Extra-judicial killings/ ‘Encounters’
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2004-14: 1,654 shot dead
Works Out To 1 Death Every Second Day
While the police killing of eight undertrials who had escaped from Bhopal Central Jail on Tuesday has been surrounded by a fog of claims, counterclaims and feints, the incident continues a long established trend of encounter killings in India.
According to figures made available in Parliament and collected by the National Human Rights Commission, in the decade between 2004-05 and 2013-14, a staggering 1,654 people were gunned down in such encounters. That is, approximately , one death in an encounter every second day .Such data for 2014-15 and 201516 is not yet available, although one Lok Sabha question says that 8 people were killed in alleged fake encounters between April and June 2014.
A parallel trend of custodial deaths -when a prisoner dies in police custody -shows a similar continuity . Data from 2013-14 till June 2016 shows that while 470 people died in police custody , another 1,358 filed complaints of torture by police personnel. This, of course, is a very conservative estimate as many people may not have complained.
Figures for deaths in encounters (given above) do not include those happening under the Army or paramilitary forces. Cases of extra-judicial killings in J&K and the northeast have repeatedly come to light but there is no regular accounting.
While hearing a petition that sought judicial interven tion in such cases, the Supreme Court in July this year had directed a review of 1,562 cases of deaths in alleged encounters with security forces in Manipur over a period of two decades.
What these continued killings in fake encounters -and its glorification in films and popular imagination -show is the shallow roots of democratic and legal rights, even though they are protected by the Constitution and the judiciary. Many feel that this arises because of the heavy influence of politics on police forces, creating an impunity that leads to justification of encounters, extra-judicial killings and general criminalisation of the security apparatus.
An indication of this is given by the fact that nearly 55,000 cases of complaints were registered in 2015 against police personnel all over the country , according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
Conditions in India's overpopulated prisons too are conducive to extra-legal actions.
According to the NCRB's Prison Statistics for 2015, nearly 800 complaints were received by the NHRC and various state human rights commissions from prison inmates regarding violation of human rights.
2016-18/ no. of declared cases of police encounter deaths, state-wise
Number of declared cases of police encounter deaths, 2016-18, state-wise