bat­ting of an eye as the time­line above shows.

But more chill­ing than the killings is the state of mind of the po­lice. it re­veals a cer­tain blood-thirsty streak. Sam­ple this tweet by Rahul Shri­vas­tav, ad­di­tional SP and pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cer at the state po­lice head­quar­ters. on Septem­ber 1, an­nounc­ing the en­counter death of Sushil Ku­mar, an al­leged fugi­tive, near luc­know, Shri­vas­tav summed up the mer­ce­nary mood of the force in ten men­ac­ing words: “#up­po­lice en­counter ex­press halts in the cap­i­tal….miles to go”.

a day later, he retweeted a re­port of on Sushil’s death put out by a lo­cal news­pa­per. The in­tro of the re­port (trans­lated from Hindi) says: “Chief Min­is­ter Yogi’s Yam­raj (po­lice) is in ac­tion.” (Yam­raj is the mytho­log­i­cal god of death.)

a fort­night af­ter the po­lice’s en­counter score­card was made pub­lic in Luc­know, Anand Ku­mar, ADG, law and or­der, was less crude but clev­erly made ev­ery­body com­plicit in the re­newed blood game. The Hindu news­pa­per quoted him as say­ing that the en­coun­ters were con­ducted in the in­ter­est of so­ci­ety as per the “de­sires of the gov­ern­ment, ex­pec­ta­tions of the pub­lic and ac­cord­ing to the con­sti­tu­tional and le­gal power ac­corded to the po­lice”.

How le­gal and con­sti­tu­tional these killings are is an open ques­tion but it is true that the en­counter ball was set­ting rolling again by the po­lit­i­cal ex­ec­u­tive. early in June, the chief min­is­ter told in­dia TV: “We will not al­low an­ar­chy in the state any more. We have given enough warn­ings. now we are pre­par­ing for ac­tion on a wider scale. crim­i­nals and gang­sters will ei­ther be in­side jails, or will flee from the state…”

A few days later, his deputy, Ke­shav Prasad mau­rya, picked up the cue and took it right up to death’s door­way: “Today crim­i­nals are ter­ri­fied with the thought that ei­ther they will have to give up crime or leave up, or, maybe, even leave this world,” he told The Hindu.

This thinly dis­guised threat was re­peat­edly en­dorsed and re­in­forced by the cm. “Agar apradh karenge toh thok diye jayenge (if they com­mit crime, they will be knocked down),” he told in­dia TV in the in­ter­view quoted above. as re­cently as Septem­ber 16 he told news18 ut­tar Pradesh: “Po­lice in up will now re­spond to a bul­let with a bul­let. un­like the previous gov­ern­ment, i have given full author­ity to the force to deal with crim­i­nals in the most ap­pro­pri­ate way pos­si­ble.”

en­coun­ters again re­ceived the pride of place in a se­ries of tweets on his of­fi­cial han­dle @Cmof­ficeup on Septem­ber 19. list­ing the achieve­ments of his six-month rule in a tweet-storm, Yogi wrote: “6 mahi­non mein 430 en­counter (430 en­coun­ters in 6 months).” Care was taken to up­date the death count in en­coun­ters to 17 (it later went up to 18).

With all this tough-talk, the Yogi adityanath gov­ern­ment seems to have le­git­imised vi­o­lence as an in­stru­ment of state to elim­i­nate crime. at least that seems to be the take­away for the po­lice rank and file. ‘En­counter’ is the in­stant cur­rency for crime con­trol and ev­ery­body seems to want their share of the pie. Jai narayan Singh, ig, Range, luc­know, put up a Face­book post with the com­ment: “Ghazi­abad se ek yaadgaar khabar (a mem­o­rable re­port from Ghazi­abad).” He at­tached a clip­ping of a news­pa­per re­port which was a throw­back to his ten­ure as SSP, Ghazi­abad. The re­port was head­lined: “Ab tak chhap­pan nahi, attha­van”, an al­lu­sion to a Bol­ly­wood flick that eu­lo­gises mum­bai po­lice’s “en­counter spe­cial­ist” daya nayak. nayak was sup­posed to have si­lenced 56 (chhap­pan in Hindi) crim­i­nals. Singh, the re­port said, did bet­ter at 58 (attha­van).

The Yogi gov­ern­ment has ob­vi­ously been in­flu­enced by the rhetor­i­cal psy­ops of su­per­cops such as Julio Ribeiro or KPS Gill who li­onised the ‘an eye for an eye’ the­ory to deal with ter­ror­ism and cross-bor­der in­sur­gency. But gun­tot­ing ter­ror­ists are not on the prowl in up. To draft a “bul­let for a bul­let” strat­egy for day-to-day crime con­trol is un­called for, un­pro­fes­sional and down­right un­eth­i­cal.

more­over, there’s got to be a bul­let first in re­ply to which po­lice are sup­posed to fire a bul­let. Those picked up by the state po­lice for elim­i­na­tion in en­coun­ters are mostly petty crim­i­nals. For ex­am­ple, all the three crim­i­nals felled af­ter Septem­ber 15 – Jan mo­ham­mad, Sun­dar Ya­dav and Bavin­dra – had pid­dly re­ward amounts of ₹12,000-15,000 on their head. Hardly the stuff of “dreaded crim­i­nals” would com­mand. Bavin­dra, ac­cord­ing to Rahul Shri­vas­tav’s twit­ter time­line (@ up­co­prahul), was mak­ing away with a stolen Honda city and ₹1.5 lakh when he was chal­lenged and shot. Go­ing by past ex­pe­ri­ences na­tion­wide, it is also pos­si­ble some of them have been framed in cooked-up cases.

