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New Delhi: Since Bharatiya Janata Party’s Adityanath came to power in March 2017, Uttar Pradesh Police has injured at least 3,302 alleged criminals in 8,742 ‘encounters’, leaving several of them with bullet wounds on their legs and bringing to unofficial use the term “operation langda” (lame), the Indian Express has reported.
The number of deaths in this time frame stands at 146.
Senior officials of the state police deny having any strategy behind causing such injuries in ‘encounters’ and do not see it functioning as a deterrent for those involved in criminal activities. The state police also does not maintain any data on how many such alleged criminals were left disabled after being shot at their legs. On the other hand, they say 13 uniformed men were killed and 1,157 were injured during such encounters, leading to arrests of 18,225 criminals.
Prashant Kumar, Uttar Pradesh Police ADG (Law and Order) claimed that the high number of injuries in police encounters indicates that killing criminals is not the primary objective of the police, but arresting them.
Kumar said that “till date, no constitutional institution has said anything adverse against UP Police encounters”, and adds that every encounter goes through a magisterial inquiry and that there are set procedures based on Supreme Court guidelines as to what to do if an encounter takes place.
As recently as Thursday, August 12, one Afsharun, who is wanted in robbery cases and was carrying a reward of Rs 50,000 on his head, was arrested in Ghaziabad after he was shot in the legs in an ‘encounter’. On August 8, Maniram, a dacoit who is wanted in over 35 cases and was carrying a reward of Rs 50,000 on his head, was left with bullet injuries on one of his legs in a police ‘encounter’. According to police, Maniram fired at the police team which had encircled him.
In another incident, a murder accused, Sachin Chauhan, sustained bullet injuries on his legs in a police ‘encounter’ that took place in Gautam Buddha Nagar. According to police, Chauhan fired at the Noida police team which caught him.
On July 22, a rape accused, Parashuram, was left with bullet injuries on his legs when police opened fire in an ‘encounter’. According to police, Parashuram tried to escape custody.
These ‘encounters’ drew the attention of the Supreme Court, which in January 2019 said the issue required “serious consideration”. The opposition in the state has come out strongly against these ‘encounters’, and described them as part of the state government’s ‘thok do (finish them)’ policy.
The state police has, meanwhile, been viewing them as achievements of sorts, more so with the assembly elections around the corner. In fact, the chief minister, on a number of occasions, had himself said that police would not hesitate to kill criminals “if they did not mend their ways”.
Meerut zone in the western part of the state tops the list for the highest numbers of encounters (2,839), arrests (5,288), deaths (61) and and injured (1,547). In the second place is Agra, falling in the same region, with 1,884 encounters, 4,878 arrests, 18 deaths and injuries to 218. The third spot is taken by Bareilly with 1,173 encounters, 2,642 arrests, seven deaths and injuries to 299.
Meerut has also witnessed the highest number of police injured (435), followed by Bareilly (224) and Gorakhpur (104).
As for police deaths, the Kanpur zone tops the list, with eight police personnel killed during the 2020 Bikru village encounter during the police operation to apprehend gangster Vikas Dubey. Dubey, who later surrendered in Madhya Pradesh, was killed in another police ‘encounter’ while being brought to Uttar Pradesh.
In another BJP ruled state of Assam, police ‘encounter’ killings have received a sanction from no less than chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. After Sarma assumed office on May 10, Assam has seen 17 alleged criminals killed in encounters, while 31 others have suffered injuries while allegedly attempted to evade arrest or escape from police custody.
On July 5, Sarma said, “When someone asked me whether shooting incidents are becoming a pattern in the state, I replied that it should be the pattern if it involves a criminal trying to escape police custody.”
On cow smugglers, Sarma said, “I don’t even want it to go to the chargesheet stage because our cows need to be protected.”
Ever since Sarma assumed office, the Assam government has announced a sudden ‘war on drugs’, Muslim population control measures and action against alleged land encroachment by Muslim migrants.