Vikas Dubey: A Trigger-Happy Police and Unending Encounters

Public (tacit) consent has encouraged the police to become more brazen in ‘encounter’ killings.

The police chase after Vikas Dubey – a gangster charged with criminal offences in over 60 cases – ended this morning with Dubey being shot dead in an encounter. The Kanpur police have released a statement that “the car overturned and policemen and the accused were injured. Then Vikas Dubey grabbed a gun from an injured policeman and ran. The police team caught up and surrounded him and tried to get him to surrender, but he refused and started firing. The police had to fire back in self-defence”. 

This narrative; of an attempted escape and the police having no choice but to shoot the accused, is an old and overused template. Dubey’s arrest and his death have raised multiple questions and the circumstances surrounding them are unclear.

Also Read: Encounters: Origin, Development, and Public Consent

It is not even clear whether Dubey surrendered or was arrested by the Madhya Pradesh police. A video shared by Srinivas BV (Indian Youth Congress) showing Dubey walking uncuffed along with a police officer, has been used to suggest that the arrest was scripted. 

If Dubey did surrender willingly, then his alleged attempt to escape from the police car this morning does not fit well in this puzzle. Additional facts have come to light which are inconsistent with the official police narrative. First, a video has surfaced which shows Vikas Dubey, at 4 am, in a different car from the one which is seen overturned on the road. Another video shows media cars, which had been following the police convoy, being stopped by police on the highway at 6:30 am, just half an hour before the police car allegedly overturned and Dubey attempted an escape.  

A Death Foretold?

The Supreme Court has been forewarned of Dubey’s encounter killing through a petition filed before it on Thursday evening, hours before Dubey’s death, which apprehended that “there is every possibility that even accused Vikas Dubey shall be killed by Uttar Pradesh Police like other co-accused once his custody is obtained by Uttar Pradesh Police”. The Petitioner had prayed for the Court to pass directions to “ensure that [Dubey] is not killed/encountered by police and complete security arrangement is made for his safe production in the concerned court…and he is dealt with in accordance with law”. 

Vikas Dubey’s death in a police ‘encounter’ this morning is only the latest in a long chain of similar custodial deaths that have taken place under suspicious circumstances. The other such recent incident to have caught public attention was the killing of the four accused men in the Hyderabad rape case. In these cases, public sentiment has often sided with the police, despite the emergence of facts contradicting the police narrative of the encounters. Perhaps, public (tacit) consent has encouraged the police to become more brazen in ‘encounter’ killings.

No doubt Dubey’s criminal history was entangled with people in high places. But there is no reason to condone his death in this encounter killing, which only serves to protect those who risked being exposed otherwise. In demanding justice instantly and through the harshest punishment, what we allow is the perpetuation of unchecked police and state power; a disregard for any semblance of due process and principles of evidence and criminal justice. 

Related: V S Sajjanar: The police commissioner behind the Hyderabad encounter

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