In a film-esque finale, the pursuit of notorious gangster, Vikas Dubey, ended in his ‘encounter’ by the police, resembling more a B-grade thriller than a box-office topper. The ensuing commentary surrounding the incident has been divergent in its duality, even amongst the police force. While many retd. police officers have proclaimed disappointment in this wilful incompetence, another parallel group of serving police personnel have championed the encounter killing and asked the public to ‘accept it at face-value’.
The sordid drama began with a bloodbath killing eight police personnel at the criminal’s citadel. Following his escape, the UP Police immersed itself in a PR exercise brazenly destroying and bulldozing his property, while the hoodlum was free as the wind since the borders wouldn’t be sealed until 6 hours later. Instead of addressing the core issues and plotting a future course of action, the UP Police went on a media drive—in what now seems to be a hit-or-miss.
As a manifestation of an unbridled side-stepping of the legal system in the Dubey case — the sinister ‘encounter culture’ and the suspected corruption inside the framework — the police made sure that Dubey would never have his day in court. The UP administration has long been guilty of circumventing the rule of law by which even criminals have the right to litigation. Although encounter killings have been ruled illegitimate by the Supreme Court, cabinet politicians and the chief minister himself, have made their disdain— or the lack thereof— known; even claiming it as a significant feat while in office. But the most troubling of all is the blind eye that the average middle-class Indian has turned to this troubling phenomenon, in lieu of mindless support.
While Dubey’s encounter is being celebrated in all its ‘glory’ by various factions, the man is being eulogized on various social media platforms, and hailed as a true ‘brahmin sher’. They say a criminal has no caste or religion; so long he is an upper-caste Hindu Brahmin. One must stop and ask would the reaction—or non-reaction, in this case— be the same if a Muslim man being lauded for his ‘bravery’ after being involved in the brutal killing of eight police officers and countless other murders?
Although being hailed as a massive achievement on Adityanath’s part, luring suspicion arises on the uncovering of a disconcerting nexus between the politicians, policemen, and criminals. Having been a veritable base of vote-bank, these criminals, or Bahubalis, as they’re better known, have ruled the hinterlands of UP and Bihar for decades. In such a vitiated environment, the political parties have a vested interest in keeping them primed, like a cow being milked.
When he assumed office, Adityanath already pledged to set straight the law of the land and his government often boasts of it as a milestone. However, a system fostering encounter killings and police brutality seems to have bolstered at UP.
Borrowing a page from their supreme leader’s book, top UP police officers have openly boasted of and glorified encounter killings. Emboldened by the political sanction, the police now have carte-blanche to kill who they like, when they like and how they like. The encounter killing of Vikas Dubey is proof enough of our willingness to turn the police into judge, jury, and executioner. In an inevitable result of our casual acceptance and the legitimization of encounters, the police are drunk on power and unbothered by the fact that their ‘encounter’ has been perceived as a barefaced lie.
This case marks a cataclysmal moment in our nation’s history as the argument that had started with questioning the morality of encounters is now way beyond that. It is now a question about the undoubted disdain for due process that police officers and politicians hold, who in a bid to save their own hides will resort to just about anything—common sense be damned?