LUCKNOW: UP has had a long history of police encounters. The first one is traced back to February 27, 1931, in Allahabad when Sir JRH Knott Bower, the then SSP Allahabad, had an engagement with freedom fighter Chandra Shekhar Azad.
The latest data released by UP DGP headquarters shows a sudden spate of encounters in the state -- total 1142 -- till January 31, 2018. While 34 criminals were done in, 2744 were rounded up. Meanwhile, additional 30 encounters took place between February 1 and 4. However, the spurt has drawn clamour from different quarters. Even NHRC registered its reservation, issuing several notices to UP government to ensure that cops at lower rung didn't misuse power accorded to them as was seen in Noida on February 4.
It’s not that the state is witnessing so many encounters for the first time. In the early 80s, the same Uttar Pradesh police had gunned down 299 alleged dacoits and captured 1,228 criminals in a period of one month to fulfil the vow taken by the then CM VP Singh.
Even the regimes of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati are remembered for hundreds of killings in the name of police encounter which stood at 431 and 261 respectively during their tenures as CM. In fact, Mulayam regime saw 201 staged shootouts in 2006 alone. During Mayawati’s fourth tenure (2007-12) as CM, 87 encounter killings were reported in the first year in 2007, says the NHRC data of 2003 -13.
While additional director general (ADG), law and order, Anand Kumar justifies the crackdown to improve law and order scenario of the state, a note of caution has come from former DGPs. While they don’t see a fault in hot pursuit but feel that one fake encounter could neutralise all the good work. Besides, maintenance of law and order requires much more than mere encounters, they say.
“One legitimate and genuine encounter comes as a deterrent to others as it pushes the underworld into a hibernation of three months,” says former UP DGP Vikram Singh. “But if it is against the tenets of law and contrary to NHRC guidelines, it will undo the entire good work done by cops over a period of time,” maintains the former top cop who helmed UP police during BSP rule (2007-12).
Meanwhile, another ex-UP DGP, Atul feels that it is the perception which makes all the difference. “Sometimes the police are on defensive and sometimes aggressive. Right now, it seems, the police is in aggressive mode,” he says adding that if criminals will fire at the cops they will retaliate.
“It has to be as per a law of mathematics,” says Vikram Singh. “Anyone who is the most wanted, two in police stations or five in district carrying a reward of Rs 50,000 should be identified and hunted within 48 hours failing which responsibility of the inspector at police station level and SP in district should be fixed,” he maintains.
Pushing for genuineness in action, the ex-DGP believes that the process of identification of criminals should be transparent. “ATS, STF, DGP headquarters and police website should reflect the details of absconding criminals on whom the reward of Rs 1,000 or Rs 1,00,000 is announced. First, declare the wanted criminals and then go after them,” he says and cautions that the lower functionaries shouldn’t be given undue discretion if the incidents like the one happened in NOIDA have to be avoided.
“Hunt the criminals down rather than just meeting the number in records. This will not rout out the crime,” says Vikram Singh.
On the other, ex-DGP Atul appreciates the efforts of the cops in cracking cases with Noida incident as an exception. He too feels that police at the lower level should not be left to go beyond their brief.
Total encounters till January 31, 2018: 1142
Criminals killed: 34
Criminals arrested: 2744
Criminals injured: 265
Cops injured: 247
Cops martyred: 04
Allahabad - 54
Gorakhpur - 31
Total property worth over Rs 146 crore confiscated.