Encounter killings by police
"Encounter killing" is a term used in India since the late 20th century to describe killings by the police or the armed forces, allegedly in self-defence, when they encounter suspected gangsters or terrorists. In the 1990s and the mid-2000s, the Mumbai Police used encounter killings to attack the city's underworld, and the practice spread to other large cities.
Critics are sceptical of many of these reported incidents, and further complain that the wide acceptance of the practice has led to incidents of police creating 'false encounters' to cover-up the killing of suspects when they are either in custody or are unarmed.
This term has come into popular use in India since the late 20th century because of a very high frequency of encounter killings by police in such cities as Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata. Some of the killings have been controversial, and critics have alleged that the police created 'fake encounters' as opportunities to kill suspects.
According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India, there were many cases of alleged fake encounters:
440 cases. States with high number of cases were: Uttar Pradesh (231), Rajasthan (33), Maharashtra (31), Delhi (26), Andhra Pradesh (22) and Uttarakhand (19).
- 2009/10 - February 2013
555 cases. States with high number of cases were: Uttar Pradesh (138), Manipur (62), Assam (52), West Bengal (35) and Jharkhand (30).
On 11 January 1982, the gangster Manya Surve was shot dead by police officers Raja Tambat and Isaque Bagwan at the Wadala area. This is often referred to as the city's first recognised encounter killing. From that period until early 2003, the police killed 1,200 alleged criminals.
Members of the Mumbai Police involved in these killings became widely known as 'encounter specialists', and several became well-known to the public in India, including:
|Pradeep Sharma||Inspector||104||||He once remarked "Criminals are filth and I'm the cleaner". He was accused of having staged the encounter of Ram Narayan Gupta and suspended in 2009/10; however, he was acquitted by the court in 2013.|
|Sachin Waze||Assistant Inspector||63||||Resigned from service, later joined Shivsena|
|Vijay Salaskar||Inspector||61||||killed in November 2008 Mumbai attacks|
The term 'police encounter' was used often during the Punjab insurgency between 1984 and 1995. During this time, Punjab police officials reported 'encounters' to local newspapers and to the family members of those killed. The victim was typically a person whom the police believed to be a militant or involved in the militant separatist movement; proof of alleged militant involvement was rarely given. Ultimately, the practice became so common that 'encounter' became synonymous with extrajudicial execution.
It is alleged that police typically take a suspected militant into custody without filing an arrest report. If the suspect dies during interrogation, security forces would deny ever taking the person into custody and instead claim that he was killed during an armed encounter, placing weapons on or near the body to suggest the police acted in self-defence.
Between 2002 and 2006, 22 deaths classified as 'fake encounters' were reported in Gujarat. According to the NHRC figures, during 2002–2007, there were four alleged fake encounters in Gujarat (out of 440 fake encounters in all of India). These cases gained national media attention:
- Sadiq Jamal (2003)
- Ishrat Jahan case (2004)
- Sohrabuddin Sheikh case (2005)
- Tulsiram Prajapati case (2006)
It is notable that the only cases which attracts media attention among the hundreds of fake encounter cases as per the data available at public disposal from NHRC and other authoritative sources, have two specific characteristics as noted below:- 1. The alleged victims are Muslims. 2. The alleged state is a BJP ruled state.
Other notable cases
Veerappan, the notorious forest brigand, was reportedly killed by the Special Task Force (STF) in an encounter on 18 October 2004. Some human rights organisations claimed that the circumstantial evidence indicated that he was killed in a fake encounter after being tortured by the police.
On 19 September 2008, Delhi-police Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, a decorated officer, and two suspects were killed in the Batla House encounter case in New Delhi. The encounter led to the arrest of two suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorists, while a third managed to escape. The Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid termed the encounter as 'totally fake"' and accused the government of harassing Muslims. Several political parties and activists demanded a probe into the allegations that the encounter was fake. After an investigation, the National Human Rights Commission cleared the Delhi Police personnel of any violations of human rights.
An alleged 'encounter' in 1991, led to the 2016 sentencing of 47 policemen to life imprisonment for the slaying of 11 Sikh pilgrims in the Pilibhit district of Uttar Pradesh.
In popular culture
This section does not cite any sources. (September 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Police encounters have been featured in several fiction and non-fiction arts.
