Policing encounters

Police believe crime graph dips after every encounter.

Policing encounters

Three police encounters in less than 10 days. Now, if that sent the chill down the spine of every criminal in the City, would you dub the police trigger-happy?

While human rights activists predictably claim these encounters were ''deliberately staged,'' the police have the usual alibi: We had no choice, we were pushed to the corner!

The slained killers’ relatives obviously cry hoarse, citing human rights violation. But the police reel out a long list of the criminal’s misdeeds. Even the criminal has the right to get the due process of law. But if he turns violent, the police say, they would act. Going one step further, the police would even send a more deadly message. Like they did by honouring a house owner recently for shooting to death a sandalwood thief.

But encounters aren’t anything new to Bangalore. In the first such case, Station Shekhar, an associate of don M P Jairaj, was gunned down in 1989. Over 30 such encounters have been recorded since then. This year alone, the police have killed four persons and injured one in separate encounters.

Involved in the encounters, the anti-rowdy squad is a small team  comprising only a few officers. ACP Ashok Kumar and Abdul Azeem, now an MLC, have been involved in five encounters, with the rowdies surviving in two cases. Former ACP G A Bava led the team that killed Eric D'Souza, a Mumbai-based gangster, who was in the City to murder another former gangster.

Mumbai encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar had gunned down three Mumbai gangsters on Cubbon Road. In January and February 2007, the then ACP B K Shivaram and his team killed Shimoga Naga, an associate of Hebbet Manja, on Hebbal flyover.

Only in some of these cases were the police taken to court. But the police had the last laugh.

Police stand

City Police Commissioner Shankar Bidari does not see encounters as a means to enforce justice. “Certain situations force encounters as they are not planned occurances. The police officers on the spot use weapons considering the situation,” he explains.

Pulakeshinagar ACP, B B Ashok Kumar justifies each of the 18 encounters he was
involved in across the State. “Encounters are required if one looks into the background of those killed. They were involved in several heinous crimes, had taken law into their hands frequently, had posed a great threat to society and the police and attacked the police.”

Police are convinced that the crime graph dips after every encounter. Is this a trend that, as some department insiders say, tempts the police top brass to resort to such killings when they fail to control activities of notorious criminals?

But the police are quick to deny it. “The decision to use weapons is not a pre-meditated one. It happens based on a particular situation,” defends an officer.  

Death sentence without trial

Human rights votaries say encounter killing is a death sentence without trial. Policemen dubbed as ‘encounter specialists’ ought to be treated for what they are, criminals, instead of being labelled as heroes, they contend.

An encounter is grossly inappropriate to the actual event, which is nothing but state-sanctioned murder of people, say the rights activists. The unstated policy of encountering unwanted elements is wrong at every possible level - moral, political, strategic and informational - and it leads to a crisis of legitimacy of the State.

Here’s their critical contention: “How is that policemen rarely die in encounters, when these insurgents are typically shown to be much better armed than our police? The men in khaki should realise they are paid to bring offenders to justice, not to kill them. It is high time the uniformed units are trained to be patient.”

But Bidari cites Section 103, IPC which permits the use of weapons for self defence. “Is it not a human right violation when criminals open fire at the police?” he asks. “And, what about those officers who were injured or killed by criminals? What about those innocent people who were brutally murdered by criminals? Why don’t human rights activists fail to consider this?” Ashok Kumar wonders. The debate goes on.

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