Hyderabad encounter isn’t justice, it replaces one monster with another

The encounter killing of four men in Hyderabad on Friday morning is cold-blooded murder served on demand by the local police to satisfy the blood-lust of a crazed public and its cheerleaders. The purported justice for rape and murder of a veterinarian is, ironically, rape and murder of the justice system. It is an example of institutionalised criminality inspired by the brutal state founded by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The encounter is a chilling cry for disbanding courts, dispensing medieval-era punishment without trials and kow-towing to Roman-style mobs chanting “kill him, kill him” in gladiatorial arenas, and the king doing their bidding.

Such medieval madness degrades India to the level of the Islamic State steeped in similar notions of crime and punishment, fed on fantasies of the state being the judge, jury and the executioner straight out of an Amitabh Bachchan film. It legitimises the brutality cheered on by followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as he slaughtered people live on camera in the name of justice, for the security of his men and women, arguing there was “no excuse left to sit idle while the honour of Islam is bleeding.”

Though details of the encounter are sketchy, initial reports suggest the four accused were being taken to the site of the rape and murder of the veterinarian early on Friday morning. Then, according to the police, they were shot dead while attempting to escape. This is a blatant lie.

The accused would have been handcuffed. Armed guards would have escorted the police party that reportedly took the accused out—at 3 am— for reconstructing the incident. How could have the four accused tried to escape when they were already in police custody? Even if they attempted an escape, how far could have they gone on foot? And, for argument’s sake, if they actually managed to get away because of laxity shown by cops, why could they not have been shot in the leg? How did the police manage to shoot them all dead? The answers to these questions are obvious.

It’s a shame that instead of questions, there has been an outpouring of joy, accolades for the police, the same men in khakhi who were blamed for not registering an FIR, allowing the accused to roam around with the body for almost five hours. The cheerleaders of this gang seem to imply that in the 21st century, in a country like India, mere accusation is a death sentence, to be executed through illegal means by the state, without accountability or safeguards just because it has popular assent.

Those who are celebrating the encounter do not realise that by subverting the due process of law, they are vesting unlimited powers in the hands of the state, its police. This power, completely at the discretion of politicians and their tools, will replace one monster with
another, and a more powerful and brutal one at that.

Lawyer Vrinda Grover is right when she says “this is unacceptable.” In a Facebook post she drew attention to the “unlimited arbitrary violence” that the state would add to its arsenal in the name of protecting women. History is full of lessons on the perils of making the state all-powerful, the final arbiter of justice in the name of protecting a citizen group—Hitler vowing to protect his people by persecuting Jews, for instance.

It is easier to deal with criminals, but not with institutionalised criminality condoned by cheering mobs. Most importantly, such instant justice is a damning indictment of our courts. In a civilised democracy, its people would have been alarmed if the state had taken unto itself the responsibility of distributing punishment without going through the procedure prescribed in the constitution. Because, extra-judicial killings, apart from being illegal and criminal, do not guarantee justice in any way.

Also read: When will we go beyond drama to end rapes?

In India, it is common for police to act in haste to silence criticism, it is even more common for politicians to seek quick results to satiate what’s mistakenly called the “collective conscience.” What exactly is the guarantee that the four men shot by the Hyderabad cops were really behind the rape and murder of the 26-year-old veterinarian? What if there is still a chance, even if slim, that the real culprits are roaming free? Let us not forget that the basic premise of the justice system is that it should be so fair that not one innocent person should be punished. This is precisely why we have a system of trials and appeals right up to the Supreme Court, and also the right to seek mercy and pardon even after conviction.

Also read: Terrible Thursday, three rape and murder cases rock southern states

After the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh in Delhi— known as the Nirbhaya case—courts were given powers to sentence to death in rarest of rare cases. In addition, the new law changed the definition of rape to include forced penetration, oral, vaginal or anal, with any
foreign object. After the changes, the character of the victim—a ruse used by many accused—was made irrelevant, and absence of consent was presumed in a case where the victim states in the court that she did not agree to sexual intercourse. The mass approval for extra- judicial killings makes a mockery of the system, the changes and the masses who fought for these changes.

The Hyderabad encounter doesn’t make India safe for women, or its citizens. It leaves us at the mercy of the state, its whims and its hitmen. It takes us back by many millennia. We should all be really scared that we are applauding this regressive criminality as a badge of honour for new India.