Encounters of the Fake Kind

By Ashwin Tombat
08 December 2019 15:39 IST

At around 6.30pm on Wednesday 27 November, Disha – a 26-year-old Hyderabad veterinary doctor – parked her scooter near a toll plaza about two kilometres from her house and took a cab to go to her clinic. When she returned at around 9.15pm to pick up her scooter, she found the rear tyre was punctured.

At 9.22pm, Disha called her younger sister, and said a man had offered to help. She said she was scared and asked her sister to keep speaking on the phone. But the call was cut after around six minutes, and her phone remained switched off.

At around 10.30pm, Disha’s mother and sister reached the Shamshabad police station. “The police spoke to us very rudely, in a disgusting manner. They kept saying she must have gone with someone,” said Disha’s mother. Her sister said police insisted that she had eloped, and refused to register a complaint.  They asked the family to go to the Shadnagar police station.

The behaviour of the police there was no different. It was around 3.30am when the police finally registered a case. Police did not go to the area where she was last seen. Had they done so, they may have found her alive… Three police personnel were suspended for the delay in registering an FIR in the case.

The next morning, passers-by noticed the badly burnt body of a young woman under a culvert on the Hyderabad-Bangalore national highway, and alerted the police. Disha's family identified her body from her garments and ornaments.

On Friday 29 November, police detained four truck workers – Mohammed Arif, Jollu Naveen, Jollu Shiva and Chennakeshavulu, based on a report from a tyre mechanic and CCTV footage. An angry crowd outside the police station was ready to lynch the accused, so they were shifted to a high-security jail.

On Wednesday 4 December morning, the Cyberabad police took the accused into custody from the jail for investigation. The next night, all the four accused were killed in an alleged encounter with the police.

Overnight, the police – who were seen as villains – suddenly became heroes.

The police claim they had taken the accused to the spot for a re-construction of events. They say the accused suddenly ‘snatched’ weapons and ‘fired’. In ‘self-defence’, the police fired back, killing all the accused.

Most people welcomed the encounter. The public reaction is not misplaced or surprising, considering the mass outrage over this brutal and heinous crime.

But is this justice?

What were the police ‘investigating’ at 3.30 am? They had slept through the golden hour of evidence; they refused to register an FIR despite Disha’s family’s desperate pleas, when the young vet was alive!

Former Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju has called this a clear case of a "fake encounter".

This was not Cyberabad Commissioner of Police V C Sajjanar’s first ‘encounter’. In 2008, he was SP of Warangal when a high-profile case of an acid attack on a woman ended – uncannily similarly – in all the accused being shot by the police after they were taken to the scene of the crime where, police claimed, they somehow managed to get their hands on a gun.

On 30 November, the Deccan Chronicle had reported that the police was considering something extrajudicial, in order to calm public anger and repair the damage done to their image and to that of the Telangana government.

In justice systems around the world, there is a very good reason that police do not get to label anyone as guilty. The incentive for police to say a crime has been ‘solved’ is simply too huge. That is why the job of the police is to conduct investigations and frame accusations and charges. It is the courts that decide whether the accusation is correct.

It is not unheard of in India for police to simply pick up poor people and accuse them of a crime to lessen public outrage. Take the example of the murder of a student in Ryan International School, Delhi, in 2017. Haryana Police arrested a school bus conductor and claimed he had ‘confessed’ to murdering the Std II student. When the case was handed over to the CBI, it found that the conductor had been framed. Finally, after carefully going through the CCTV footage, the CBI came to the conclusion that a Std IX student had murdered the young boy, to postpone exams.

Delays in the judicial process can be frustrating. But it is only through methodical investigation followed by a fair trial, that we can achieve justice. Police cannot be given the right to behave as investigator, judge and executioner.

In Hyderabad, the culprits were not caught red handed. How can anybody say with certainty that the police arrested the actual perpetrators, and not just four people on whom they could pin the crime, as they were directly in the firing line of adverse public opinion?

Nobody will ever know now, if the four men killed by the police were actually the culprits, or whether they were people arrested quickly by a police force under intense pressure to take action.

If it is so, some of the most brutal rapists and murderers may still be roaming free...?

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

Blogger's Profile

Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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Previous Comments

Very well expressed. Such questionable encounters do not serve any justice. They only satiate public anger and take the steam off the police force. This is justice denied!

- Sapna Sardessai, Porvorim | 09 th December 2019 12:48


Terrific article. Bang on target. I agree completely.

- Mario Coelho, Ponda, Goa | 09 th December 2019 12:13


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