Encounter killings by police

An encounter is an euphemism used in India since the late 20th century to describe killings by the police or the armed forces of suspected gangsters or terrorists in gun battles. The term describes the practice where police claim to have shot the person in self defense and plant weapons on or near the corpses to provide a justification for killing the individual are not authorised by any court or by the law.

In the 1990s and the mid-2000s, the Mumbai Police used encounter killings to cripple the city's underworld and break down a rampant extortion racket. The police officers, who came to be known as "encounter specialists", believed that these killings delivered speedy justice. They were criticised by human rights activists.


This term has come into popular use in India since the late 20th century because of a very high frequency of encounter killings by police in such cities as Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata. Some of the killings have been controversial, and critics have alleged that the police created "fake encounters" as opportunities to kill suspects.[1]

According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India, there were 440 cases of alleged fake encounters in the country during 2002–2008. Most of these happened in the states of Uttar Pradesh (231), Rajasthan (33), Maharashtra (31), Delhi (26), Andhra Pradesh (22) and Uttarakhand (19).[1]

From 2009/10 to February 2013, the NHRC recorded 555 cases of alleged fake encounters. The states with high number of cases were Uttar Pradesh (138), Manipur (62), Assam (52), West Bengal (35) and Jharkhand (30).[2]


Police encounter killings were common in Mumbai from the 1990s through the mid-2000s. Some of the police officers involved in such killings came to be known as "encounter specialists". The Mumbai police believed that the encounter killings delivered speedy justice, when the courts were overloaded with cases. They used encounter killings to severely cripple the underworld in Mumbai and broke down the extortion racket, which was rampant at that time. A section of the police officers saw staged encounters as a way of fighting the dangerous criminals, whom they were unable to prosecute legally (due to lack of evidence or powerful political connections). Human rights activists consider these killings, custodial deaths and associated torture of prisoners to be gross human rights violations.

On 11 January 1982, the gangster Manya Surve was shot dead by police officers Raja Tambat and Isaque Bagwan at the Wadala area. This has been identified as the city's first recognised encounter killing.[3] It was believed to end urban piracy by dacoits. From that period until early 2003, the police killed 1200 alleged criminals.[4]

Some of the well-known encounter specialists of Mumbai Police include:

Name Designation Encounter killings Source Note
Pradeep Sharma Inspector 104 [5] He once remarked "Criminals are filth and I'm the cleaner".[4][6] He was accused of having staged the encounter of Ram Narayan Gupta and suspended in 2009/10; however, he was acquitted by the court in 2013.[7]
Daya Nayak Sub-Inspector 83 [8]
Praful Bhosale Inspector 77 [5]
Ravindranath Angre Inspector 54 [9]
Sachin Waze Assistant Inspector 63 [10][11] Resigned from service, later joined Shivsena[12]
Vijay Salaskar Inspector 61 [13] killed in November 2008 Mumbai attacks


The term "police encounter" was used often during the Punjab insurgency between 1984 and 1995. During this time, Punjab police officials reported “encounters” to local newspapers and to the family members of those killed. The victim was typically a person whom the police believed to be a militant or involved in the militant separatist movement; proof of alleged militant involvement was rarely given. Such encounters have also been referred to as “staged encounters” or “fake encounters,” as these deaths were often believed to be the result of torture or outright execution. Ultimately, the practice became so common that “encounter” became synonymous with extra-judicial execution.[14] The Punjab police specifically targeted the families of suspected militants in encounter killings to punish them.[15]

It is alleged that police typically take a suspected militant into custody without filing an arrest report. If the suspect dies during interrogation, security forces would deny ever taking the person into custody and instead claim that he was killed during an armed encounter.[16] It is alleged that police would place weapons on or near the body to suggest the police acted in self-defence, stage-managing the encounter. This resulted in the popular phrase “fake encounter killing.”[17] Other popular accounts were that militants were staging an attack, or the suspect attempted to escape to recover militant arms while being escorted.[18] At times, the Punjab police applied for and received production warrants, which allowed them to remove individuals accused in terrorism cases from jail. They often killed the detainees in fake encounters outside the jail.[19]

Sukhwinder Singh Bhatti, a criminal defence attorney in Punjab who defended such suspects, disappeared in May 1994 and is believed to have been killed by the police. Punjab's largest encounter occurred on 7 January 1993 in the village of Chichhrewal, district Gurdaspur, tehsil Batala. Police "encountered" and killed 11 terrorists.


