SIMI activists killed in Bhopal: Have encounters become a legitimate way of dispensing justice in India?

Do not question the bravery of our Madhya Pradesh cops, it is tantamount to deshdroh. Instead, blindly accept their version of the Bhopal encounter, enjoy footage of the killing, marvel at the bravery of cops and, while you are at it, don't forget to chant Bharat Mata ki Jai at the exact moment a courageous cop steps up to cries of ''maro, maro", fires at what looks like a dead body and the ecstatic audience chants: "Ye hai, Ma******d."

We are in the middle of a Bhakti movement, where everything should be accepted as gospel. We are in an India, where cops are living Shahanshah's dream of being the jury, judge, and executioner. Shh! no questions asked.

Don't ask:

1) What was the need to kill eight men armed with just knives carved out of jail utensils and stones when they were surrounded from all sides and had nowhere to run? Couldn't they have been captured alive, if not all of them, at least one, especially when they were not firing at cops chasing them and armed only with jail utensils?

2) How eight persons facing trial escape from a "high security" jail where they were transferred primarily to ensure they do not escape?

3) How did these men climb a 20-feet wall and fled a prison where they were not even allowed to go to court — their trial was being held via video conferencing since 2014 — because of fears of them fleeing?

4) Where were the guards, security cameras, prison officials when eight prisoners were merrily making their way from their secured cells to the jail's perimeter 400m away, scaling its parapet lined with live current with an impromptu "ladder assembled with bedsheets and bamboo shafts?"

Police at the encounter site at the hillocks of Acharpura village after the STF killed 8 SIMI activists. PTI

Police at the encounter site at the hillocks of Acharpura village after the STF killed 8 SIMI activists. PTI

5) Why these men, seemingly in a hurry, travelled just 10-15 km from the jail in almost eight hours when they could have easily put miles between themselves and police during this period, especially when the aforementioned brave cops had no information on their movement? Incidentally, three of these eight undertrials had broken the Khandwa jail in 2013 and within 24 hours escaped to Maharashtra, so, you can't argue that they did not have the requisite experience. What went wrong this time?

6) Why prisoners running from the law, short on time, would first buy new clothes, new shoes, get a haircut, shave — all of it between 3 am and dawn — and then head, like sitting ducks, in a group towards a village where, as villagers of Acharpura where the encounter took place claim, they would be immediately identified as strangers and then, hear, hear, draw attention by picking up a fight with locals and threaten to shoot them?

7) Why, after presumably getting access to country-made pistols (disputed, added perhaps as an afterthought), cartridges, new clothes, shoes, dry fruits, dates, blades, combs, these eight men could not find the only thing the needed to escape — a vehicle?

8) Why not a single policeman get injured in a presumed exchange of fire at a site where not a single gun could be spotted?

Don't ask anything, because every answer would point to the accusation former Supreme Court justice Markandey Katju has made: This looks like a case of extra-judicial killing.

"From what I could gather, the so called 'encounter' in Bhopal was fake, and all those responsible for it, not only those who did the actual executions, but also those who ordered it, including politicians and senior police officers, must be given death sentence, as held by my bench in the Supreme Court in Prakash Kadam vs Ramprasad Vishwanath Gupta," Katju argues on Facebook.

Don't ask questions because encounters have become a legitimate way of dispensing justice for many Indians, a symbol of pride and nationalism, a proud moment to savour with rousing slogans. Any undertrail, as long as he is a Khan or she is a Jahan, can be bumped off on mere suspicion of being a terrorist. Why take them to court, waste the court's precious time on trying suspects, unless, of course, the case in question is of Malegaon blasts or bombing the Samjhauta Express? In India, extra-judicial killings now have both political and societal legitimacy. So, shh!

Of course, the problem with handing over a licence to kill to cops and their political masters is this: Where does it all stop? If mere suspicion is equivalent to a death sentence, nobody is immune. The only condition that becomes necessary to get people bumped off is asking our police to book them on charges of terrorism, put them on endless trial and then, one day, settle everything on a hillock, in full view of a cheering audience with a camera.

Don't ask, when suspected terrorists are gone, courts are considered redundant, trials unnecessary, and cops become trigger-happy, who would be next: suspected murderers, rapists, robbers, beef-eaters, tax evaders?

In al-Baghdadi's Islamic State, his cops and moral police summarily execute anybody suspected of sedition, espionage, crimes against sharia. No questions asked, no trial; only HD videos.

Don't ask what does it make us if we silently accept a similar argument and let our cops turn into Indian versions of Jihadi John.

Updated Date: Nov 01, 2016 15:59 PM

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