- Encounter: The Killing (2003) starring Naseeruddin Shah
- Kagaar (2003)
- Kaakha Kaakha, a 2003 Tamil film starring Surya
- Khakee (2003), starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ajay Devgan
- Ab Tak Chhappan (2004) starring Nana Patekar
- Bardaasht (2004)
- Aan: Men at Work (2004)
- Risk (2007)
- Shootout at Lokhandwala (2007)
- Maximum (2012) starring Sonu Sood, Naseeruddin Shah, Vinay Pathak, Mohan Agashe
- Shootout at Wadala (2013)
- Rege, a Marathi film (2014) starring Mahesh Manjrekar As Pradeep Sharma
- Paayum Puli (2015), a Tamil film starring Vishal
- Sacred Games (2007), a novel by Vikram Chandra is based on the police force in Mumbai. It includes dramatic depictions of police encounters.
- List of killings by law enforcement officers in the United States
- 2015 sandalwood smugglers encounter in Andhra Pradesh
- Crossfire (Bangladesh)
- "Bombay's crack 'encounter' police". BBC News. 2004-06-09.
- S Gurumurthy (2011-08-11). "Sohrabuddin: Interrogating the media". Indian Express. Retrieved 2012-05-23.
- "NHRC stats show there were more fake encounters in Congress-ruled states than in Narendra Modi's Gujarat". India Today. 2013-07-04.
- "City’s first encounter ended two years of urban dacoity", June 22, 2002, Express India.[dead link]
- Alex Perry, "Urban Cowboys", TIME magazine, 6 January 2003
- "Encounter man Pradip Sharma completes 'century'", Rediff, 3 June 2004
- "Mumbai: Cop Pradeep Sharma reinstated". The Times Of India. 2009-05-07.
- "Ram Narayan Gupta encounter case: Ex-cop Pradeep Sharma acquitted by Mumbai court". DNA. 2013-07-05. Retrieved 2013-07-25.
- www.mumbaimirror.com http://www.mumbaimirror.com/mumbai/others/Ab-Tak-Chappan-cop-to-eliminate-civic-problems/articleshow/16173143.cms. Retrieved 7 July 2015. Missing or empty
- Fallen Heroes. India Today. Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- Mumbai's encounter specialists out of favour, IBNLive, 26 March 2008.
- "The People's Paper". Tehelka. Archived from the original on 2012-09-12. Retrieved 2013-10-19.
- Dead Silence: The Legacy of Abuses in Punjab. Human Rights Watch/Asia and Physicians for Human Rights. 1994.
- Campbell, Bruce B.; Brenner, Arthur David (2002-10-01). Death Squads in Global Perspective: Murder with Deniability. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 265–. ISBN 978-1-4039-6094-8. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
- Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (India). U.S. State Department. 1993.
- Pepper, Daniel (2009-02-28). "India Makes a Place for Dirty Harry". NY Times. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
- "India-Who Killed the Sikhs". Dateline. 4 March 2002. Archived from the original on September 12, 2007. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
- "Communication to Special Representative on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders" (PDF). Ensaaf. 2006-05-12. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
- "The Twelve Year Cover-Up: Disappearance of Human Rights Attorney Sukhwinder Singh Bhatti". ensaaf.org. ensaaf.org. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
- Krishnadas Rajagopal (2012-01-26). "Probe all 22 fake encounters between 2002 and 2006, SC tells Gujarat panel". Indian Express.
- Rana Ayyub (2011-12-03). "Dead Man Talking". Tehelka. 8 (48).
- "Third victory for us, says Ishrat's family". The Hindu. 2011-11-22. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
- "The journalist who cracked Gujarat fake encounter case". rediff.com. 2007-04-25. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
- "Veerappan killed in fake encounter: activists". The Hindu. 2005-01-19. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
- "Batla House encounter fake: Shahi Imam". rediff.com. 2010-02-09. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
- "Batla House Encounter: Unanswered Questions". Outlook. 23 July 2009.
- "SP for judicial inquiry into Jamia encounter". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 8 October 2008.
- "Attack on north Indians, Jamia encounter rocks LS". Indian Express. 20 October 2008.
- "Batla House encounter: NHRC gives clean chit to cops". CNN-IBN. 22 July 2009.
- Sally, Vishal (April 6, 2016). "Pilibhit verdict: For Gurdaspur families, justice delayed, not denied". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
- (Organization), Human Rights Watch; Shah, Naureen (2009). Broken System: Dysfunction, Abuse, and Impunity in the Indian Police. Human Rights Watch. ISBN 9781564325181.