Police hit-men….
By Maxwell Pereira
mfjpkamath@gmail.com

Every police department worth its salt needs its hit-men. So does Delhi Police, given its peculiar circumstance as a much sought after target for bomb-blasting terrorists from across the international border, from the so called aggrieved States and Communities of the country; and from plundering criminals from Delhi’s own bordering lands who find the riches of Delhi too much of a temptation to resist. That Delhi’s multi-ethnic and impersonal culture provides faceless anonymity and a safe haven to a fugitive to hide in or operate with impunity, is also a factor not to be forgotten. There may be many to lead arguments against this, but I am talking of reality here.

Not everyone can measure up to be a police hit-man though. Among other things, it requires guts, and a willingness to be condemned for life to be afraid of one’s own shadow. For in no time these very police hit-men graduate to being prime targets themselves.

There is another side of the coin too. Simultaneously and always the danger is there of these hit-men turning criminals; killing not in the line of duty, but for pecunary gain. To eliminate rivals or those from the criminal world that pose a threat to them; to circumvent law and intervene as a shortcut to dispute resolution; to intimidate, extort – initially for friends and contacts and especially for such with an approach to superiors in the department or the government; gradually leading to the lure of amassing unaccounted wealth and benefits for while the sun shines; to extra-judicial intervention to settle petty scores!

At the time when I joined Delhi police, the reputation was that criminals from neighbouring states preferred to surrender in Delhi (to Delhi Police) for fear of being eliminated by trigger-happy, gallantry award seeking policemen and officers in their own states. It was not uncommon to hear of stories how criminals after capture in these States would be tied to a tree and shot dead, an encounter record prepared, and a citation sent up for Gallantry. Mind you, I said stories! For there was no way anyone could verify this - who indeed were we to question the acts of heroes whose mighty deeds of valour had passed the scrutiny of the mandarins in the Home Ministry!

Soon, I believe, the Delhi policeman too learnt to capitalise on these so called surrenders by criminals from neighbouring States. If not to get gallantry medals, at least to earn some kudos from one’s superiors, and the reward money that invariably was sought for the so-called good work. And for this there’d always be a display of a cache of recovered arms and ammunition, a press briefing indicating what a grand catch it was with a history of cases in which the miscreant/s were involved. Rarely though, any mention of even a single criminal involvement in Delhi!

Not that there wasn’t at all a genuine encounter by Delhi police, in those days. I dare say there were police killings in a situation when a raiding party was trulyy attacked and rained upon with bullets and had to return the fire in self-defence! In the decades that followed and especially with the advent of terrorism, this situation has changed.

Being part of Delhi police then, each time there was an encounter killing, my own chest had swelled with pride to vicariously share the spoils of a new found confidence in the ‘fire power’ of Delhi Police! I firmly believed there was need to send a strong message to the terrorist and the criminal who targeted Delhi, that Delhi Police was not soft and meant business – even if it meant eliminating the miscreant. Especially in the face of existing ground realities of our inability – that of the Criminal Justice Administration System – to effectively convict and incarcerate the assassin, the terrorist and the dreaded criminal in a fair trial.

That having been said, what I feel queasy about and object to is the attitudinal change over the years that has replaced the need to capture the criminal alive, or to kill him only when you have to in self-defence. Eliminating the terrorist/criminal as a standard operating procedure has replaced the earlier norm.

In this change, what I object to is the tacit approval and acquiescence accorded to this by the police leadership and the government in power who find it abundantly necessary and convenient to blindly support the action of the department’s hit-men. I further object to the perceived entraption of an alleged terrorist on the basis of inputs provided by intelligence agencies, of pumping bullets into him without giving him an iota of a chance, and then getting awarded for it with a gallantry medal. Even more, I object to the enacting of a terrorist plan where there was none, each time a national day or commemorative event approaches, only to build up hype or claim kudos for a terrorist hit.

And more importantly and crucially, I tend to be paranoid now of the inevitable fall-out where by perfectly fine police officers get transformed and converted into 'dada's – whose unbridled power and license to kill invariably becomes the playground for the unscrupulous mafia to exploit. In this context, it is a sad day for the Delhi Police if what is being reported currently on its most famous ‘hit-man’ is proved true! I say this because with many of my colleagues in the senior echelons of the department, I too had a substantial role in grooming and nurturing the career graph of this officer.

900 words: 23.08.2005:Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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