NEW DELHI: Mahendri Devi broke down in tears while describing how their son Gurmeet had died. Mamata, the young man’s sister went on to say, ‘the police picked up my brother from home and later told us that he met with an accident. They did not inform us that he was shot with bullets. When we reached Saharanpur government hospital, we found out that he is severely injured with bullets in his back and and his legs. Despite our appeal they tried to ‘manage’ the doctors and asked them to operate the injured legs first. Three to four days had passed. Then the police shifted my brother to a private hospital in Merath. They did not even allow us to talk to my brother.”

Saliha, wife of late Samsad, said, “On September 8, the police told us that my husband was absconding. On September 11, they said that he is dead after an encounter. But from the post-mortem report we later found out that he was killed three days ago. The blue spots on his body, broken bones, tattoo-marked injury revealed that he was beaten badly and then shot. There were no marks of blood on his clothes.”

Waseem, brother of late Mansoor, said, “My brother was mentally unwell. Police had claimed that he was looting a Maruti van. This is absurd. Post mortem report cleared that he was shot from point blank range. Police had threaten me several times. But, we will fight. We will not be silenced.”

A press conference was held with families of victims of ‘encounters’ in Uttar Pradesh, Advocate Prashant Bhushan and representatives from the fact finding team of Citizens Against Hate. The families narrated their ordeal of going through police harassment and continuous threats to remain silent. A citizen’s report on extra-judicial executions in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, ‘Countering Silence’ was released by all the members of the press conference team.

“Chief minister of UP, Yogi Adityanath is lauding the police officers for such ‘encounters’ and rewarding them with promotions and medals which is against the orders of Supreme Court. This is a serious matter of branding marginalised Dalits and Muslims as criminals and killing them in fake encounters. The police are becoming extortionists and gunda-raaj is becoming the reality of UP. Courts have stated that encounter killing is a grave crime but the CM is boasting it as an achievement to gather votes. The civil society should protest against it.”, Prashant Bhushan said.

Speaking on behalf of Citizens Against Hate, Vipool Kumar, stressed on the need to question the ‘hero worship’ of encounter specialists.

The team met the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairperson, H. L. Dutta on May 7, 2018. The families presented a complaint of 9 cases of extrajudicial killings in the State of Uttar Pradesh and filed affidavits to counter the inconsistencies in the police version of the alleged “encounters”.

The complaint highlighted how the State has unleashed a wave of victimisation of innocent people under the guise of allegedly maintaining law and order and that 50 cases of “encounter” killings have taken place in UP since the Yogi Adityanath led BJP government came to power in March 2017.

Also presented was a fact finding report by civil society organisations, of another 8 cases where families were not able to give their statements on affidavits. The complaints in all these cases, requested the NHRC to take serious notice of these killings, order an immediate impartial investigation and take strict action against the concerned Police officials in accordance with the Supreme Court guidelines. NHRC chairperson has taken up the matter for further consideration and investigation. Table detailing the inconsistencies in police version and family version alleging torture are annexed.

The petition has been endorsed by Prashant Bhushan, Henri Tiphagne (People's Watch), Harsh Mander (NHRC Monitor), Sajjad Hassan (Citizen Against Hate/ Misaal), Suhail KK (Quill Foundation), Mathew Jacob (Human Rights Defenders Alert – India), Suroor Mander (Aman Biradri Trust), Nadeem Khan (United Against Hate), Devika Prasad (Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative), Manisha Sethi (Jamia Teacher's Solidarity Association), Akram Akhtar Chaudhary (Afkar India Foundation), Rajeev Yadav (Rihai Manch), Mushfique Raza (Association for Protection of Civil Rights).

The report submitted to NHRC is a documentation of 16 incidents of extrajudicial killing in UP and 12 cases of Mewat between 2017-18.

“Our report, which takes a detailed look at the legalities involved, the investigation and the forensics, concludes that the idea of ‘crime control’ here is clearly an eyewash. Almost all the victims of these killings belong to vulnerable social groups - muslims, dalits and bahujans, and come from low-economic households. All the families, without fail, state that the victims were abducted by the police or entrapped through their informer networks. Bodies of all victims showed visible signs of torture along with close range bullet injuries above the waist- a fact that is corroborated by the post mortem reports accessed by the team.”, CAH stated.