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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Extra-judicial kilings: Ranvir Singh's encounter in Uttarakhand

The recent 'encounter' of Ranvir Singh in Uttarakhand has once again raised the issue of police brutality and absolute lack of accountability among the force.

For a change, the Uttarakhand Chief Minister who has just taken charge and wants an image makeover for the state government, swiftly recommended CBI inquiry. Unlike in most cases, it seems justice might be done in this case.

Otherwise in most cases the inquiries are ordered after months and years so that whatever evidences exist against policemen should vanish by then.

The incident hit headlines just because Ranbir was considered 'someone like us'--an MBA. And when the police said he was a terrorist, the vocal urban middle-class and TV channels were suspicious. How can he be a terrorist?

A dreamy-eyed youth from Ghaziabad going to Dehradun for his first job posting. His family background may not be as 'upwardly mobile' as many anchors and reporters in the national media, still he hailed from neighbouring Ghaziabad and the encounter took place not too far from Delhi. Otherwise, innumberable such killings take place throughout the country without getting even a mention.

Rural citizens and poor who can't pull strings keep getting killed in encounters without any proper inquiries. Most magisterial inquiries are eyewash, as the magistrates who conduct them are friendly to the police and have to work along side them. The doctors who conduct post-mortem reports don't go against the state government (police).

In Ranvir's case, at least, questions were asked. This was because of his 'promising career'. Unfortunately neither questions are asked, nor there is any suspicion or outrage when poor Indian citizens are killed in cold blood by the police--either a slum-dweller in urban areas or tribals by dozens in Chhattisgarh.

The version of police is accepted. Besides, the distance from Delhi also determines the amount of media coverage, which often puts pressure on the administration to act. That's the reason that in Ranvir's case, despite the initial acceptance of police theory 'terrorist shot dead', things have finally moved.

The reaction of citizens and media has led to action and nearly a dozen policemen have been booked for murder. Of course, all political parties are unanimous on this occasion unlike in Batla House encounter where it was said that even an inquiry would affect the 'morale of police'.

Alas, in most other cases of custody killings and encounter deaths, the guilty policemen not just get away with murders but earn 'medals' for gallantry and distinguished services which entitle them to free railway journeys, promotions and other benefits.

The death of Kuldeep

Just a few months back a youth was killed in Haryana. The youth, Kuldeep, a 22-year-old lad, was killed in cold blood. After mounting pressure the police had retracted and claimed that the 'trigger was accidentally pushed'. I had then written a post on police's brutality 'What's wrong with Indian society: Innocent get bullet, vandals get respect'. If you have a few seconds do read this post.

A tale of two encounters: Dehradun and Batla House
Also, read two Jamia teachers--Manish Sethi and Adeel Mehdi, making a comparison of two encounters at Twocircles.net. The writers tell us the encounterables, those who can be executed in an encounters, and how the even the procedural magisterial inquiry was sabotaged in the case of Jamia Nagar incident. Link to the report.