- The “encounters” do not bring down crime at all, but give the public the illusion that their chosen leader is tough on law and order.
- A heavyweight “Dabang” (strong man) who can take on criminals.
It’s a peculiar Indian trait: we like to dress up unpleasantness in euphemisms. So we call a cold blooded murder carried out by police an “encounter” perhaps, to suggest the victim actually had a chance fight back.
In the case of dreaded gangster Vikas Dubey it was the chronicle of a death foretold (if I may borrow from Gabriel Garcia Marquez). Dubey had killed eight Uttar Pradesh on duty and was a criminal at the toxic intersection of crime, police and politicians. Dubey quite simply knew too much so Uttar Pradesh police killed him allegedly after the 52-year-old tried to flee.
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- Amar, aide of dreaded Uttar Pradesh gangster Vikas Dubey, who killed 8 policemen, shot dead in ‘encounter’
Like most things in incredible India these days, bovines - cows and buffalos as explained by Uttar Pradesh police played a role. In their official statement, the police claim that the driver swerved to avoid cattle who were strolling on the road and hence triggered the “encounter” events.
Encounters have been around as long as police in India. And, most people seem to approve of them. Bollywood has turned so called “encounter specialists” into filmi heroes with fan movies such as “Aab Tak Chappan”. They are seen as delivering vigilante justice. The trouble is that vigilantism has nothing to do with the rule of law and due process.
India’s chattering classes skip these fundamentals as they glory in their “hit men”. The rule of law does not allow for exceptions - it was Dubey shot in cold blood yesterday, it could be you tomorrow.
So while India outraged on the murder of father and son P. Jeyaraj (62) and J. Bennix in the custody of Tamil Nadu police this month – they were brutally tortured with blood flowing from their private parts - you can’t outlaw one kind of killing while celebrating another. Yes Jeyaraj and his son were arrested for breaking the lockdown for a few minutes and Dubey was wanted for 62 serious cases, but the principle is the same.
India’s criminal justice system is clogged with a backlog of decades. It’s hopelessly out of tune where fast track cases can take up to 20 years to be heard and the verdict to be delivered. But the solution is not vigilante justice -- the solution is to clean up the courts and establish more.
However, no leader in India wants the unsexy solution because especially in the north, leaders run private militias, criminals have proven links to leaders and political parties and most criminals eventually morph into legislators.
Consider this: Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the symbol of Uber Hindutva machismo, has a single word solution to crime in Uttar Pradesh: “thok do” (kill them). And then do you really wonder why a badly trained police force with its own links to the criminal mafia acts as it does?
The “encounters” do not bring down crime at all, but give the public the illusion that their chosen leader is tough on law and order. A heavyweight “Dabang” (strong man) who can take on criminals.
A senior BJP leader told me: “Encounters follow some leaders and they have benefited hugely from them - so why would they embrace due process when short cuts have given them so much power?”
Ajmal Kasab, the terrorist, was caught on camera mowing down innocent people in the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai. Yet, India chose to give him due process not an “encounter” to showcase our belief in the law meting out justice in a democracy.
All of us our complicit. Those who protect and allow the mafia to flourish and those of us who cheerlead the vigilantes, looking the other way when cold blooded murder is carried out.
Let me repeat. It could be anyone of us when we say RIP rule of law.