New Delhi: Uttar Pradesh gangster Vikas Dubey, the main accused in the killing of eight policemen in Kanpur, was shot dead in an alleged encounter Friday morning. According to the UP Police, the special task force was bringing him back from Ujjain to Kanpur when the vehicle he was in toppled, and Dubey attempted to flee. According to the police, Dubey also fired at the police as he was fleeing.
Apart from Dubey, five of his associates have also been killed by the police in reported encounters over the last week.
These encounters under mysterious circumstances have raised many questions on the authenticity of the Uttar Pradesh police’s claims, as Dubey was said to have a nexus with politicians and the police.
ThePrint looks back at some of India’s most controversial ‘encounter’ killings since 2003.
Alleged rapists/murderers in Hyderabad, 2019
In December 2019, the Telangana police shot dead four men accused of gang-raping and burning to death a veterinarian doctor in Hyderabad. Calling their actions an “encounter”, the police said they had to open fire in self-defence as the four men tried to escape and began pelting stones.
The police had taken the four accused to an underpass on the Hyderabad-Bengaluru highway next to Chatanpally village to reconstruct the crime scene when the four tried to escape, the police claimed.
Bhopal jail encounter, 2016
In October 2016, eight people associated with the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) allegedly escaped from the Bhopal Central Jail and were subsequently shot dead by the state police.
The probe report stated that the deceased persons were asked to surrender, but, instead, began firing at the police and public. Therefore, the police had to open fire and even after that they showed no intention to surrender, sustained injuries and died on the spot.
At the time, many videos surfaced suggest the encounter was staged. Many questions remained unanswered — such as how the escapees got weapons and firearms, how they escaped the prison, and who gave them clothes and food when they escaped.
Manipur extrajudicial killings, 2010
In February 2020, four Manipur policemen, including an inspector, surrendered before the Imphal West chief judicial magistrate in connection with the alleged fake encounter of Irengbam Ratankumar on 1 September 2010.
The case was among more than 1,500 extrajudicial killing by the Manipur Police and security forces. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the CBI, which was investigating the case, submitted a charge sheet against the police personnel in May 2019.
This action came after former CBI director Alok Kumar Verma was told off by the Supreme Court in 2018 for the agency’s failure to arrest the accused in the many alleged extrajudicial killings in Manipur.
Batla House, 2008
The Batla House encounter took place in Delhi in 2008, becoming a national sensation—Bollywood even made a film on it.
On 19 September 2008, a Delhi Police special team carried out an encounter in Batla House in Jamia Nagar, where two suspected Indian Mujahideen terrorists were killed along with inspector Mohan Chand Sharma.
The operation led by Sharma, an encounter specialist, was supposed to only gather information from residents of the area after the 2008 September blasts in Delhi. However, it escalated into a 20-minute shootout.
Many questioned the veracity of the encounter, and claimed it was staged. The National Human Rights Commission also conducted an investigation into the encounter, on a plea filed by People’s Union for Democratic Rights, and eventually gave a clean chit to the Delhi Police.
However, the post-mortem report of the victims of the shootout, which raised several flags and questions, was not included in the NHRC report. What’s more, the report was dated two days before the body was even asked to investigate the matter by the high court.
In February 2018, Delhi High Court allowed the police to submit additional evidence before the trial court.
Ram Narayan Gupta, 2006
Ram Narayan Gupta alias ‘Lakhan Bhaiya’, who was apparently an aide to gangster Chhota Rajan, was shot dead in 2006 by the Mumbai Police when he was picked up from Vashi and killed in an allegedly staged encounter in Versova.
Following the encounter, a Mumbai sessions court in 2013 sentenced 21 people, including 13 policemen, to life imprisonment for killing Gupta. It also held them guilty of conspiring and kidnapping him. However, the prime accused, encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma, was acquitted.
Sohrabuddin Sheikh, 2006
According to the CBI, Sheikh was a wanted criminal who extorted money from marble traders in Gujarat and Rajasthan. However, the Gujarat Police claimed he was a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative.
In November 2006, Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi were travelling from Hyderabad to Sangli in Maharashtra when the Gujarat Police Anti-Terror Squad intercepted them and took them to a farmhouse on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. It has been reported that three days later, then-ATS chief D.G. Vanzara took Sheikh away and killed him, claiming he was a terrorist with a plan to attack Narendra Modi.
Tulsiram Prajapati, 2006
Also in 2006, Tulsiram Prajapati, known to be an associate of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, was allegedly killed in a fake encounter. According to the CBI, Prajapati was with Sheikh and Kausar Bi when the Gujarat Police caught them. Prajapati was shown to be arrested in Rajasthan and later killed.
In 2011, the Supreme Court told the CBI to take up the case and the agency named then-Gujarat home minister Amit Shah as the prime accused in the elimination of Prajapati. According to the charge sheet, former DGP P.C. Pande and additional DGP Geetha Johri abused their positions to eliminate Prajapati, who was an eyewitness to the killings of Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi.
In December 2018, all 22 accused in the Sheikh and Prajapati encounters were acquitted.
Ishrat Jahan, 2004
On 15 June 2004, the Gujarat Police killed 19-year-old Ishrat Jahan and three others on the outskirts of Ahmedabad in an alleged encounter. According to the police, all four were operatives of the Lashkar-e-Taiba who had a plan to kill then-Gujarat CM Narendra Modi.
However an investigation by the special investigation team formed by the Gujarat High Court said the encounter was staged. The case was then transferred to the Supreme Court, which handed it over to the CBI, which, in turn, filed a charge sheet against many Gujarat police officers for their involvement in the alleged encounter.
Jahan was the second of seven siblings and a second-year student at Mumbai’s Guru Nanak Khalsa College. In 2017, terrorist David Headley told a Mumbai court that Jahan was an operative of the LeT.
Fifteen years after the death of her daughter, Ishrat’s mother Shamim Kausar said she was withdrawing herself from the judicial process because her daughter’s killers were roaming free.
In October 2004, the notorious Veerappan, infamous for kidnapping, elephant poaching and sandalwood smuggling, was shot dead in an encounter by the Tamil Nadu Special Task Force. He had been on the run for a decade was tricked into getting into an ambulance as he needed to visit a hospital in Salem for his eye.
The STF fired 338 bullets at the ambulance, out of which three hit Veerappan. However, it was questioned at the time whether his encounter was staged and actually a cover-up job, as according to reports, Veerappan had no bullet wounds in his body and was only shot in his eye and forehead.
Sadiq Jamal, 2003
In 2003, the Gujarat Police shot dead Sadiq Jamal, claiming to have information that he was planning an attack on Narendra Modi and other top BJP leaders. According to an investigation by the CBI, not only was Jamal shot dead by the police in a fake encounter, but also that the Intelligence Bureau played a role in it.
According to the CBI, Jamal did not match the profile of reports of a plan to kill Modi and others, and his past criminal record only included an altercation in 1996 and arrest for gambling in 2002. Many police inspectors and top IB officials were questioned and later accused in the case of his ‘encounter’.
In 2017, Jamal’s father filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court seeking compensation of Rs 50 lakh from the state government.