In Gujarat, police officers kill a man who was apparently a small-time criminal, label him a terrorist and their act an "encounter". Later, they also kill the man's wife and burn her body. They also kill an informer who had witnessed the event.
All this happened 1.5 years ago, but has only now come into focus, with the arrest of the officers concerned.
Count with me just three nauseating things about this entire episode.
One, many people have expressed support for those officers. You know: they "got rid of criminals"; "if policemen are pressurised and victimised like this then we will never be able to live peacefully"; and such actions will lower the morale of the police force. (Quotes from the Hindustan Times, May 2 2007).
Well, on the evidence of reports produced by other police officers who investigated this, at least some of the people these officers killed ("got rid of") were not criminals. (Not that killing criminals is acceptable anyway). Therefore these were by definition pretty poor officers. (Putting it kindly). And I can think of no more surefire way to raise the morale of the police than to weed out and punish the wrongdoers.
Two, members of the community that one of these officers belong to, the Vanjaras, staged a show of support for him. In other words, solely because this man is a Vanjara, other Vanjaras decide to rally behind him. "He was the only one of us who made it big," one of these ralliers told the HT. "The community has to rally support for its members."
Those who like to claim that caste is vanishing in India, especially in our urban areas, might give some thought to this little nugget.
Three, this case has grabbed headlines, but by no means is it an isolated one. "Encounters", the police tell us, happen when they accost a suspect, he opens fire on them, they fire back and hit him, they grab him and rush him to hospital where he is declared dead. This is by now a familiar and celebrated method of policing in this country. We fete the officers who resort to encounters, tout the numbers they have racked up in the manner of fighter pilot kills, and actually believe such "policing" is acceptable and reduces crime. Or fights terrorism. Fueled by such public approval, the police think there is nothing at all wrong in operating this way.
This has been so for years. Remember Javed Fawda? Sada Pawle? Vijay Tandel? Add to those once familiar Bombay names from a decade ago, Kausar Bi and husband and informer from Gujarat. And tell me this, since you think their deaths and so many more fight crime and terrorism, you will go to sleep tonight without bolting your front door, right?
Why do we -- you and I -- support, even applaud, such killing?