Encounter killings by police

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"Encounter killing" is a term used in South Asia, especially India and Pakistan 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. In Pakistan, the Sindh Police is notorious for extrajudicial killings through fake encounters especially in Karachi.[1]

Critics are sceptical of many of these reported incidents,[2] and further complain that the wide acceptance of the practice has led to incidents of the police staging fake encounters to cover-up the killing of suspects when they are either in custody or are unarmed.[3]

In India[edit]

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.[3]

According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India, there were many cases of alleged fake encounters:

2002–2008

440 cases. States with high number of cases were: Uttar Pradesh (231), Rajasthan (33), Maharashtra (31), Delhi (26), Andhra Pradesh (22) and Uttarakhand (19).[3]

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).[4]

Maharashtra[edit]

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.[5] From that period until early 2003, the police killed 1,200 alleged criminals.[6]

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:

Name Designation Encounter killings Source Note
Pradeep Sharma Inspector 312 [7] He once remarked "Criminals are filth and I'm the cleaner".[6][8] 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.[9]
Daya Nayak Inspector 83 [2]
Praful Bhosale Inspector 77 [10]
Ravindranath Angre Inspector 54 [11]
Sachin Waze Assistant Inspector 63 [12][13] Resigned from service, later joined Shivsena[14]
Vijay Salaskar Inspector 61 [15] Martyred in November 2008 Mumbai attacks

Punjab[edit]

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.[16][17]

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.[18][19][20][21]

Sukhwinder Singh Bhatti, a criminal defence attorney in Punjab who defended such suspects, disappeared in May 1994 and is alleged to have been killed by the police.[22]

Gujarat[edit]

Between 2002 and 2006, 22 police encounter killings were reported in Gujarat.[23] 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).[3] These cases gained national media attention:

Uttar Pradesh[edit]

When the NDA government came into power in the state in March 2017, they ordered state police to initiate the encounters against criminals. There were many controversies and police began killing innocent civilians under this plan. National human rights commission issued a notice to the state government and a bench of three judges from the supreme court of India warned and issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government in this case.[27][28] Following are the cases of fake encounters in Uttar Pradesh from 2017 to date.

  • October 2017, Shamli district, Furquan was going under trial but in a planned encounter he was killed.[29]
  • Lekhraj Singh Yadav[30]
  • September 2018, Agra, three people were shot dead in fake encounter.[31]
  • September 2018, Lucknow, Vivek Tiwari employee of a MNC company was killed.[32][33]

Other notable cases[edit]

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.[34]

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.[35] Several political parties and activists demanded a probe into the allegations that the encounter was fake.[36][37][38] After an investigation, the National Human Rights Commission cleared the Delhi Police personnel of any violations of human rights.[39]

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.[40]

In Pakistan[edit]

2015

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that in 2015, 2,108 men, seven women, and six minors were killed in Pakistan in alleged police encounters, including 696 people in the city of Karachi alone. Of these, 1191 men and three women were killed in the province of Punjab, 829 men and one woman were killed in Sindh, 64 men and one women were killed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 22 men and two women were killed in Balochistan, and two men were killed in Gilgit-Baltistan.[41] According to HRW, many of the encounters were “faked and did not occur in situations in which lives were at risk.” HRW added: “In the vast majority of these cases, no police officer was injured or killed, raising questions as to whether there was in fact an armed exchange in which there was an imminent threat to the lives of police or others.”[42][43]

January 2014 - May 2018

A total of 3,345 people, including 23 women and 12 minors, were killed in 2,117 alleged police encounters in Pakistan from January 1, 2014 to May 11, 2018, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).[44] 55 police officials and 10 passersby were also killed in the encounters. Most of the alleged police encounter cases occurred in the Punjab province (1,036 cases) followed by the Sindh province (944 cases), whereas most of the killings in the alleged police encounters occurred in Sindh (1,592 killings) followed by Punjab (1,556 killings). The encounter cases and killings were reported to be much lower in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (71 killings in 54 cases) and Balochistan (57 killings in 34 cases) during the period.[44]

Since the data collected by HRCP was based on monitoring of media reports, the total number of cases and killings may be higher than the estimate.[45]

Sindh[edit]

On 13 January 2018, Naqeebullah Mehsud was killed in a fake encounter staged by the senior superintendent of police (SSP) Rao Anwar in Karachi, sparking countrywide protests against extrajudicial killings.