Between 2002 and 2006, 22 deaths classified as "fake encounters" were reported in Gujarat.[20] According to the NHRC figures, during 2002–2007, there were four alleged fake encounters in Gujarat (out of 440 fake encounters in all of India).[1] These cases gained national media attention:

It is notable that the only cases which attracts media attention among the hundreds of fake encounter cases as per the data available at public disposal from NHRC and other authoritative sources, have 2 specific characteristics as noted below:- 1. The alleged victims are Muslims. 2. The alleged state is a BJP ruled state.

Other notable cases

Veerappan, the notorious forest brigand, was reportedly killed by the Special Task Force (STF) in an encounter on 18 October 2004. Some human rights outfits claimed that the circumstantial evidence indicated that he was killed in a fake encounter after being tortured by the police.[24]

On 19 September 2008, Delhi-police Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, a decorated officer, and two suspects were killed in the Batla House encounter case in New Delhi. The encounter led to the arrest of two suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorists, while a third managed to escape. The Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid termed the encounter as "totally fake", and accused the government of harassing Muslims.[25] Several political parties and activists demanded a probe into the allegations that the encounter was fake.[26][27][28] After an investigation, the National Human Rights Commission cleared the Delhi Police personnel of any violations of human rights.[29]

Police encounters have been featured in several Indian films. These include:

See also


  1. 1 2 3 S Gurumurthy (2011-08-11). "Sohrabuddin: Interrogating the media". Indian Express. Retrieved 2012-05-23.
  2. "NHRC stats show there were more fake encounters in Congress-ruled states than in Narendra Modi's Gujarat". India Today. 2013-07-04.
  3. "City’s first encounter ended two years of urban dacoity", June 22, 2002, Express India.
  4. 1 2 Alex Perry, "Urban Cowboys", TIME magazine, 6 January 2003
  5. 1 2 "Encounter man Pradip Sharma completes 'century'", Rediff, 3 June 2004
  6. "Mumbai: Cop Pradeep Sharma reinstated". The Times Of India. 2009-05-07.
  7. "Ram Narayan Gupta encounter case: Ex-cop Pradeep Sharma acquitted by Mumbai court". DNA. 2013-07-05. Retrieved 2013-07-25.
  8. "Bombay's crack 'encounter' police". BBC News. 2004-06-09.
  9. www.mumbaimirror.com http://www.mumbaimirror.com/mumbai/others/Ab-Tak-Chappan-cop-to-eliminate-civic-problems/articleshow/16173143.cms. Retrieved 7 July 2015. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. Fallen Heroes. India Today. Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. Mumbai's encounter specialists out of favour, IBNLive, 26 March 2008.
  12. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Ex-encounter-cop-Vaze-set-to-join-Sena/articleshow/3563411.cms
  13. "The People's Paper". Tehelka. Retrieved 2013-10-19.
  14. Dead Silence: The Legacy of Abuses in Punjab. Human Rights Watch/Asia and Physicians for Human Rights. 1994.
  15. Campbell, Bruce B.; Brenner, Arthur David (2002-10-01). Death Squads in Global Perspective: Murder with Deniability. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 265–. ISBN 978-1-4039-6094-8. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  16. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (India). U.S. State Department. 1993.
  17. Pepper, Daniel (2009-02-28). "India Makes a Place for Dirty Harry". NY Times. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
  18. "India-Who Killed the Sikhs". Dateline. 4 March 2002. Archived from the original on September 12, 2007. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
  19. "Communication to Special Representative on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders" (PDF). Ensaaf. 05/12/2006. Retrieved 2009-05-08. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  20. Krishnadas Rajagopal (2012-01-26). "Probe all 22 fake encounters between 2002 and 2006, SC tells Gujarat panel". Indian Express.
  21. Rana Ayyub (2011-12-03). "Dead Man Talking". Tehelka. 8 (48).
  22. "Third victory for us, says Ishrat's family". The Hindu. 2011-11-22. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
  23. "The journalist who cracked Gujarat fake encounter case". rediff.com. 2007-04-25. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
  24. "Veerappan killed in fake encounter: activists". The Hindu. 2005-01-19. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
  25. "Batla House encounter fake: Shahi Imam". rediff.com. 2010-02-09. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
  26. "Batla House Encounter: Unanswered Questions". Outlook. 23 July 2009.
  27. "SP for judicial inquiry into Jamia encounter". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 8 October 2008.
  28. "Attack on north Indians, Jamia encounter rocks LS". Indian Express. 20 October 2008.
  29. "Batla House encounter: NHRC gives clean chit to cops". CNN-IBN. 22 July 2009.

Further reading

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