Close encounters of the fake kind

One of the BJP's many reported prime ministerial aspirants is in trouble. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Gujarat High Court to probe into the controversial Ishrat Jahan case on Monday told the HC that the encounter was fake and the four persons were 'killed' by the police.

The encounter was carried out by a team of Ahmedabad police led by DIG DG Vanjara, who was later jailed for his involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter. The police alleged that Ishrat and her associates were Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operatives involved in a plot to assassinate Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

At the time of her death, Ishrat was a student at Mumbai's Guru Nanak Khalsa College. Her lower middle class family lived in the Muslim-dominated area of Mumbra, in Thane district.

In India, encounters are often pre-planned executions by police and security agencies. First used in the 1970s against Maoists and insurgents in the northeast and Kashmir, executions as unofficial state policy were perfected while dealing with Sikh militant groups in the 80s and 90s. At the same time, the Mumbai Police used these 'extra-judicial executions' to control the dangerous Mumbai underworld.

It's not Modi's Gujarat but Mayawati's UP which has earned the dubious distinction of witnessing the highest number of fake encounters, with nearly 120 people being allegedly killed by the police in the past three years. And there's no dearth of support. The average Internet Indian is a bloodthirsty fellow.

When we are informed about a crime through the media, comments follow demanding that person's execution. Fake encounter cases are often seen as collateral damage in the fight of the state against terrorism. In our frustration with the tortuous Indian legal system, we forget that the worst state of affairs possible in society is a state of lawlessness.

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