Trigger Warning: Mentions Encounter, Violence and Murder
The cold-blooded shooting down of the Ahmed brothers in public in the presence of police has brought back the horrifying issue of lawlessness in BJP CM Yogi Adityanath-ruled Uttar Pradesh.
Gangster-turned-politician, Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf Ahmed were shot dead by a three-member gang in Prayagraj while they were taken to the hospital by armed policemen for a routine medical checkup.
The incident was captured on live TV and the killers are identified as Lavelsh Tiwari (22), Mohit alias Sunny Singh ((23) and Arun Maurya (18) who came with the guns in their bikes and shot dead the Ahmed brothers, during the interview with the media.
This incident took place in the presence of armed policemen who did little to nothing to stop the shooting. Just a few days ago former MP Atiq Ahmed’s son, Asad Ahmed, 19, was also killed by the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force police team.
A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court, requesting an impartial investigation into all encounter deaths in Uttar Pradesh since 2017, the year the BJP government took office in the state.
Advocate Vishal Tiwari questioned the UP Police personnel’s inactivity while the perpetrators, who pretended to be journalists, slaughtered the two brothers in full front of the public in the PIL he filed before the Supreme Court.
The argument made in the petition is that the police’s lack of protection or retaliation during the incident cast doubt on their ability to conduct their jobs and suggested that the killings on Saturday were the result of a planned attack.
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The opposition political parties have also questioned law and order in Uttar Pradesh. The Congress working President Bandhu Turkey, stated in an interview with TOI, “The manner in which Atiq and Asraf were killed in police custody shows the complete collapse of law and order in the state. Instead of Ram Rajya, there is complete anarchy in UP.”
According to Section 55A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), police personnel are responsible for ensuring the security of anyone in police custody. “No person will be deprived of his life or personal liberty except in accordance with the procedure established by law,” according to Article 21 of the constitution.
This means that the state must conduct a trial in line with the requirements of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) before taking away someone’s life. Before the accused can be found guilty and put to death during the trial, he must first be made aware of the charges against him and given a chance to defend himself via counsel.
However, in the case of encounters and support of guns by state officials, law and order in the state have been reduced to a mere statute.
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The BJP chief minister, Mr. Ajay Bisht, popularly known as Yogi Adityanath has gained a reputation for being tough on crimes, claiming to reduce crimes and improve law and order in the state often through lawless means like encounters.
He recently said in the Assembly that, incarcerated gangster Atiq Ahmad and his ilk would be made to bite the dust (“iss mafia ko mitti mein mila denge”). As a result, the law has now been buried in the soil.
Isn’t going beyond law and order and killing people openly a ‘gunda behaviour’ that Yogi Adityanath is trying to get rid off? The support of the state government to this will only further lead to more chaos.
The cases of police encounters have increased in UP since BJP CM Ajay Bisht came to power in 2017. As per data released by the UP police itself, over 10,900 police encounters have taken place in the past six years. UP police claimed that they caught 5,967 criminals in 10,713 and around 1,708 criminals were injured. With the increase in police encounters, human rights violations by the police have also increased simultaneously.
Around 11,130 cases of complaints relating to human rights violations have been registered against police officials in 2020-2021, according to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). UP stood at the top with the highest number of around 50% or 5,388 such cases being reported from UP alone.
Dalits, Muslims, and other minorities usually become easy targets of police interrogation. With support from the state officials, the police officials have taken the law and order into their own hands.
A report published by the National Campaign Against Torture suggests that out of the 125 deaths in police custody, Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of deaths with 14 deaths. Out of the 125 deaths in police custody, 60% belonged to the poor and marginalised backgrounds including Dalit, tribal and Muslim communities.
Even in the police encounters, there is a noticeable bias. In a state with less than 20% of the Muslim population, around 37% killed in police encounters between March 2017 and March 2021 were Muslims, according to data from the state police.
Additionally, in the first year of CM Yogi, 45 people were killed in police encounters, of which 16 were Muslims.
In an interview with Scroll, Bibhuti Narayan Rai, who retired in 2011 as a director general in the Uttar Pradesh police stated that “This government seems to support police killing people, shooting people. They have reduced the police into a gang of assassins.”
Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi, who openly supports these encounters should also focus on crimes in the state. Uttar Pradesh constitutes over 66.7 percent of crimes against women by 2021, 28.6 percent of crime rate against Dalits by 2019, 37 percent targeting of Muslims during police encounters in 2020, 443 judicial custody deaths in 2020-21, and the list is endless.
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The current BJP government in Uttar Pradesh seems to be selective in terms of crimes which has worried human rights organisations. If the idea is to reduce crime in the state, then it should be all types of crimes and punishment should be for all types of people committing crimes barring the religion, caste, or the fact that it suits the Hindu nationalist propaganda of the current BJP government.
Though the criminals who have committed horrendous crimes should be punished, taking a route different from the direction of law and order will only lead to the establishment of a lawless state.