Don’t fake it

So why call the encounter real when it's strikingly fake?

The official version says Chungkham Sanjit, 27, was killed by Manipur Police Commandos (MPC) in an encounter. Photographs taken by a local photographer, published in Tehelka, show Sanjit standing calmly while the cops frisk him. He was taken inside a pharmacy by armed commandos. Later, they are seen coming out with his dead body. The incident sparked off a wave of protests. Imphal was shut down for several days.

This incident is neither unique nor new in the north-east. The rape and murder of 32-year-old Manorama allegedly by jawans of Assam Rifles in 2004 is etched in Manipur's (and the nation's) memory. The women of Manipur had then come out in protest demanding punishment of her killers and withdrawal of Armed Forces' Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Mothers had stripped in front of the Assam Rifles headquarters at Imphal with placards: "Indian Army Rape Us".

In the Batla House encounter last September, widely perceived to be fake, two youngsters, Atif and Sajid, were killed by Delhi Police Special Cell. It was alleged that the two men were part of a terrorist network responsible for bomb blasts in the country. The encounter triggered off countrywide protests. Several questions remain unanswered. The police version has numerous loopholes. The NHRC toed the police line and refused to document the versions of family, friends, neighbours and activists. So are human rights solely the preserve of the police version? Post mortem reports of Atif and Sajid and slain Inspector MC Sharma have not been made public in spite of an RTI plea. Are autopsy reports a State secret?

The Batla House encounter led to the hounding and alienation of an entire community. Young men were picked up and paraded with their faces masked with Muslim scarves and branded as terrorists. No questions asked, no evidence given, while the media lapped up the police story.

In November 2002, two men were shot dead in the basement of Ansal Plaza. Dr Hari Krishna, sole eyewitness of the encounter, contradicted the police version that they were terrorists. It seemed those killed were drugged. He said, "Terrorists did not come to the Ansal Plaza in a Maruti car. They were brought there by the police. They were unarmed, barely able to walk. The police killed them in cold blood." Quite apparently, it seemed a fake encounter.

Human rights have been crushed repeatedly in Kashmir: custody deaths, disappearances, rapes and encounters are routine. The Chittisinghpura massacre of 36 Sikhs in 2000 and the subsequent killings of five locals by the police who were passed of as terrorists exposed the establishment. The extra-judicial killings were proved fake and security men were held responsible.

Encounter specialists are glorified by the media. Some of these specialists have reportedly amassed huge wealth with several cases of corruption and nexus with criminals. Security forces enjoy enormous powers under the AFSPA and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 2008 (amended). They can arrest without warrant, shoot to death, enter and search any premise in order to arrest. Even the nine-year-old fast by Irom Sharmila in Imphal has not convinced the State to withdraw AFSPA. As in the Batla House case, the establishment can be brutally relentless, cold and nasty.

 

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: SEPTEMBER 2009