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Since 2017 when Yogi Adityanath took charge, over one killed every fortnight in UP police encounters

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has always underlined his crackdown on crime as a key imperative of his governance. To that effect, police encounters and bulldozing of properties of alleged criminals have become the visible symbols of a tough government bent on making Uttar Pradesh “apradh mukt” or crime-free.

An investigation of police records by The Indian Express reveals that since March 2017, when Yogi Adityanath took charge, and till date, the state has witnessed 186 encounters. This works out to more than one alleged criminal being killed by the police every 15 days.

In these six years, when it comes to police firing to injure (usually in the leg), the number goes up to 5,046 — more than 30 alleged criminals being shot at and injured every 15 days.

In the list of 186 killed in police encounters, records show, as many as 96 alleged criminals faced murder cases, two of whom faced cases of molestation and gangrape, and POCSO.

Police officials point out that between 2016 and 2022, there has been a sharp dip across the board in crime: 82% drop in dacoity and a 37% drop in murder, as per official records.

But few are linking this to encounters. In fact, when asked about these findings, Prashant Kumar, Special DG, Crime and Law & Order, Uttar Pradesh Police (see interview) told The Indian Express: “Police encounters have never been a part of our strategy to control heinous crimes or keep a check on hardened criminals.”

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Records show that most of the encounter deaths go, effectively, unquestioned and unchallenged.

A magisterial inquiry – the mandatory process in every police encounter that results in death – in as many as 161 encounters has been completed and disposed of with no objections raised by anyone, according to records.

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Significantly, in a magisterial inquiry, the magistrate is required to record the statement of the policemen involved in action and any other people who want to testify, and submit the report with their own findings. In none of the 161 cases (25 still pending), were any adverse comments mentioned in the magisterial inquiry report.

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Another procedural activity after each encounter relates to lodging of a case against the criminal (s) killed by the police and filing of a closure report in the court. Official records show that the police have filed closure reports in 156 of the 186 encounters. The respective courts have accepted these in 141 cases so far; 15 are pending. In the remaining 30 cases, the police investigation is pending, according to the records.

The scrutiny of encounter data shows that almost a third of these or 65 alleged criminals were shot and killed by the police in districts under Meerut zone. The Varanasi and Agra zones accounted for 20 and 14, respectively.

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In ‘Operation Langda’ (in which an alleged criminal is shot in the leg and injured), the records show that between March 2017 and April 2023, as many as 5,046 criminals were shot in their legs during the encounter. Here again, Meerut zone topped the list with 1,752 wanted accused getting injured due to police firing.

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When asked why Meerut dominated these lists, Prashant Kumar, Special DG, Crime and Law & Order, Uttar Pradesh Police (see interview) told The Indian Express, “West UP has been traditionally crime prone.”

During this six-year period – March 2017 to April 2023, as many as 13 policemen were killed in exchange of fire in the state, and another 1,443 injured. One of 13 policemen killed, and as many as 405 of the policemen hurt are from Meerut zone, according to the records.

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The first criminal shot dead after Yogi Adityanath took charge as UP Chief Minister was on March 31, 2017. Identified as Gurmeet, he was a resident of Nandanpur village in Nangal police station area of Saharanpur, and killed in exchange of fire. The latest police encounter was on May 14 in which two men, Umesh Chandra alias Kallu, 27, and Ramesh, 40, wanted for the murder of police constable Bhedjeet Singh were killed in Jalaun under Kanpur zone. Police said Singh was allegedly killed on May 9 when he was chasing the two.

© The Indian Express (P) Ltd

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