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Of encounters, real or staged

There is always more than one side to a story and the tales of police encounters in India are the ones laden with hidden truths, subtexts and suppressed facts. Of the two stormy cases of police encounters in the recent past, one, the Ishrat Jahan incident, was a cold-blooded murder, as fresh evidences coming to light suggest. The other, the Batla House encounter, as a Delhi court verdict declared this past Thursday, was, however, a case of ‘genuine’ shootout, with the law and order officials engaging alleged militants from the terrorist outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM), in which a police official, M C Sharma, was killed by the now convicted Shahzad Ahmad.

The lesson to be learned from these two conflicting and contentious episodes that have rocked the recent history of Indian politics is, nevertheless, important and multidimensional. Firstly, there is an urgent need for implementing police reforms at various levels of operation – such as intelligence gathering, verification of data, real time networking and liaising with other police and security offices, and last but not the least, equipping the police with upgraded arms and bullet-proof jackets, so as to gear them up for taking on the criminals with adequate safety measures. Secondly, the law, particularly the legal and penal norms, needs to be adapted to the rapidly changing times, as a vital public service like the police is required to be in tune with the strides in the sociocultural makeup of a society as multicultural and multiethnic as ours.

On the other hand, rampant politicisation of the episodes need to be condemned, as well as the tendency of the political outfits, particularly the ruling ones, to use the police force as an instrument of their whims and fancies, must not be condoned. This applies to not just the police force, but also the investigative bodies such as the CBI, the NIA, among others, which must have enough autonomous powers to do their bid independent of political pressures from above.

Moreover, apprehending the crime and the criminal(s) is also not without a distinct correlation with the persisting stereotypes of people belonging to minority communities, who are often branded as prone to religious fundamentalism by virtue of their having a particular faith. In the light of the revelations, of very different nature but having a common thread, it needs to be underlined that motives behind the encounters have been worlds apart. While the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter underscores grave disparities, prejudices and ruthless instrumentalism on the part of the officers in uniform, along with their political masters whose complicity is now almost out in the open, the Batla House encounter spells out the complexities that need to be grappled with, especially the many-headed hydra that is terrorism in its manifold avatars.

However, both the episodes drive home the need for police accountability, as well as putting an end to the glorification of so-called ‘rogue cops’, or ‘encounter specialists’ via the film industry and media outlets. Moreover, the very concept of extra-judicial killings as a method to curb terrorism stands fully discredited, with democratic dialogues and taking the lawful course the only meaningful ways to address the matter.            

MPost

MPost

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