Barbaric act

There are many circumstances about the death of five alleged bank robbers in a residential area in Chennai city last week that raise questions about the police version.

The police claim that the men, reportedly from Bihar and West Bengal, had robbed two banks in the city a few days ago and were hiding in a rented accommodation. All five of them were killed in a midnight operation the police mounted to capture them from their hideout. But there are many discrepancies in the account of the police. It is possible that the persons who were killed may have been robbers. But the evidence left behind at the site of the shootout does not clearly point to a genuine encounter.

The police claim that they only returned the fire after being challenged but there is no clear sign of a shootout. In fact the neighbours did not hear any sound of prolonged firing and the entire operation was over in quick time. Not many bullet marks were left behind. The timing of the encounter has also been disputed. The police were very secretive about the incident even after the alleged encounter was over and did not allow the media into the scene for a long time. There are doubts about the identity of the people who have been killed. These are circumstances that create doubts about the veracity of the police version. Human rights organisations have charged that the encounter was staged and the killings were done in cold blood. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is seized of the matter.

The police have instituted a routine enquiry but this lacks credibility as such enquires tend to be biased, especially if the killings had been pre-planned. Only a judicial enquiry can bring out the truth about the encounter. In spite of many judicial strictures against the police and punishment of many police men who have staged fake encounters in which innocent people or even criminals have been killed, such encounters and custodial deaths continue to take place.  This is unfortunate because the idea that the police have no right or power to take the law into their hands is yet to sink in. Police men who dispense quick and convenient justice with the gun are no better than criminals and should be treated like them.

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