New Delhi: Since coming to power in March 2017, the Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh has gained notoriety for shooting suspected criminals in alleged exchange of fire.
These police ‘encounters’, termed extrajudicial, staged killings by critics and prominent activists, have been advertised as the hallmark of a ‘zero-tolerance policy’ against crime by the Adityanath government.
However, a question that lingered has been, how did the government before him – run by the Samajwadi Party under chief minister Akhilesh Yadav – fare in terms of numbers when it came to alleged ‘encounters’?
Now, data published in the Uttar Pradesh assembly on August 8 shows that in Adityanath’s first five years in power, from 2017 to 2022, four times more people were killed in “police action” than during Yadav’s chief ministership from 2012 to 2017. Both were full majority governments with chief ministers directly in control of law and order.
From the period 2017-18 to 2021-2022, 162 persons were killed in “police action”, while 41 persons were killed from 2012 to 2017.
The details, seen by The Wire, were published in the form of a written reply in the UP assembly by Adityanath, in response to a query by a Samajwadi Party MLA. Adityanath is directly responsible for law and order in the state, by virtue of him holding the Home Department portfolio.
From 2017 to 2022, police shot 3,574 persons or suspected criminals. There was, however, no data provided for the number of suspected criminals shot during Yadav’s tenure or the year-wise break up of the persons killed.
Adityanath’s first tenure also stands out in comparison to Yadav’s regime in terms of attacks on police personnel. In 2012-2017, there were 4,361 incidents of attacks on police personnel. However, from 2017 to 2022, the number of attacks on police substantially went up, to 5,972.
As an opposition leader, Yadav has regularly spoken out against the spurt in such shootings and accused the BJP government of carrying out ‘fake encounters’ for electoral benefits.
Adityanath, on the other hand, has endorsed and promoted the policy of encounters, giving the men in uniform a free hand.
UP Police have maintained that they shoot criminals only in self-defence and that they prefer to arrest them.
“The police do not go looking for violence, nor use any force more than necessary, but in some cases due the actions of the criminal being apprehended situation arises in a sudden and inevitable manner in which the police personnel are constrained to use lawful and proportionate force in self defence in carrying out the duty assigned to them,” the UP government had told the Supreme Court in an affidavit in response to a PIL filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties in 2018.
The PUCL demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the cases of alleged fake encounter killings or an SIT investigation by police officers who had not served in UP.