Spare a thought for kin of encounter victims

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.