Yet Another ‘Encounter’

The reported 'encounter killings' on 31 October by the Madhya Pradesh police of eight allegedly Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) activists, who had been lodged in Bhopal Central Prison as under-trial prisoners, after their 'escape' from jail, has created quite a furore. The police operation began at sunrise and ended before noon. The post-mortem reports and other bits of circumstantial evidence strongly suggest the possibility of their being allowed to escape first and then killed in cold blood. It is a time-tested practice of the security establishment of the world’s largest democracy. It’s a policy of the ruling dispensions, irrespective of their colour to stage ‘encounters’ against naxalites as also terrorists. Now this suspicion has been strengthened by the statement of the chief of the anti-terrorist squad of the MP government that the killed persons had no guns or rifles in their possession. If the statement by this person is true, then the earlier official claim of an encounter is patently false. The story of an 'encounter' sounds even more ridiculous considering the fact that no policeman was even injured, let alone killed. The drama of the jail-break with 'deadly weapons' like toothbrush and bed-sheets to scale a 32-feet wall is simply horrifying. Two video clips suggest that the police shot a person who was dying. Pumping bullets into a half-dead person!

The attitude shown by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which hopes to gain by cashing in on this incident in an atmosphere of ugly majoritarianism and steady decline of the norms of civilised conduct even among the educated community, is understandable. Narendra Modi's failure to fulfil his pre-election promises has made his party—Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—more desperate in this regard. But the past records of the Congress, which now seeks to use the episode as a stick to beat the BJP with, are hardly credible. When the Congress was in power, there were numerous instances of cold-blooded killing in the name of 'encounters'. Along with that, there were cases of killing inside police custody and then denying the events of arrests altogether. This happened in almost all states, including Andhra, West Bengal, Punjab, Kerala, Bihar etc. The cases of Panchadri Krishnamurty, Subbarao Panigrahi, Nirmala Krishnamurty, Dr Bhaskar Rao, Saroj Datta (whose arrest was denied by the police), Rajan etc. are well-known. The non-government inquiry commission, appointed by Jayprakash Narayan and chaired by Justice Tarkunde, brought out reports of cold-blooded killings and recommended trials of guilty police officers on charges of murder. In West Bengal, some notorious police officers were charged with murder and torture, but neither in Andhra, nor in West Bengal, the subject of punishing the guilty did not proceed very far owing to the indifference of the governments that replaced the Congress regime. In the Rajan case, however, Mr Karunakaran, the Congress chief minister of Kerala, had to resign and some police officers got some punishment. How many deaths in stage-managed encounters took place during the last decade in Manipur only is anybody's guess. The rape and murder of a lady named Manorama by the army and the brazen mendacity of the then army chief is a glaring example of how the Indian democracy devours its own children.

It is understandable that the position of the BJP, which tries to utilise the Bhopal killings for electoral benefits by fomenting Hindu sentiments, must be to defend the killings, because since the killed all belong to the Muslim community, unscrupulous citizens with overt and covert anti-Muslim bias may be hailing this event. It is the proliferation of this communal ideology that has saved the guilty of the Malegaon blasts and the explosion in the Samjhota express from being called terrorists, and it may well be the case that the real culprits will get away with impunity. The complaint made by the wife of the deceased police officer Hemanta Karkare, who had been in charge of the Malegaon case, during an anti-terrorist operation in Mumbai and the subsequent developments reinforces this suspicion. After the July ruling of the Supreme Court on 'encounter deaths' it was hoped that the state would be more careful and restrained in the matter of killing its citizens. Obviously it has not. The reason is that those who are running the state have imbibed the Hitlerite ideology to an increasing degree in keeping with the teaching of their guru, M S Gowalkar and that a large number of persons belonging to the educated classes have fallen in line with them, thanks to the propaganda of the printed as well as electronic media. Real democrats must launch a relentless fight against this Indian variety of Nazism.

Vol. 49, No.20, Nov 20 - 26, 2016