This is not justice. India has faltered on the fundamentals of law, writes Barkha Dutt
It reflects the cynicism of the times that we live in that the “encounter” that killed Uttar Pradesh (UP) gangster Vikas Dubey has not come as the slightest shock to anyone.
It is almost like a death foretold. The criticism — as happened with the Hyderabad police’s elimination of four rape accused last year — is likely to be dismissed as the fuzzy, needless hand-wringing of liberals. After all, Dubey, it will be argued, was the man responsible for the murderous assault on eight policemen. Why should anyone waste any angst on a man like him?
That is missing the point. The same lawlessness and absence of due process that makes it possible for the police to avenge the killings of their own men, permits the men in khaki in Tamil Nadu to push rods and sticks up the private parts of a father and son, Jayaraj and Bennicks. You can’t outrage over one and see the other as morally permissible. Yes, in one case the victims were hapless citizens who did nothing but supposedly keep their shop open for a few minutes beyond the lockdown-stipulated curfew. And another case, the self-declared don of Kanpur, was a brutal, violent thug. But the principle that makes one extrajudicial killing possible cannot but spill over into the responses of the police force across the board.
Simply put, you cannot morally calibrate fake encounters. There’s also the sheer tackiness of the script. Even as stories go, this one has a weak plot and poorer direction.
We are actually being asked to believe that a man who dramatically surrendered after a five-day chase from Uttar Pradesh, through Haryana and Rajasthan before ending up in a temple in Ujjain suddenly turned on the police and attempted an escape after the car ferrying him overturned. This is the same man whom we have all seen on video, being slammed against a police car and whacked on the back of his head by an unarmed officer, as he shouts, “Main Vikas Dubey hoon, Kanpurwala”
Curiously, of course, the media, that was tailing the convoy taking Dubey back from Madhya Pradesh to UP, was stopped two kilometres ahead of the site where the alleged accident and subsequent encounter takes place. The police will also have to explain why Dubey’s car is switched at the last moment. Video footage shows Dubey in two different cars at different points in the journey. And, of course, the most basic question of all: How was a dreaded gangster not cuffed? Even if his car did overturn-- and who is buying that — how was he able to make a run for it that he needed to be shot? And if he was shot, why was he not shot in the leg, so that he could be recaptured alive and be interrogated?
Or is that the exact point. Dubey who was implicated in 62 criminal cases, including five cases of murder and eight cases of attempted murder, could not have thrived for 30 years, without the patronage of the rich and powerful. A disturbing letter has done the rounds on social media, purportedly written by one of the eight policemen murdered by Dubey. It alleges that station officer Vinay Tiwari was in cahoots with Dubey. The letter, which was unmarked, was officially denied. But, since then Tiwari and another of his colleagues have been suspended on charges of tipping Dubey off about the police raid that was meant to arrest him.
Eerily, a public interest petition in the Supreme Court just a few days ago demanded the judiciary’s intervention, predicting this is how Dubey would die. Instead of delivering justice for the eight policemen murdered by Dubey, the actions of the Uttar Pradesh police force have further sullied the reputation of the uniform. Not too many people will believe that the police encounter was motivated by collective rage at what the gangster had done to their own comrades.
The suspicion that Dubey had far too many secrets to out and that it was best to pack them off with him to his grave, will now never be shaken off. Even before his death, a widely-shared video allegedly showed Dubey claiming the backing of two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators (though in 2001 he was accused of chasing another BJP leader into a police station and shooting him in broad daylight).
His mother separately claimed that her son is now linked to the Samajwadi Party, which the party denied.
The demand for his call records to be placed in the public domain is legitimate. The country has a right to know which people of influence — whether in the police, government or Opposition — Dubey was in touch with.
The families of the eight policemen who lost their lives in the line of duty may mistakenly believe that justice has been served.
The very opposite has happened.
Yet, again, in a country that proudly gave even the terrorist involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack, Ajmal Kasab, due process, we have faltered on the fundamentals of law.