Encounter Death – Excerpts from a PUCL Report (1982)

Once again, the evidence leads us to conclude that no encounter took place at all, that killings were in cold blood. – Tarkunde Committee Report 1977

On West Bengal:

The Encounter : A gruesome history of police repression that accelerated after 1969 when an organised effort was made to systematically liquidate political between in West Bengal. In a 200-day period in 1971, between 17 March and 30 October, 202 persons were killed in the state (when the Congress was in power). Enough evidence has accumulated to establish that official policy dictated these killings. One clear indication of this was the response of K. C. Pant, the then Minister of State for Home Affairs, to a question by Bhupesh Gupta of the CPI whose nephew had been killed in Calcutta. Referring to his own nephew, Gupta had said. “… even though dubbed a terrorist, he had no fear under British rule of being shot down in the street in an action described as an „encounter”. To this, Pant replied that what was not necessary under the British had become necessary now and that “we have to do something even if it is nephews and nieces who try to destroy it (our country) from within”.

B. D. Ghosh, the then Principal Advisor to the state government, told the Union Home
Ministry that “it was not always possible to satisfy the requirements of the Law Courts” and pleaded for “giving the police a free hand.” The official justification for killing went further when the police went on record saying “evidence from the public has been singularly lacking…, unless this can be immediately overcome, the situation may deteriorate.” An exemplary reference was made to what the police had been able to achieve in states like Andhra Pradesh.”

On Andhra Pradesh:

In the early 1970‟s, the encounters in the Srikakulam and Telengana areas continued though at a much slower pace. Over thirty people were killed, but the area of police activity had by now spread to Warangal, Guntur and Khammam districts. Early in 1975, on January 7, three “extremists‟ were killed in a police „combing operation‟ in the Metharajpally forest area in Warangal district. According to the police, who claim to have been attacked, shooting had to be resorted to in „self-defence.‟ A constable also received a bullet injury. If we take any fifteen killings in 1975, there is a strange similarity in the police versions. “Naxalites opened fire or threw bombs …police had to fire in self-defence…… one, two, three, eight persons were found dead and …..one policeman sustained injuries.” On June 26,1977, the Emergency was declared. The encounter, which had become a convenient method to spread terror among political dissenters, now spread to Bihar, Orissa and Kerala.

On Uttar Pradesh:

It is against this background that the encounter in U.P. has become an established reality, almost a way of life. In 75 per cent of the 57 districts of the state, the police has exterminated alleged thieves, petty criminals, dacoits and above all innocent people. And at a rate that is  horrifying –3007 deaths in 9,122 encounters in three years, from 1979 to 1981 (official statistics from IGP, U.P.).   29,4481 (sic) arrests were also chalked up. And the toll has been rising.  The 575 official killings in 1979, went up to 1,480 last year. And this inspite of a general decrease in the crime rate. Unofficial reports take the toll of deaths to over 5,000.

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