'Encounters lead to acceptance of violence in society'

Interview

S R Darapuri, former Inspector General of Police, Uttar Pradesh

Prominent human rights activist S R Darapuri, who retired as Inspector General of Uttar Pradesh police, feels that encounter as a policy of the state to control crime is counter-productive. Darapuri, who was associated with the People’s Union for Civil Liberties as the vice-president of its Uttar Pradesh unit, shared his views on the encounters in an interview with DH.

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Are all encounters fake?

There may be some chance encounters. But they are rare. They happen only when the police get some credible information about the presence of the criminals. Mostly the encounters are staged. In real encounters, the cops are also killed or at least sustain serious injuries.

But the police claim its officers also get killed or injured in the encounters...

Policemen do get killed in genuine encounters. As far as injuries are concerned, they are superficial in most of the cases. The injured cops are admitted and discharged from the hospitals on the same day.

How effective are encounters in curbing crime?

Encounters as a policy to control crime are counter-productive. The hardened criminals either leave the state or go underground. They come back once the heat lessens. We are witnessing this in UP. The incidents of rapes and murders have been rising here. Besides, encounters increase corruption in the police. In UP, there were reports that the police officers demanded money from the criminals for not killing them in encounters.

Are hardened criminals killed in the encounters?

Most of the victims in the recent encounters in UP were poor. They did not have any backers and they did not enjoy political patronage.

Are the cops punished for conducting fake encounters?

They are but such cases are few and far between. In most cases, they escape punishment. The rights bodies, including the National Human Rights Commission, have not been able to check fake encounters. They do not have the powers to punish. There are no safeguards for the victims. Usually, a magisterial probe is ordered in killings in the encounters. I have never seen any magisterial probe holding the police responsible for a fake encounter.

Does it affect the psyche of the cops also?

Yes. We are seeing the criminalisation of UP police. They are turning into supari (contract) killers. The encounters are akin to murders by the state. It is very dangerous. It also affects the behaviour of the police personnel. They think that they have the liberty to break the law. It will turn UP into a police state.

But a large section of the people seems to support encounters?

That is another danger. Encounters result in the acceptance of violence in society. We are witnessing its effect in the state in the form of mob lynching. Now people do not find any fault in taking the law into their hands.

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