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A disturbing trend of fake encounters

Posted by Admin on September 13, 2009

Ishrath jahanThe New Indian Express

When Ishrat Jahan was killed in a hail of police bullets in Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004, along with three others, few suspected they were anything but terrorists planning to murder Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Ahmedabad Metropolitan Magistrate S P Tamang believes otherwise. In his report of September 8 he says clearly that the killing was ‘staged’ by the police with an eye on ‘promotions’. The report names then police commissioner K R Kaushik and D G Vanzara, the DIG who is already in prison over the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter in which three people were killed. It is chilling to note that the Ishrat encounter has been described as motivated by a desire to ‘flatter’ the CM.

Extra-judicial killings are not new in India. But the proliferation of Dirty Harry(s) in every part of the country is reason for everyone to be worried. ‘Encounter’ and custodial deaths seem to be increasing, the latest being in Chennai, where A Lakshmanan died in a lock-up after alleged third-degree interrogation. Few people have heard of Sanjit (killed in Manipur last July), Abdul Rehman (2007), Sohrabuddin Sheikh (2007), Manorama Devi (2004), Sadiq Jamal (2003) and Sameer Khan Pathan (2002).

Their deaths were a clear violation of human rights. In light of this, the dangers of the anti-terror bill passed by the Modi government, which makes confession made before a police officer admissible in a court, become dismayingly obvious. The statement by Justice (Retd) C Upendra Singh last Saturday that extra-judicial killings are a reality add weight to the concerns.

The Union ministry of home affairs’ affidavit supporting Gujarat’s claim that Ishrat and the others were terrorists seems to be, at best, a result of complete lack of co-ordination among the agencies concerned with national security; at worst, a case of back-scratching. Such incidents should also draw our attention to the dire need for reforms in the police. Perhaps it is a truism but it is one that has to be repeated; the police have to be protected from political interference.A more serious problem is that every encounter death raises a storm of protest, but soon enough it is business as usual. The juggernaut rolls on unchecked. It is each individual’s duty to ensure that the dead do not become mere statistics. Our indifference is helping to create a Frankenstein that could eventually swallow us as well. Too many Ishrats have died. It is time to cry ‘no more’.

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