Adityanath’s Encounter Raj

In November 2017, UP chief minister Adityanath has announced that the BJP government had established the rule of law in Uttar Pradesh and that very year, the state has witnessed about 1,100 encounters in 2017 in which 49 people were killed and 370 injured (data acquired from PIL filed by PUCL).While speaking to the state legislative council on February 15, 2018, Adityanath said: “In 1,200 encounters, more than 40 criminals have been killed and this trend will not stop.” By this estimate, in the ten months since the BJP government came to power in the state, the police conducted roughly four encounters per day. In an interview to India TV in June 2017, Adityanath said, “Agar apradh karenge toh thok diye jayenge (If they commit crimes, they will be killed).” This remark was a mockery of the guidance by Supreme Court in a landmark 2012 case where it stated: “It is not the duty of the police officers to kill the accused merely because he is a dreaded criminal. Undoubtedly, the police have to arrest the accused and put them up for trial. This Court has repeatedly admonished trigger happy police personnel, who liquidate criminals and project the incident as an encounter. Such killings must be deprecated. They are not recognised as legal by our criminal justice administration system. They amount to State sponsored terrorism.” On January 2019, the Supreme Court has responded to PIL filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) commenting “Having considered the pleadings brought on record and having heard …we are of the view that the matter would require an examination by the court on the earliest possible date.” National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had observed that it seemed that “the police personnel in Uttar Pradesh are feeling free, misusing their power in the light of an undeclared endorsement given by the higher ups…”. The PUCL, in its plea, has referred to news reports quoting the chief minister, his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya and ADG Law and Order Anand Kumar, justifying the encounter killings of criminals in the state. The plea stated the chief minister on November 19, 2017 commented that “criminals will be jailed or killed in encounters.” On September 16, 2017, Anand Kumar, ADG (Law and Order) said that the encounters were as per the “desires of the government, expectations of public and according to the constitutional and legal power accorded to the police.” NDTV reported that the government has “also allowed that district police chiefs could announce rewards of upto Rs. 1 lakh for a team that carries out an encounter.” Even this violates the law. According to the NHRC guidelines issued in 2010 on police encounters and reiterated by the Supreme Court in September 2014, “No out of turn promotions or instant gallantry rewards shall be bestowed on concerned officers soon after the occurrence. It must be ensured at all costs that such rewards are given/recommended only when the gallantry of the concerned officer is established beyond doubt.”

According to an RTI query, 1,782 cases of fake encounters were registered in India between 2000 and 2017. According to NHRC data, based on the complaints and intimations it received, Uttar Pradesh accounted for an alarming 44.55% (794 cases) of encounter cases registered across all states. The NHRC does not specify the number of allegations proven to be true but recommended Rs 9.47 crore rupees as compensation in 160 cases from UP. These cases are almost half of the total 314 cases nationwide in which it recommended compensation. The figure of encounters as on 4th August 2018 claims that there have been 2351 encounters where 63 persons around 23 districts are killed and 584 persons are having injury. Out of the first 30 killed, 12 were Muslims and most of the rest are Dalits. Only a few upper caste record has been available. In the FIRs of the killings, the number of cases listed against the alleged criminals vary from 7 to 38 and almost none of the FIRs have any description to show any criminal history or any of their alleged crimes to be heinous. Indian Express presents an analysis of 20 cases out of 41 where the incidents in the FIRs seem to be a copy of one another. Out of the 14 cases of police encounter killings that The Wire looked into in four districts of western UP, 11 had the same pattern. The victims were in the age group of 17 to 40. They were all under trials in a number of cases. Just before each encounter, the police received a tip off about their location. They are either on a bike or a car. As soon as the police tries to stop them on the road, they start firing. In retaliatory fire, the accused receive bullet injuries and are declared dead on arrival at the hospital. The formulation of the FIRs no doubt presents massive administrative liquidations taking place in the state of Uttar Pradesh in blatant violation of the rule of law, legal and constitutional protection available to the citizens, in particular, regarding life under Article 21 of the Constitution. The entire context of encounter should be seen in lines with the agenda of the RSS to run a fascist state and terrorise the poor in the name of controlling crimes, justification of which is already there in its upper caste and class constituency, that the poor, mostly Muslims and Dalits take part in crime and are needed to be punished.

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