LUCKNOW: The recent incident of shooting of a senior executive of a leading software multinational company in the heart of this city has triggered off a much needed debate on the authenticity of the so called “fake police encounters” which appear in media intermittently in the country’s most populous state.

This debate should have taken place much earlier when reports of such extra judicial killings allegedly by the police first started surfacing during in the nineteen seventies. At that time people did not bother too much about such happenings. This indifference stemmed from the fact that the victims were targeted on the basis of their record of heinous crime. The media chose to look the other way.

With the passing of time the police gradually started viewing this indifference as a "licence to kill". Last week’s Lucknow encounter however evoked quite a sharp reaction in the top brass of the state police. Unlike earlier similar incidents the Lucknow victim belongs to the elite section of society.

The incident has taken place right under the nose of the state establishment. In the past such victims of “fake encounters” were either hardened criminals or persons belonging to marginalized sections of society – the voiceless and the meek.

It would thus be unfair if the entire blame of the recent controversial extrajudicial killings is heaped on of the Yogi Adityanath regime. Just one shocking incident of police atrocities during the congress regime should be sufficient to clinch the debate around this grave issue – the Meerut killings of fifty-odd innocent Muslims by policemen in the year 1987.

These shocking killings are now know infamously referred to as Hashimpura–Maliana massacre are a grim pointer to the fact that all governments in Uttar Pradesh have been criminally negligent when it comes to holding the protectors of lawto the same law which they are sworn to protect. Now the chickens are finally coming home to roost.

The same police force which during past few months earned notoriety for looking the other way when people were being lynched by cow vigilantes or Gau Rakshaks as they are being termed is now baring its fangs when, for the first time the police top brass in the state has questioned the trigger happy behaviour of the constabulary There are thus rumblings of dissent within the police force after their superiors have arguably for the first time pulled them up for shortcomings while enforcing the law on the common citizens of the state.

The state police department headed by O.P. Singh an officer carrying a reputation of integrity has taken action against more than half a dozen police inspectors who allegedly were fueling dissent against the top brass of the state police who were initiating action in the Lucknow encounter case.

This chapter is still not over and it remains to be seen as to how far the state is prepared to go in its attempt to bring to book those wear khaki and themselves have complete contempt for the law. The State Director General of Police O.P. Singh has announced that his department was now starting capsule courses” for junior police officers to reorient them of their responsibilities as guardians of the law, It is a commendable step much late though it is. But the question is:how serious is the state in its commitment for reforming its errant police force.

Police reforms not just in the state of Uttar Pradesh but in all other states of the country should have been initiated decades ago and today the Modi led government is reaching the end of its no doubt ignominious track record in the field of maintenance of healthy governance this hardly looks a suitable time for launching long term police reforms. The police management in the country especially in states like Uttar Pradesh is plagued by one fundamental flawed misconception — any step to discipline the police force is always brushed aside by a shortsighted view that punishing a cop for indulging in excesses’ will “demoralize the entire force.”

It is this convoluted line of thinking which has inflicted incalculable damage to the psyche of the police force which behaves like a spoilt brat whenever pulled up by the elders. This approach has reduced the police force to gang of goons who are not interested in protecting law abiding citizens but are always servile enough to serve their political masters.

In fact in last month’s alleged fake encounter case at Atrauli in Aligarh district, human rights groups like India Against Hate have been trying to unravel the truth behind the encounter, and the Aligarh police have slapped cases against them. Two former presidents of AMU students union Mashkoor Usmani and Faizul Hasan who were working with India Against Hate have been booked by the police along with eight other students of JNU.

The top brass in the U.P. Police were not prepared to give a fair listening to critics of the recent spate of alleged fake encounters when the victims belong to underprivileged in Aligarh attempts by above human right groups even to reach across to families of the two suspected criminals is being resisted with such vehemence that it raises further suspicion about the veracity of the police version.

In the year 1991 D.N. Sanwal was the SSP of Aligarh where communal riots were going on for weeks. The Ayodhya confrontation was at its peak in U.P. and flames of communal hatred seemed uncontrollable. Aligarh and adjoining towns like Khurja and Atrauli were among the worst affected. Reports of police excesses added fuel to the fire.

Sanwal realized that if the police force did not earn confidence of both the warring communities genuine peace would not be established. A honest and straightforward cop he took to task those members of the constabulary against whom credible evidence for indulging in errant behaviour had been received by him. The very next day the members of the force became restless. Soon they started becoming hostile towards their own chief. But Sanwal held his ground. He let it be known that if any further act of Indiscipline was reported, the Army would be called. That clinched the issue

Today if the UP police wants to restore a reasonable degree of credibility they have to swallow some really bitter pills or else they will be allowing a monster to grow to a point where it will impossible to keep it keep it under leash.