a for­mer DGP of the state told me that all re­cent en­counter deaths looked sus­pi­cious. “if you look at the records, those shown to be car­ry­ing a re­ward on their heads were framed in such a way as to brand them as dreaded crim­i­nals who needed to be elim­i­nated.”

is this a civilised re­sponse? By all ac­counts, un­like trou­bled Kash­mir, the states in the north­east or the maoistaf­fected ar­eas, UP is not marred by in­ter­nal strife or in­sur­gency. crime and crim­i­nal gangs in up are the di­rect re­sult of the po­lit­i­cal pa­tron­age for crime and crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of pol­i­tics and po­lice.

And most of those who fig­ure in the po­lice records as top gang­sters have as­sumed the role of ei­ther law­mak­ers or have pa­tron­age from the state. Bri­jb­hushan Saran Singh, Raghu­raj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya, Ra­makant Ya­dav, dp Ya­dav, atique ahmed and mukhtar an­sari are some known

But more chill­ing than the killings is the state of mind of the po­lice. It re­veals a cer­tain blood­thirsty streak. Sam­ple this tweet by Rahul Shri­vas­tav, ad­di­tional SP and pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cer at the state po­lice HQ: “#up­po­lice en­counter ex­press halts in the cap­i­tal….miles to go”. A day later, he retweeted a lo­cal news­pa­per re­port, whose in­tro says: “Chief Min­is­ter Yogi’s Yam­raj (po­lice) is in ac­tion.”

gang lords who run a par­al­lel state in their re­spec­tive ar­eas of in­flu­ence (some of them even from within prison walls). Have you heard of any of them be­ing taken on by up’s trig­ger-happy po­lice? Far from it, the up po­lice acts as sub­servient to these or­gan­ised gang­sters, pro­vid­ing them se­cu­rity cover.

Take for in­stance the Muzaf­far­na­gar ri­ots of 2013. The akhilesh Ya­dav gov­ern­ment tried to pres­surise a se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer (of the rank of adg) to get even with the killings of mus­lims by sug­gest­ing se­vere ac­tion against the Hin­dus. “i have not joined the force to be a hired as­sas­sin,” the of­fice re­sponded and was sum­mar­ily shunted to a non-post­ing. His re­fusal to kow­tow to the dic­tates of po­lit­i­cal mas­ters was an ex­cep­tion. Prakash Singh, For­mer up DGP and a strong votary of po­lice re­form in in­dia, ad­mit­ted that an un­fet­tered li­cence to kill on whim would in­vari­ably crim­i­nalise the force. “There is noth­ing wrong if a gen­uine en­counter leads to ca­su­alty of crim­i­nals but it can­not be an in­stru­ment of state pol­icy or stated pol­icy,” he pointed out while ex­press­ing an­guish over state­ments by se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers jus­ti­fy­ing en­coun­ters as a “means to an end”.

The up po­lice has a du­bi­ous past of stag­ing fake en­coun­ters. The killing of 13 in­no­cent Sikhs in the Pilib­hit en­coun­ters and the in­dis­crim­i­nate mur­der of mus­lims in maliana of meerut still cry for jus­tice. Po­lice records are full of in­stances of fake en­coun­ters in Ghazi­abad and other parts of western up where po­lice of­fi­cers used to kill “petty crim­i­nals” only to earn praise from po­lit­i­cal bosses. Ghazi­abad alone wit­nessed hun­dreds of such killings dur­ing 2000-04, many of them coin­cid­ing with the in­cum­bent chief min­is­ter’s delhi vis­its.

it was thought we had seen the last of these “ex­tra­ju­di­cial ex­e­cu­tions” af­ter they came un­der se­vere scru­tiny by courts across the coun­try, led by the supreme court. it seemed like the days of chest-thump­ing po­lice of­fi­cers bol­ster­ing their cre­den­tials by claim­ing “ab tak chhap­pan” were ef­fec­tively over. But the UP po­lice seems to be in­ex­orably re­gress­ing to its no­to­ri­ous past. an un­fet­tered po­lice force with a li­cence to kill is a graver threat than petty thugs on the streets of up.

The adityanath gov­ern­ment would do well to look up a decades­old judg­ment of jus­tice anand na­yaran mulla of the al­la­habad high court. Jus­tice mulla wrote: “There is not a sin­gle law­less group in the whole coun­try whose record of crime comes any­where near the record of that sin­gle or­gan­ised unit which is known as the in­dian Po­lice Force… The po­lice force in ut­tar Pradesh is an or­gan­ised gang of crim­i­nals.”

There is yet time for the gov­ern­ment to shut down the trap it is set­ting for it­self by em­pow­er­ing the po­lice to kill at will. But the win­dow of op­por­tu­nity is nar­row. There are un­mis­tak­able signs that the po­lice force is al­ready en­joy­ing the new man­date. Re­fer back to the time­line of killings at the top of the ar­ti­cle for con­fir­ma­tion.

And most of those who fig­ure in the po­lice records as top gang­sters have as­sumed the role of ei­ther law­mak­ers or have pa­tron­age from the state. Have you heard of any of them be­ing taken on by UP’S trig­ger-happy po­lice?

Ashish asthana

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