Why is Gujarat alone accused of fake encounters while police officers in other states are “feted as super-heroes” for gunning down terrorists,the Narendra Modi government today asked the Supreme Court.
Claiming that Gujarat is being punished for being a vigilant state that follows “zero tolerance” policy against terrorism,the Modi government said in a petition that it is tough for the state police force armed with service revolvers to protect the ordinary citizen against “AK-56-toting terrorists”,and to be made a target by “vested interest groups” who accuse it of engineering fake encounters.
The petition comes shortly after the Supreme Court gave the Justice Shah Committee complete authority to select investigators and “reveal the truth” behind 22 shootout deaths in Gujarat between 2002 and 2006. The Gujarat government,however,swears in its petition that its move was not in retaliation to the inquiry.
The Modi government wants a national policy “to ensure that on the one hand extra-judicial killings under the garb of fake encounters stop and at the same time honest police officers discharging their duties against terrorist organisations/organised criminals are not demoralised by the threat of possibility of motivated allegations being made against them”.
A bench led by Justice Aftab Alam admitted the petition and issued notices to all state governments.
The Gujarat government argued that “while it is easy to be lost in the din of moral outrage against fake encounters,taking a larger and broader picture,a question needs to be debated and answered as to how to evolve a system which necessarily protects honest policemen in uniform and does not demoralise them while they combat the scourge of deadly terrorism/organised crime which has enveloped India in its octopus-like embrace”.
Reasoning that Gujarat is not a soft state,the state government said: “So long as such methods of policing are in larger public interest and within the bounds of law,it should not cause any concern from the human rights perspective.”
Gujarat goes on to talk about encounters led by the special squads of the Mumbai police. “The special squads ‘cleaned up’ (the expression then used) about 300 strong Bombay underworld dons with an average of 100 encounters a year. The Bombay police went by the Israeli strategy of ‘eye for an eye’ and ‘tooth for a tooth’… The officers who undertook this operation… were feted as super-heroes and even immortalised by films,” it said.
The petition also talks about Punjab,where “it is a general notion and almost a unanimous perception that mouthing the platitude that law would take its own course did not and could not have ended the militancy in 1980s”. “Today,K P S Gill,who spearheaded his own style of policing,is lauded as a hero and his advice is eagerly sought for,” it states.
The state also mentions states like Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal. “In the 1970s,when the Naxalite movement threatened the very social fabric of state of West Bengal,it is believed that militant Naxals were crushed by a policing method which many term as ‘counter state terror’,” it stressed.
Reverting to the inquiry ordered into encounters in Gujarat,the state’s petition doesn’t spare the two who filed separate pleas on the matter — lyricist Javed Akhtar and journalist B G Varghese.
“One noted lyricist having no social work to his credit and staying in the state of Maharashtra and who has never even visited the state of Gujarat,filed a writ petition before this honourable court seeking enquiry into the encounters in the state of Gujarat taken place during the few years selected by him while completely ignoring the human rights of hundred of people killed in police encounters in his own state,” the Modi government stated.
“Similarly one BG Verghese,a resident of New Delhi and having neither any social work in the state of Gujarat to his credit nor having ever visited the state of Gujarat,also rushed to this court while being not only selective in his concern for human rights to only one state,but being selective in the period during which such encounters are alleged to have taken place,” it said.