ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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'Encounters Are Murders'

Are extrajudicial killings mere aberrations, trifling excesses not to be unduly concerned about?

Inquiries by magistrates into “encounter” killings in India have mostly corroborated the police version of the events leading to the deaths, but Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate S P Tamang’s investigation of the facts and circumstances leading to the deaths of 19-year old Ishrat Jahan, Javed Sheikh, and two others (whose identities are yet to be established) in June 2004 is totally at odds with the Ahmedabad police and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s “encounter” story. Based mainly on evidence from the forensic and post-mortem reports, Tamang has established that the deaths were “cold-blooded murders”.

The official version is that the four persons were “terrorists” of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) on a mission to assassinate Chief Minister Narendra Modi, but the “intrepid” crime branch police, led by then Deputy Commissioner of Police, D G Vanzara, apprehended and killed them in an “encounter” on the outskirts of the city in the early hours of the morning on 15 June 2004. A union home ministry affidavit filed in the Gujarat High Court – in relation to a writ petition brought by Israt Jahan’s mother, Shamina, pleading for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the facts and circumstances leading to the killings – agreed with the Gujarat government that the four persons were members of the LeT and concurred that no CBI inquiry was warranted in the case. There is no doubt that both the BJP and the Congress continuously vie with each other to prove who is more patriotic, and patriotism here means who is more anti-Pakistan. But more ominously, what is roguishly being implied is that in the case of terrorists, it is permissible, indeed necessary, to sidestep the required judicial processes of investigation and trial and punish them by death rightaway.

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