Punjab[edit]

A Lahore-based family had been travelling to a family member's wedding in a car driven by their neighbour on 19 January 2019. They were shot down near Sahiwal toll plaza.[46]

Other notable cases[edit]

On January 16, 2018, when the inquiry against Rao Anwar was about to start following the extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud, Rao Anwar claimed that he came under attack in Karachi's Malir Cantonment while he was heading towards his house. He alleged that a suicide attacker detonated explosives near him and his squad but they remained unhurt, and that two accomplices of the attacker then opened fire on the police, both of whom were shot dead in the exchange of fire. He also alleged that a few militants escaped the site under the cover of fire while the police and Pakistan Rangers were conducting search operation.[47][48] However, the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) probing the case doubted if a suicide attack had even taken place at the site.[49] The investigators found out that contrary to Rao Anwar's claim, no exchange of fire had taken place. They termed the incident a fake encounter. According to the investigators, the alleged suicide attacker Gul Saeed was first riddled by the police with bullets, then a suicide vest was wrapped around his body, and then the vest was set on fire which burned his body.[50][51]

In popular culture[edit]

Police encounters have been featured in several fiction and non-fiction arts.

Film[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Sacred Games (2007), a novel by Vikram Chandra is based on the police force in Mumbai. It includes dramatic depictions of police encounters.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Rao Anwar and the killing fields of Karachi". DAWN. February 16, 2018. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Bombay's crack 'encounter' police". BBC News. 2004-06-09.
  3. ^ a b c d S Gurumurthy (2011-08-11). "Sohrabuddin: Interrogating the media". Indian Express. Retrieved 2012-05-23.
  4. ^ "NHRC stats show there were more fake encounters in Congress-ruled states than in Narendra Modi's Gujarat". India Today. 2013-07-04.
  5. ^ "City’s first encounter ended two years of urban dacoity", June 22, 2002, Express India.[dead link]
  6. ^ a b Alex Perry, "Urban Cowboys", TIME magazine, 6 January 2003
  7. ^ "Ab Tak 312: Here are things less known about encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma, cop who arrested Iqbal Kaskar". ABP Live.
  8. ^ "Mumbai: Cop Pradeep Sharma reinstated". The Times Of India. 2009-05-07.
  9. ^ "Ram Narayan Gupta encounter case: Ex-cop Pradeep Sharma acquitted by Mumbai court". DNA. 2013-07-05. Retrieved 2013-07-25.
  10. ^ "Encounter man Pradip Sharma completes 'century'", Rediff, 3 June 2004
  11. ^ 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 |title= (help)
  12. ^ Fallen Heroes. India Today. Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Mumbai's encounter specialists out of favour, IBNLive, 26 March 2008.
  14. ^ "Ex-encounter cop Vaze set to join Sena - Times of India". indiatimes.com. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  15. ^ "The People's Paper". Tehelka. Archived from the original on 2012-09-12. Retrieved 2013-10-19.
  16. ^ Dead Silence: The Legacy of Abuses in Punjab. Human Rights Watch/Asia and Physicians for Human Rights. 1994.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (India). U.S. State Department. 1993.
  19. ^ Pepper, Daniel (2009-02-28). "India Makes a Place for Dirty Harry". NY Times. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
  20. ^ "India-Who Killed the Sikhs". Dateline. 4 March 2002. Archived from the original on September 12, 2007. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
  21. ^ "Communication to Special Representative on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders" (PDF). Ensaaf. 2006-05-12. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
