What are "fake encounters"?
Fake encounters, are extrajudicial executions, usually of people in custody, generally staged to appear as though they occurred in gun battles. Between October 2002 and December 2006 there were at least 21 extrajudicial killings by Gujarat Police (Amnesty documented 31 such killings between 2002 and 2006). In 2013, more than a dozen senior Gujarat police officers were in jail or facing prosecution in connection with fake encounter killings.
The Gujarat state is directly implicated in many cases, most famously the killing of Ishrat Jahan, a nineteen year old woman from Mumbai, along with three others in 2004. Modi praised the police involved in killing Ishrat Jahan and branded her a terrorist. But there has been no compelling evidence of her involvement with terrorism other than hearsay and unsubstantiated media claims. In the run-up to the encounter there is evidence of frequent contact between top BJP officials and officers, most notably Amit Shah implicated in the killing. In March 2014, the CBI reportely obtained a recording of Modi's top aides, including G.C. Murmu and A. K. sharma, discussing with police officers how to sabotage the Ishrat Jahan probe.
Another well known fake encounter killing was that of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife, Kausar Bi, who was raped before her murder. Modi justified this killing, saying that Sheikh got what he deserved. In March 2014 new evidence emerged that Modi was directly monitoring another encounter killing, that of Tulsiram Prajapati, witness to the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh. According to a lawyer representing victims' families, there was a clear pattern to the Gujarat encounter killings, with the victims branded as terrorists often without evidence.
In September 2013, a senior police officer D. G. Vanzara, who had been in jail since 2007 for involvement in several fake encounters, resigned from service, claiming that the officers involved were implementing state government policy. The nexus of politicians and organised crime in Modi's Gujarat which form the back-story to the fake encounters and the murder of Haren Pandya are described in two articles here and here.
Fake encounters and other human rights violations by the Gujarat police under Narendra Modi, such as the arrest, illegal detention, and torture of Muslim youth, seemed to be about creating the impression that Islamic terrorism was an imminent threat, with Modi emerging as the tough guy taking action on terror. In the run up to the election, and during the election, there were several stories about imminent terrorist threats against Modi without any evidence provided. This narrative of conveniently timed, and often implausible, plots to kill Modi continued after the election.
Fake encounters in our news pages.