A+| A| A-

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.

To read the full text Login

Get instant access

New 3 Month Subscription
to Digital Archives at

₹826for India

$50for overseas users

Updated On : 7th Mar, 2018


(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Biden’s policy of the “return to the normal” would be inadequate to decisively defeat Trumpism.

*/ */

Only a generous award by the Fifteenth Finance Commission can restore fiscal balance.

*/ */

The assessment of the new military alliance should be informed by its implications for Indian armed forces.

The fiscal stimulus is too little to have any major impact on the economy.

The new alliance is reconfigured around the prospect of democratic politics, but its realisation may face challenges.

A damning critique does not allow India to remain self-complacent on the economic and health fronts.


The dignity of public institutions depends on the practice of constitutional ideals.

The NDA government’s record in controlling hunger is dismal despite rising stocks of cereal.


Caste complacency of the ruling combination necessarily deflects attention from critical self-evaluation.

Rape atrocities tragically suggest that justice is in dire need of egalitarian commitment by every citizen.

Back to Top