Spectre of fake encounters return
Lakhan Yadav, a farmer in Majhgaon village, Chatra district, lost three members of his family. His younger brother, ‘Dr’ R.K. Prasad, whose family knew him as Anurag Yadav, his own son Yogesh and doctor’s son Santosh were among the 12 casualties brutally hunted down and killed by the security forces. Yadav has stressed vociferously that his son and his nephew were not Maoists as the security forces have been repeatedly claiming. The authorities had passed off the attack as being one of the most successful operations on Maoists in the area in recent times, claiming that they had managed to take down RK Prasad, a well-known Naxalite allegedly involved in planting explosives. But the operation also saw the killing of Prasad’s son, his nephew and several other youngsters, the relatives of whom have been adamant that they were not Maoists.
These allegations of “fake encounter” have injected a tinge of scepticism into the security forces’ claim of “biggest success” against Left-Wing Extremism. Nearly two days after 12 alleged Maoists were killed by the CRPF and Jharkhand Police in a joint operation, only seven had been identified. Of them, six had no case against them. This incident follows the death of 20 alleged sandalwood smugglers, who were killed in the sandalwood forests of Andhra Pradesh by the local police.
Accusations of extra-judicial killings had also engulfed the Andhra police after certain evidence had crept up. The matter is, however, currently under the consideration of a court.
Being accused of a Maoist in India often translates into a death sentence or at best a prison sentence, just ask Arun Ferreira. Ferreira faced an arrest, which is akin to <g data-gr-id="34">abduction</g>. He was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) on charges of sedition, then had to go through brutal torture in police custody. It may not have brought him much consolation when the false charges against him were eventually thrown out by the court. Not before he had to serve four years, eight months which largely constituted of solitary confinement. One could argue that this is the worst that the Indian criminal justice system can do to innocent citizens.
This sad state of affairs exists despite the law of the land not supporting extra-judicial methods used to curb Naxalism-like encounter killings and torture. According to the landmark judgement issued by Justice Mustafaque of the Kerala High Court, who emphatically stated that merely being a Maoist is not a crime. Upholding Voltaire in his oft-quoted words “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to death, your right to say it”, Justice <g data-gr-id="31">Mustaque</g> had clarified that though the political ideology of Maoists is at odds with the doctrine of India’s Constitution, he nevertheless believed that it is a basic human right to for people to have political aspirations. He also stated categorically that police cannot detain a person merely because he is a Maoist unless the police form a reasonable opinion that his/her activities are blatantly unlawful. Will the judiciary ensure that the law of the land is enforced not just in the letter but in spirit as well?