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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Operation Langda: In UP encounters, 3,300 ‘criminals’ shot at

Since March 2017, when the BJP came to power in the state, UP Police have shot at and injured at least 3,302 alleged criminals in 8,472 encounters, leaving several of them hobbled with bullet wounds on their legs. The death toll from these encounters, meanwhile, is 146.

Written by Avaneesh Mishra | Lucknow |
Updated: August 13, 2021 12:46:59 pm
Afsharun, wanted in a case of robbery, suffered a bullet injury on his left leg in an encounter Thursday. (Express Photo)

* August 12, Ghaziabad: Afsharun, wanted for robbery and carrying a reward of Rs 50,000, is arrested after a police encounter in which he is shot in the leg.

* August 8, Bahraich: Maniram, wanted in over 35 cases mainly of dacoity and carrying a reward of Rs 50,000, suffers bullet injuries on his leg in a police encounter. Police say he allegedly fired first at the team that surrounded him.

* August 4, Gautam Buddh Nagar: Sachin Chauhan, a murder accused, suffers a bullet injury on his leg in a police encounter. Officers say Chauhan opened fire at a Noida Police team that apprehended him.

* June 22, Bahraich: Parashuram, a rape accused, sustains bullet injuries on his leg during a police encounter. Police say the encounter took place after the accused escaped from custody.

It does not exist officially. But in private, some senior officials in UP have a name for it: “Operation Langda (Lame)”.

Since March 2017, when the BJP came to power in the state, UP Police have shot at and injured at least 3,302 alleged criminals in 8,472 encounters, leaving several of them hobbled with bullet wounds on their legs. The death toll from these encounters, meanwhile, is 146.

Officially, senior police officers deny that there is any specific strategy to maim criminals in encounters as a deterrent for others. And police have not maintained data on how many were left disabled after sustaining bullet injuries on their legs during these encounters. Instead, they point out that 13 police personnel were killed and 1,157 more injured in these encounters that have led to arrests of 18,225 criminals.

Speaking to The Indian Express, UP Police ADG (Law & Order) Prashant Kumar said the high number of those injured in police encounters suggests that killing criminals is not the primary motive of police. The primary aim, he said, is to arrest the person.

“The UP government has a zero-tolerance policy towards crime and criminals. While on duty, if somebody fires at us, we retaliate, and that is a legal power given to the police. During this process, there can be collateral injuries and deaths. Our people have also been killed and injured. The bottom line is that if someone does something illegal, the police react. However, our main motive is not to kill the person but to make an arrest,” Kumar said.

“There is a set procedure based on Supreme Court guidelines on what to do if an encounter killing takes place. Other than that, every encounter goes through a magisterial inquiry. In court, the victims have all the right to present their case. However, till date, no Constitutional institution has said anything adverse against UP Police encounters,” the ADG said.

And yet, these encounter killings have not slipped under the radar.

In January 2019, the Supreme Court referred to a string of such killings and said they require “serious consideration”. The Opposition parties, too, have spoken out often against these killings, describing them as the state government’s “thok do” (finish them) policy.

But, with the next state elections around the corner, officers in Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s government have listed these encounters as an achievement. On several occasions, Adityanath himself has issued warnings, saying the police would not hesitate to knock criminals down “if they did not mend their ways”.

According to police data, the Meerut zone in western UP tops the list in encounters (2,839), arrests (5,288), deaths (61) — and injured (1,547). Then comes Agra, in the same region, with 1,884 encounters, 4,878 arrests, 18 deaths — and injuries to 218. Third on the list is Bareilly zone, with 1,173 encounters, 2,642 arrests, seven deaths — and injuries to 299.

The Meerut zone also saw the highest number of police personnel injured (435), followed by Bareilly (224) and Gorakhpur (104).

The highest number of police fatalities was recorded in the Kanpur zone — all the eight on the list were killed in the 2020 Bikru village encounter during the police operation to nab gangster Vikas Dubey. Dubey, who later surrendered in Madhya Pradesh, was killed in another police encounter while being brought to UP.

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