Outraged reactions have poured in since the killing of Vivek Tiwari, a 38-year-old salesman of Apple gadgets, who was shot at close-range in Lucknow by an on-duty Uttar Pradesh policeman early on Saturday. The incident comes as the latest in multiple cases of encounters since Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath took office in March 2017.
Uttar Pradesh has recorded at least 1,500 encounters since Adityanath took over the office in March 2017. According to reports, a total of 66 criminals have been killed in encounters in that duration, and 700 criminals have sustained injuries in shootouts. According to officials, four policemen have also been killed and over 500 people were injured in these operations that took place in various districts.
In May this year, the 50th encounter death was that of a criminal, carrying a reward of Rs 50,000, who was gunned down in the Muzaffarnagar district.
After Adityanath took up the post of chief minister, he had given the police full freedom to deal with rising crime rates in the state and reportedly asked criminals to either surrender or leave. The police promptly launched 'Operation Clean' and immediately began tackling crime by working against the wanted men. According to information released by the Uttar Pradesh Police, there were 1,142 police encounters in Uttar Pradesh between 20 March, 2017 and 31 January, 2018.
Former Uttar Pradesh DGP AL Banerjee said that the fault lies in the lack of training and supervision. "Unfortunately, a police officer these days has to report too many people — starting from his superior officers to bureaucrats and even to spokespersons of political parties."
"Further, due to lack of time, it became impossible to provide comprehensive training and we reduced the training period from nine months to six months. These constables are supposed to still be in training but they are actually on duty. They don't even have any training in handling firearms. If you cannot train them in law, psychology and discipline, then incidents like these will only increase," he said referring to Tiwari's shooting.
"The constables don't spend enough time training. Instead of spending nine months being trained, they are told to report to duty in six months," he added. Banerjee further said that the constables have "no training in handling firearms" and that such incidents could continue due to a lack of training in "law, psychology, feelings, and discipline".
"Under the law, encounter means firing by the police in retaliation. Encounters have been taking place in Jammu and Kashmir but the situation has never improved. Encounters are not the solution to control crime. You need a reform of the criminal justice system. The prosecution, witness, etc. If reforms are not brought in our criminal justice system, the society might collapse," Banerjee said.
SR Darapuri, a retired IPS officer from Uttar Pradesh, said that encounters can never be a successful strategy in curbing crime. “The police should not be involved in encounters. Proper policing involves the prevention of crime, detection of crime, investigation and then, prosecution. After spending 32 years in the police service, I have seen that ‘real encounters’ are very rare."
Darapuri added that encounters is not the deterrent that "real criminals" fear instead they continue to commit crimes. "Most of the encounters in Uttar Pradesh look like staged encounters," he said. He also lamented at the lack of experience and training of the present police system of Uttar Pradesh.
The highest numbers of encounters, according to the data in released in March, were reported from the Meerut zone where 449 encounters took place, which was followed by the Agra zone which had 210. Third on the list was the Bareilly zone with 196 encounters and then came the Kanpur zone with 91 shootouts. The least number of police encounters were in the chief minister's constituency of Gorakhpur.
After Tiwari's death, The Asian Age said that, "An armed constable seems to be getting only a smattering of training and sensitisation before he’s given live ammunition and a loaded weapon on his beat. The lathi would usually be lethal enough in the hands of an ill-trained force. Giving them guns and a license to kill — more than just shoot to maim or incapacitate — is an open invitation to murder."
On 11 September, Uttar Pradesh DGP OP Singh had said that police encounters are part of a well chalked out "strategy" to arrest hardened criminals in his state. "Encounters are part of crime prevention. The fact is that this is a not a state policy, but a police strategy. We do not call it an encounter but police engagement. We are engaged with the criminals in a very professional and strategic manner.
State Irrigation Minister Dharampal Singh said Saturday only "real criminals" were shot dead in encounters during the term of the chief minister. "Everyone will get justice... There will be no politics of appeasement. Those who commit mistakes will be punished," the minister said. Saying that "goonda raj" and "mafia raj" prevailed during the previous governments in the state, Singh said the country was "fortunate" to have Narendra Modi as prime minister and Adityanath as UP chief minister.
In a bid to convey its transparent approach during encounters, the Uttar Pradesh Police on 20 September invited the media to film an encounter with two criminals that was going to take place in Aligarh's Harduaganj. The two alleged criminals, identified as Mustaqeem and Naushad, who were killed in the operation carried a bounty of Rs 25,000 each on their heads, the police said.
Adityanath in February had declared in the State Legislative Council that police encounters in the state would not stop. Speaking in the House during the Zero Hour, he had accused the Opposition of supporting criminals while asserting that the crackdown on 'dreaded criminals' would continue.
With inputs from Saurabh Sharma/101 Reporters and PTI
Updated Date: Oct 01, 2018 15:43 PM