IN 2007, premier US think tank RAND defined ‘ungoverned territories’ with any of these four indicators — lack of state penetration or ineffective governance, lack of state monopoly of using force with illegal armed groups operating beyond state control, lack of border control or unchecked foreign interference. This definition is universally accepted by international institutions and global risk analysis agencies that are hired to do due diligence before foreign direct investment.
In August 2021, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) published a study, ‘The Economics of Social Unrest’, that probed the relationship between social unrest and economic growth. It said, on an average, major violent incidents are followed by a
1 percentage point reduction in GDP, six quarters after the event.
Judged by the RAND definition, Prayagraj district in Uttar Pradesh, the largest province in the world, became an ‘ungoverned territory’ on the night of April 15. That was when three armed assailants shot Atiq Ahmad and Ashraf, two criminal-politician brothers who were being escorted by the police duly handcuffed. The killings took place in public view under the glare of TV cameras. Since they were under police custody, their security was the responsibility of the police, who were inattentive, inept and irresponsible.
This, with the alleged ‘Jai Shri Ram’ sloganeering by the accused after they were arrested, made the international press lay the blame on the political leadership. On April 17, The New York Times said the killings “raised concerns about how deeply extrajudicial violence — which often carries religious undertones — has seeped into the governance of the state”. It also said the Chief Minister had praised the “earlier killings of Ahmad’s son and his associate”.
This was about the ‘encounter’ killing of Asad, Atiq’s son, and his accomplice on April 13 in Jhansi; they were wanted in a murder case. The Chief Minister’s office reportedly said that the CM “praised the UP Police’s Special Task Force for the encounter killing of Asad Ahmad”.
Following this, the Supreme Court was moved by advocate Vishal Tiwari through a PIL seeking an independent inquiry into all encounter killings in Uttar Pradesh since 2017, the year the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government assumed power. Tiwari also said in the absence of any reaction or counterfire by the police escort on April 15, the incident had raised “doubts on the functioning of the police” and “that the Saturday killings were a pre-planned attack”.
The PIL also appealed to the Supreme Court to take steps to prevent the police from becoming “a mode of delivering final justice or a punishing authority. The power of punishment is only vested in the judiciary”.
On April 14, a news report on ‘encounters’, quoting the UP Police, stated that since March 2017, more than 10,900 police encounters had taken place in Uttar Pradesh. During these encounters, 183 criminals were killed, 5,046 injured and 23,300 arrested. During these operations, 13 policemen were killed, while 1,443 were injured. The Opposition leaders, who were interviewed, said most of these encounters were ‘bogus’.
This was proved on the ground by a researcher who wrote for The Wire on February 24, 2018, after interviewing relatives of some of those killed in the encounters. The case of Furquan, who was in Muzaffarnagar jail as an undertrial for seven years for a petty village squabble, was the first one. He was released in October 2017 since the opposite party was not keen to pursue the case. Two weeks later, on October 23, he was shot on the suspicion that he was involved in “a large number of dacoities in Saharanpur, Shamli and Muzaffarnagar”. His wife wondered how he could have been involved in dacoities when he was in jail for seven years till October 2017.
The report quoted an RTI query, which revealed that 1,782 cases of ‘fake’ encounters were registered in India between 2000 and 2017. According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), UP accounted for an alarming 44.55 per cent (794 cases) of these cases, proving that it was a traditional method of rendering quick police justice. The NHRC also said Rs 9.47 crore was awarded as compensation in 160 cases from UP.
Continued references about extrajudicial violence in the international media has affected foreign investment decisions in other countries. On January 2, 2017, Forbes carried a report, ‘How Philippine President Duterte’s Anti-Drug Killings Will Stunt Economic Growth’, which quoted the American Chamber of Commerce and Moody’s to say that foreign investors were “concerned with the law and order situation”, which was a hindrance to foreign investment.
President Duterte’s fourth year in office saw a damning report by the UN Human Rights Council that the vigilante killings in the country were “widespread, systematic and ongoing”. It said since 2016, when Duterte assumed power, 27,000 suspected drug peddlers were killed in addition to 250 human rights defenders in a mix of police operations and vigilante killings. This UN report had compelled the Philippines Justice Minister to set up an inter-agency panel to review 5,600 police operations.
UP cops should study McKinsey’s report ‘Policing — a vision for 2025’ if they want to improve their image. This agency, which in the past had studied various police systems, had said the challenges of all police systems in the world include bringing more transparency in their operations, gaining the confidence of the vulnerable population, including the minorities, and launching ‘Prevention First’ so that crime and deteriorating law and order situations are ‘prevented’, which, in turn, means less violence from their side.
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