  22. ^ "The Twelve Year Cover-Up: Disappearance of Human Rights Attorney Sukhwinder Singh Bhatti". ensaaf.org. ensaaf.org. Archived from the original on 26 February 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  23. ^ Krishnadas Rajagopal (2012-01-26). "Probe all 22 fake encounters between 2002 and 2006, SC tells Gujarat panel". Indian Express.
  24. ^ Rana Ayyub (2011-12-03). "Dead Man Talking". Tehelka. 8 (48).
  25. ^ "Third victory for us, says Ishrat's family". The Hindu. 2011-11-22. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
  26. ^ "The journalist who cracked Gujarat fake encounter case". rediff.com. 2007-04-25. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
  27. ^ https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/supreme-court-to-uttar-pradesh-over-fake-encounters/articleshow/64824250.cms
  28. ^ https://www.ndtv.com/lucknow-news/ngo-alleges-threat-from-up-police-over-fake-encounter-1879645
  29. ^ https://thewire.in/rights/chronicle-crime-fiction-adityanaths-encounter-raj
  30. ^ https://thewire.in/security/up-cop-reportedly-warns-gangster-of-encounter-on-tape-boasts-about-killing
  31. ^ https://www.firstpost.com/india/up-police-invites-media-to-witness-encounter-in-aligarhs-harduaganj-in-bid-to-convey-transparency-shoots-two-men-dead-5230571.html
  32. ^ https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/up-cops-gun-down-apple-exec-his-offence-refusing-to-stop/articleshow/66011569.cms
  33. ^ https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/on-patrol-uttar-pradesh-cop-shoots-dead-unarmed-apple-executive-in-car/story-pEr3InOrQ2tNseHWMGzRzN.html
  34. ^ "Veerappan killed in fake encounter: activists". The Hindu. 2005-01-19. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
  35. ^ "Batla House encounter fake: Shahi Imam". rediff.com. 2010-02-09. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
  36. ^ "Batla House Encounter: Unanswered Questions". Outlook. 23 July 2009.
  37. ^ "SP for judicial inquiry into Jamia encounter". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 8 October 2008.
  38. ^ "Attack on north Indians, Jamia encounter rocks LS". Indian Express. 20 October 2008.
  39. ^ "Batla House encounter: NHRC gives clean chit to cops". CNN-IBN. 22 July 2009.
  40. ^ Sally, Vishal (April 6, 2016). "Pilibhit verdict: For Gurdaspur families, justice delayed, not denied". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  41. ^ "State of Human Rights in Pakistan 2015" (PDF). Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Retrieved 2019-01-23.
  42. ^ "PAKISTAN: Police accused of killing more than 2000 persons in encounters during the year 2015". Asian Human Rights Commission. 2016-09-27. Retrieved 2019-01-23.
  43. ^ "Pakistan police accused of illegally killing hundreds of suspects a year". The Guardian. 2016-09-26. Retrieved 2019-01-23.
  44. ^ a b "3,345 killed in police encounters from Jan 2014 to May 2018". The News International. 2019-01-20. Retrieved 2019-01-23.
  45. ^ "Shady encounters that caused national outcry". Pakistan Today. 2019-01-20. Retrieved 2019-01-23.
  46. ^ Zafar, Imad. "Society must refuse to tolerate fake 'encounters'". www.atimes.com. Retrieved 2019-01-23.
  47. ^ "Never seen a case where suicide bomber's body is in one piece: CTD official on Rao Anwar attack". The Express Tribune. February 15, 2018. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  48. ^ "Suspect killed in Rao Anwar suicide attack case was innocent, claims family". Geo News. January 27, 2018. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  49. ^ "CTD official doubts veracity of suicide attack on Rao Anwar". Pakistan Today. February 15, 2018. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  50. ^ "Investigators expose alleged suicide attack on SSP Rao Anwar". SAMAA TV. January 22, 2018. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  51. ^ "Heirs of another victim of fake encounter to file case against Rao Anwar". Dunya News. January 27, 2018. Retrieved January 1, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • (Organization), Human Rights Watch; Shah, Naureen (2009). Broken System: Dysfunction, Abuse, and Impunity in the Indian Police. Human Rights Watch. ISBN 9781564325181.

External links[edit]