Ask a random Indian what their opinion is of the police, and I'm willing to bet it will be unfavourable. Few people trust them. It's a pity, and it is unfair on a whole lot of splendid policemen (I know enough), and it has a bearing on the way the police functions -- but unfortunately, that's the way it is. Scepticism about police deeds is built into us.
But let the same police carry out an "encounter", especially if they pronounce that the person(s) they killed is a "terrorist", and suddenly that scepticism is forgotten. Suddenly we believe them. We're willing to trust their word for what they do.
In June 2004, the Ahmedabad police killed four people in a car, one a young woman called Ishrat Jahan. They told us that these people had arms in the car, that they fired at the police, who fired back in self-defence. They told us that the four had links to terrorists and wanted to kill Gujarat CM Modi. They told us that two were actually Pakistanis.
Plenty of us believed all this. One example: "Any reasonable human would assume that all the occupants of the vehicle were terrorists", and the four were "a group of terrorists" -- these remarks from the comments here.
What makes us swallow our innate scepticism as soon as the police say "terrorist"?
But never mind. Yesterday, a magistrate released a 240 page report of an investigation into this very incident. He tells us that the police "staged" the encounter. That they did so because they were "eager to get promotions and the appreciation of Chief Minister Narendra Modi" (quotes from this report, one among many).
Just reading that report makes my flesh crawl and thoroughly depresses me. What is the meaning of justice, if there are policemen who work like this?
What is the meaning of justice, if we are unwilling to be sceptical?