Anatomy of a fake encounter

Written by Kishalay Bhattacharjee
Published:May 30, 2017 12:46 am

CRPF officer’s revelation frames a practice unfortunately routine in Assam. (Representational. Express Photo by Dasarath Deka)

Rajnish Rai, the police officer who investigated the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case in Gujarat, till he was withdrawn and sent to India’s Northeast, has now blown the whistle again. Rai, now the Inspector General (IG) of the CRPF posted in Shillong, has called a joint operation in Assam’s Chirang district by his own force, the army, the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and the Assam Police staged, in other words, a murder.

The operation was allegedly carried out against two NDFB(S) militants and, Rai claims, weapons were planted on their bodies. This is routine in the badlands of Assam.

The recent claim by Rai, however, takes me back to another confession, albeit in anonymity, by a serving officer of the Indian Army who had virtually split open the anatomy of staged encounters. I recall him telling me, “In the Northeast, if you are unaccounted for, you run the risk of getting killed. There are lists available with the mafia of people who are not recorded anywhere. They are picked up when the situation gets desperate.”

The most alarming aspect of encounters is that almost anyone can be a victim. That is not to say that the killings are indiscriminate. In the Northeast, and even in places in the Kashmir Valley, what the officer meant by “unaccounted for” is people who have no immediate family or are not on the electoral roll and have no ration card or identification papers. These unwitting souls — itinerant labourers, beggars, illegal immigrants and the like — are peddled to units of the armed forces and the police.

Bodoland, where this encounter was reported from, has long been the hunting ground for headcounts by Indian security agencies. Killing is the measure for performance,…

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