Ever since Chief Minister Adityanath took over in March last year, the Uttar Pradesh police have carried out around 1500 'encounters' across districts, during which over 67 have been killed, including four policemen. Recently, an Apple executive was gunned down in the posh Gomti Nagar of Lucknow which resulted in a massive furore over the state government's handling of law and order.
According to the data released in March, the highest numbers of encounters (449) were reported from Meerut, followed by the Agra zone which had 210 encounters. Third on the list was the Bareilly zone with 196 encounters and then the leather city of Kanpur which has 91 case of shootouts. The least number of police ‘encounters’ have been in the CM's home turf, Gorakhpur.
In the first week of June 2017, Adityanath, who appeared in Aap Ki Adalat on India TV had proudly announced, “Agar apradh karenge, toh thok diye jayenge (If anyone engages in crime, they will be shot). According to data released by the Uttar Pradesh government, by January 2018, the police had conducted 1,038 encounters. In these, 32 people were killed and 238 injured. Four police personnel also lost their lives, and action was taken against 160 people under the National Security Act (NSA). But in various cases, including the recent Aligarh encounter, the families of the victims have alleged 'extrajudicial custodial killings'. Unfortunately, the Adityanath government has reduced the police to a tool for carrying out 'encounters' at the bidding of the government.
A video of Meerut policemen lashing out at a Hindu girl for having a relationship with a Muslim boy while physically assaulting her inside a police van had gone viral on social media. In the video, a uniformed man is seen attacking the girl and repeatedly lashing her with vulgar barbs for choosing a Muslim boy instead of a Hindu.
Speaking with NewsClick, ex-IG (UP police) S. R. Darapuri said, "The Yogi government has the notion that by adopting strict measures, crime can be brought under control and that's why they have adopted 'encounter' as a state policy. Adityanath himself had said that they will shoot the criminals, but so far law has not improved in the state as the result of encounters and the high-handedness of the government. Rather, the Supreme Court has issued a notice to the UP government on a PIL alleging that several fake encounters had taken place in the state during the last one year. So, Yogi's encounter policy proved wrong too. To terrorise the opposition, various laws are also being misused by the government."
Raising a finger at the use of the National Security Act (NSA), Darapuri said, " More than 150 people were booked under NSA, most of them Muslims.. Furthermore, if we take a look at the data of people who have been ‘encountered’ , a majority is Muslims followed by Dalits, OBCs and weaker sections of the society, while the number of hardened criminals to be gunned down is actually low. They are also suppressing those sections who are not in the line with the ruling party. Minorities and Dalits are feeling terrorised in the Uttar Pradesh.”
The questions being widely asked are: If the Aligarh encounter was real, then why did the police invite mediapersons for live coverage? Because they knew there will be no cross-firing.
It is evident that all these ‘encounters’ are being used as political weapons. As regards compensation, The Adityanath government is using it as a political tool as seen in Vivek Tiwari's case, where a huge compensation has been offered, while the Aligarh encounter victims’ families have not even been allowed to file an application. This has happened with many Muslim families, said Darapuri.
Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, spokesperson of Samajwadi Party, told Newsclick, "The Yogi government has unleashed a reign of terror in Uttar Pradesh. Fake encounters are being carried out in the name of maintaining law and order. The present UP government is acting in violation of the constitutional provisions. No government has the right to violate the basic fundamental rights of the citizens. The CM’s 'thok do' approach is responsible for this reign of terror. Fake encounters are being carried out in full media glare. This is the first government to which National Human Rights Commission has issued the maximum notices in relation to killings by police."
Gandhi condemned the unlawful working style of UP police saying, "Police has a hidden go-ahead from UP CM to target marginalised sections. We demand fair and time-bound inquiry into fake encounters and various other violations of human rights…. This whole environment of fear and atrocities on common persons is not good for the democracy."
A very powerful campaign initiated by a small girl against Uttar Pradesh police after the Apple employee was shot says 'Police Uncle, please don’t shoot my father, he will stop the car next time you ask him to stop. '
Speaking with Rajiv Yadav of Rihai Manch, a democratic group that takes up cases of minority members wrongfully arrested in terror cases, fake encounters and atrocities against deprived communities said, "This is not the first time. During the Rajnath Singh government too, a lot of fake encounters had happened and many Dalits and Adivasis were encountered, mainly from Chandauli and Sonbhadra district."
He said the anti-Romeo squads set up by the UP government ostensibly for protection of women, started harassing couples and it is from there that the cops got licence to encounter ‘innocent civilians’. It was then that the UP police started a different narrative. It has booked various Muslims under NSA for were hoisting national flag while on the other side, it has given a free hand to those Hindus who had waved the saffron flag."
Discussing the Aligarh encounter, Aligarh Muslim University Student Union president Maskoor Ahmad Usmani said, "today everyone knows the name of Vivek Tiwari who was killed by UP Police but how many people know the name of "Naushad" and "Mustakim" who were recently killed in Aligarh fake encounter? They are not even allowed to file an FIR. Aligarh encounter was 'filmy' and 'scripted."
There is also a feeling that every political party leader went for a 'photo session' at Vivek Tiwari’s home but not a single leader said any word over the Aligarh encounter because they are Muslims. "We demand judicial enquiry in every encounter done by UP police," Maskoor told Newsclick.