Earlier the term, encounter killings, seemed reserved only for those living in the so called conflict zones of the country, but today the strategy is being adopted by state to do away with just about any ‘suspicious’ looking human form coming in way.
Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf Ahmed’s blatant killings out in the open shook many. Bringing to the fore the basic vital – Are all criminals going to be killed in the open, gunned down in broad daylight?
These killings so very blatantly targeted and one-sided that they go beyond the so called encounters!
In fact, another vital that comes to the fore is the fact the Uttar Pradesh sarkar recently stated that more than 10,000 encounters have taken place between police and criminals in the state in the past six years, during which 63 criminals had been killed while a brave cop had also been martyred, according to the data released by the government.
To quote the details from one of the news reports: “The UP Police has conducted 10713 encounters since 2017 of which the highest 3152 were conducted by the Meerut police, followed by the Agra Police, which carried out 1844 encounters in which 4654 criminals were arrested while 14 dreaded criminals were killed and 55 cops were injured, and Bareilly where as many as 1497 encounters were conducted in which 3410 criminals were arrested while 7 died. During the encounters in Bareilly, 437 criminals were injured. In these operations, 296 brave police personnel were injured while 1 was martyred.”
Shouldn’t the backgrounders to those done away with in the encounters get investigated by an independent commission? Yes, it gets significant to have this done.
Earlier the very term – encounter killings- seemed reserved only for those living in the so called conflict zones of the country or for those fitted in the underworld, but today the State seems to have adopted this strategy to do away with just about any ‘suspicious’ looking human form coming in way.
Victims could range from political opponents to those who are not part and parcel of the very nexus. The former encounter-specialist of Gujarat, D.G. Vanzara’s resignation letter published in cop RB Sreekumar’s book- Gujarat Behind the Curtain, relays volumes . To quote from this book – “DIG D.G. Vanzara, jailed since April 2007 for the alleged guilt of committing fake encounters, in his resignation letter to the government of Gujarat, dated 1st September 2013, captioned –‘Tendering of resignation from my service with renunciation of all post- retirement benefits’ wrote ‘Gujarat CID / Union CBI had arrested me and my officers in different encounter cases, holding us to be responsible for carrying out alleged fake encounters, if that is true, then the CBI investigating officers of all the 4 encounter cases of Sohrabuddin, Tulsi Ram, Sadiq Jamal and Ishrat Jahan have to arrest the policy formulators also, as we, being field officers have simply implemented the conscious policy of this government, which was inspiring , guiding and monitoring our actions from very close quarters. By this reasoning, I am of the firm opinion that the place of this government, instead of being in Gandhinagar, should either be in Taloja Central Prison at Navi Mumbai or in the Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad.’ ”
Have we ever paused to reflect on what happens to the families of those killed or injured in the various encounters. They are ruined on any given front, with social and economic offshoots hitting them to such an extent that they find basic surviving to be near impossible. Not to overlook the fact that the ruined families could have little means and nil resources to seek justice …they have little choice but to carry on with the tainted image inflicted on them.
This brings me to write that a few years after 19-year-old student Ishrat Jahan’s killing in that much hyped encounter, on an empty stretch of road between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar in Gujarat, by the officers of the Ahmedabad Police Crime Branch led by D.G. Vanzara, I had interviewed her mother, Shamima Begum , and also her younger sister, Musarrat Jahan…It gets difficult to describe the trauma they were facing. To quote Musarrat, “It was such a blow on all possible fronts; emotionally, socially, financially … ever since Ishrat was murdered we have just kept to ourselves and seldom moved out, we have become wary of stepping out and meeting even the neighbourhood people. Our studies got disrupted … It was difficult to even survive, forget about books and studies. I sat blank, in a trance-like condition. I gave up studies, stopped going out, and didn’t meet even any of our relatives… Even financially our situation worsened. After my father had died in 2002 because of brain tumour, the entire responsibility of the family fell on the eldest of the seven sibling, Ishrat Jahan …She had begun taking up part- time jobs and tuitions together with her college level studies, to keep the home fires burning. But with her killing we are ruined…toot se gai hain …we want justice for my sister. After all, that encounter in which my sister was gunned down was staged only for political gains. It was a well concocted false charge that my sister had gone to kill the then chief minister of Gujarat and so they had her killed in that encounter!”
Musarrat Jahan had repeatedly said that though they are ruined and devastated, but were determined to get justice. “For us it is a fight for ‘insaaf’, to remove the terrorist tag thrown at my innocent sister, at us , at my entire family. You can’t imagine how very difficult it’s been for us to survive.”
They were fortunate enough to have had the well-known lawyer, Vrinda Grover, fight their case. In fact, Grover had then told me that she had decided to take up this case of slain Ishrat Jahan because, “It was the conviction of the mother and family in Ishrat’s innocence and their determination to have her name cleared that persuaded me. They want their respect and dignity restored.”
Mrinalini Sarabhai’s gesture
On Mrinalini Sarabhai’s upcoming 105th birth day, on 11 May, leaving you readers with her sensitive outreach. Around the Spring of 2002, soon after the Gujarat pogrom, I’d written a piece for The Indian Express, along the strain: ‘Where is our God ?…Not In Bharat, Apparently!’ It was a painful cry from my heart. Perhaps, the cry was piercing enough to have touched Mrinalini Sarabhai.
Within a week of the publication of that piece, I’d received a handwritten letter from her. Soothing, gentle, sensitive words, relaying that together we are going to fight this battle against communal poisoning and also that no matter what happens, we, the people of this country, have to put up a united front.
She had reached out to me at such a crucial juncture. This, when she didn’t know me…we had never met or spoken with each other. Yet, after reading my piece, she took pains to write to me on the Indian Express address which was later re-directed to me.