By Saurabh Pareek
We live in times when every day is a day for Breaking News. Sometimes, it is about surgical strikes and other border conflicts. Sometimes, it is about the gunned down escaped convicts supposedly killed in encounters. In most cases, the government hides behind these security forces to avoid the obvious-but-not-so-obvious question.
In today’s internet era, information and misinformation are found in equal measure. Under this context, the toughest challenge is to differentiate between fact and fiction. Credibility has become like a flipping coin and can be lost in proportion to how many tweets & re-tweets it can boast of. The troll army prevalent on the internet has become the court of law to decide between right and wrong.
Interestingly there are many different versions as to how the encounter took place.
On 31st October, 8 convicts escaped from a Bhopal prison, considered to be one amongst the best prisons in India. These convicts were later killed in an ‘encounter’. Interestingly there are many different versions as to how the encounter took place. The IG of Bhopal Police said that the escaped prisoners had fired shots and they found country-made pistols post encounter. However, Madhya Pradesh ATS Chief said they were carrying no firearms. The local villagers recorded a video of the incident where police shot one of the convicts from a close distance. The Home Minister of the State also has a completely different version to tell.
The entire incident naturally created a furor and raised a few key questions:
- The Escape Story: The convicts apparently opened their cells using keys made of wood and toothbrush handle. They also killed a guard using a sharp weapon and gagged another, used approx. 35 bedsheets & wood to make a ladder and crossed the 30 feet high wall and all were encountered 11 km away. How was it so easy to carry out such an elaborate escape plan?
- The Run Away: If there was someone from the jail/outside helping them, with accused wearing watches, belts and they also must have got weapons after escaping. Then why would they not get a vehicle or stop a vehicle at gunpoint?
- The Encounter Story: Why wouldn’t all of them go in different directions rather than being shot on a small hill top? Why would the police not arrest them if there was an opportunity? If we take the videos into account, the whole episode looks fallacious.
- The After Effects/ Cover-Up: Why there are different stories from all the key authorities? Is there a possibility of fake escape and encounter?
Freedom of the Armed Personnel
No doubt, these 8 prisoners were accused of heinous crimes but they were still under trial. No doubt, if there were shots fired by these prisoners and life of policemen was at stake, counter firing was the answer at that hour.
But the question remains the same, how much of what is known is the truth and how much is still untold?
Fake encounters are not new for us. We have heard about many cases from various states. They often go unreported, especially in Naxal areas.
Recently, an SC bench explained why even in disturbed areas, the army is not immune to prosecution, if it is proved that they were responsible for a fake encounter death. Section 46 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) deals with the various permissions and limitations of such actions by forces. Accordingly, killing a prisoner for the offense of escaping from the prison is counted as disproportionate to the nature of the offense.
Shield of the Armed Forces
In days when the authorities try to dodge relevant questions by using the ‘anti-national’ tag, it is highly essential to understand how the armed personnel are used as a shield. Simply put, the emotional respect of citizens for these forces’ duty in the protection of the country are misused to bury the real answers. For every right question, there is a counter question for supposedly doubting the Armed Forces and their integrity. For questions raised on a suspected conspiracy, the answers still revolve around not questioning the law and order authorities. Yes, this is why it is important that we must question. The people who are appointed to answer and must always remain answerable.
Often it has been observed that the Governments are using the name of Armed Forces to polarize vote banks and play with the sentiments of the general public to suppress any rising questions, let it be after the Surgical Strikes or even in the Bhopal Encounter Case. Every spokesperson/leader of the ruling party has been actively blaming people with counter views like doubting the government and the police. But is this how the elected representatives should be behaving? That is left for you to decide.
Saurabh Pareek is currently working at Paytm, he has co-founded and worked with various startups into internet product management for nearly 6 years.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity.
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