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09 July, 2009

A tale of two encounters: Dehradun and Batla House


Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Group (JTSG) extends its heart-felt condolences to the family of Ranbir Singh, the youth who was killed in a police encounter in Dehradun last week. This encounter again brings to the fore the trigger happy ways of the Indian police who kill and torture for medals and promotions. We demand exemplary punishment for the guilty policemen.

However, the manner in which the Indian State and the mainstream political parties have responded to the encounter in Dehradun is in striking contrast to the reaction to the shooting down of two young men in Batla House in Delhi last September. Both encounters were followed by mass anger and upsurge which spilled onto the streets of the capital cities of Uttarakhand and the country. While the ‘secular’ Congress has put its weight behind the agitation in Uttrakhand, joining the peoples’ demand for fair probe and crying foul over human rights violation, the BJP not to be left behind in the Human Rights race sent its emissary in the form of BJP President’s and Ghaziabad MP’s son to the family of the slain youth to reassure them that the probe into the encounter would be fair and independent, without the involvement of the accused Dehradun Police. A CB-CID enquiry has already been ordered and all police men involved in the shootout have been charged for murder.

Recall now the jingoist hysteria created by Congress and BJP alike, aided by a section of pliant media, in which all calls for independent and impartial enquiry in the Batla House encounter were branded as unpatriotic and downright insulting of the bravery of Special Cell cops. The Congress, which today preens on the retrieval of its minority vote, persistently bulldozed all demands for a probe into the Batla House ‘encounter’. So much so, that even the simple, procedural requirement for a magisterial enquiry was subverted through the Lieutenant Governor, who refused to grant permission for an enquiry on flimsy grounds. The post mortem reports of the deceased—the killed boys as well as Inspector Sharma—have been accorded the status of State secret.

So, what could be the reason for this speedy demonstration of justice for Ranbir Singh, and the obstinate refusal to concede to the widespread demand for an enquiry into the killings of Atif Ameen and Mohammad Sajid? Except that Atif and Sajid fall in that unfortunate category of ‘encounterables’—those whose killings can be justified, explained, and remain unmourned by our society and polity. It is all right to snuff out the lives of young men as long as they are drawn from a certain demographic and reside in areas identified as ghettoes. What we are being told here is that Atifs and Sajids cannot claim the framework of democratic rights—the only framework that they must exist in is that of national security.

JTSG reiterates its demand for a judicial probe into the Batla House incident, and the application of the same standards of justice for Atif and Sajid as those applied in the unfortunate and tragic case of Ranbir Singh.

The authors teach at Jamia Millia Islamia, and are attached to Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Group

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