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When the State Turns Rogue

Questions must be asked about the spate of encounter deaths in Uttar Pradesh.

The best way to eliminate crime is to eliminate “criminals.” This appears to be the formula that Uttar Pradesh (UP)Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is advocating to make UP a “safe” destination for economic investment. In the 10 days leading up to the recent UP investment summit, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and attended by 18 union ministers and leading industrialists, there were four “encounters” between the police and so-called criminals. These add to the figure of 921 encounters resulting in 33 deaths between March 2017—when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Yogi Adityanath took office—and January 2018. The high number of these killings had prompted the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to send a notice to the UP government in November, but so far the state government has not deigned to respond.

What is taking place in UP is not without precedent. Maharashtra is the pioneer to this kind of “encounter” killing. Between 1982 and 2003, 1,200 alleged criminals were similarly killed in the state by way of trying to eliminate criminal gangs. The policemen responsible for the maximum number of such killings were celebrated, called “encounter specialists,” and even had films made about them. It was only when human rights groups questioned these “encounters,” pointing out that even a suspected criminal had a right to a fair trial and could not be arbitrarily bumped off, were some of these policemen forced to answer for their actions. While a few were penalised, many got away. In fact, one of these “encounter specialists,” Pradeep Sharma, who was suspended in 2009 but thereafter acquitted in 2013, had boasted that “criminals are filth and I’m the cleaner.” He was personally responsible for 104 encounter deaths.

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Updated On : 7th Mar, 2018

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