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UP: Encounter In Prayagraj After CM’s Remark

The police have claimed to killed a man involved in the recent murder of a witness in the 2005 BSP MLA Raju Pal murder case.

Image Courtesy: PTI

Lucknow: Two days after Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief minister Yogi Adityanath said in the Vidhan Sabha that he would “destroy the Mafia” in a heated exchange with his predecessor and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav following the elimination of a witness in the 2005 BSP MLA Raju Pal murder case in Prayagraj, the police on Monday claimed to have shot dead the person who had helped the shooters escape.

The witness, Umesh Pal, and his two security guards were attacked in broad daylight at a Prayagraj market on Friday. According to the police, Arbaaz (25), a resident of Salapur (Prayagraj), had helped the shooters flee the spot.

The killing of 'hardened' criminals in Uttar Pradesh is now listed as a major achievement of the saffron government and even as opposition parties and human rights groups berate the Yogi Adityanath government for the spate of killings that happen in the name of encounters, the government thinks otherwise.

According to the police, Arbaaz was “involved in the killing of the 2005 murder witness”. UP law and order ADG Prashant Kumar told the media that Arbaaz, who was “involved in the murder, was wounded during the encounter in Dhoomanganj area of Prayagraj”.

On seeing the police team, Arbaaz fired and tried to escape. The police fired at him in retaliation and he was wounded. He was taken to a hospital where doctors declared him dead,” Kumar added. The police are “trying to collect the criminal background and history of Arbaaz”.

BJP MLA Shalabh Mani Tripathi shared a video of the accused being brought to a hospital after the encounter. Boasting of Adityanath’s “mission of destroying the Mafia”, he tweeted: “One of the killers of Umesh Pal shot dead in police encounter. Jai Ho!!”

After coming to power in 2017, Adityanath had resolved to improve the law and order situation. His ‘Thok do’ (Shoot them) policy led to a spate of encounters.

172 criminals killed in encounters 

As per the police figures, 172 listed criminals, most of them carrying cash rewards of Rs 75,000-Rs 5,00,000 on their heads, were killed in a total of 10,531 encounters from March 2017 to January 2023. Besides, 22,597 criminals were arrested and another 4,710 wounded in police encounters in the same period.

The Meerut Zone tops the state’s encounter numbers with 62 alleged criminals gunned down in 3,112 encounters followed by Varanasi (19) and Agra (14) in the last five years.

According to Kumar, the UP Police is “running a campaign against criminals. When the miscreant fires, the police also retaliate in self-defence in which our cops have also been wounded. But the campaign against criminals will continue”.

As per a list compiled and released by the UP government in 2020, nearly 37% of the people killed in encounters in the past three years (2017 to 2020) were Muslims in a state where the minority community comprises only around 19% of the population. Most of these encounters occurred in western UP, including Meerut, Shamli, Aligarh, Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur. 

There is no doubt that there are numbers of fake encounters in Uttar Pradesh and the modus operandi in each encounter is moreover similar,” retired DGP Vibhuti Narain Rai, who investigated the infamous Hashimpura massacre, told Newsclick.

The suspicion in the recent encounter is that did the police really announce a cash reward on him [Arbaaz] or did it after the killing because either it is advertised in a newspaper or a press release is issued?” Rai asked.

Former state IGP SR Darapuri told Newsclick that in his 33 years of service, “I can say that all encounters are staged which are later found to be fake by courts”. Encounter killings indicate a “complete high-handedness and brutality by the police force”, he added.

When encounters have been clearly endorsed as government policy, why will any official go against it?”

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