With an average of five encounters every day, state of Uttar Pradesh, despite strong reservations and criticism by human rights groups, has maintained a steady pace of gun battles between police and alleged criminals.
Unfazed by the criticism, the UP government's ruthless pursuit of criminals through encounters has become a model that is being replicated in other states.
Another Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state, Assam, is fast catching up with UP, and if the numbers are to be believed, the latter has pioneered the controversial "extra-judicial" approach as the strongest foot forward in maintaining law and order in the state.
Since March 2017 to April 2022, a total of 9,434 encounters took place between police and criminals across UP, as per the official figure from the police department.
The Modus Operandi
There has been an uncanny pattern in the modus operandi of these encounters. If one examines them closely, there is an invariably common background story to these encounters. Here, in most cases, the suspects are spotted on motorcycles and are signaled to stop by the policemen. The suspects try to escape by firing at the police. In the retaliatory fire, the suspect is either injured or killed.
In these encounters in the past five years, 160 criminals were killed in the exchange of fire.
Meanwhile, Meerut zone has been leading the state's encounter tally with 61 alleged criminals bumped off in police action in the last five years in 3,138 encounters, which roughly accounts for one-third of the total encounters in the state.
Meerut is followed by Agra and Varanasi zones that are a distant second with 19 criminals each killed in police action in these zones.
The official figures claim there are 3,866 alleged criminals who sustained bullet injuries in the exchange of fire where the suspect would get shot in the leg below the knee.
Injuries Sustained by 1,269 Policemen
The aggressive pursuit of criminals turned fatal for the police department too. As many as 13 policemen were killed in the line of duty in some of these encounters gone awry.
Black day for the department was 2 July 2020 when a team of Kanpur police trying to apprehend gangster Vikas Dubey was sprayed with bullets in Kanpur's Bikru village.
Eight cops including a deputy superintendent (DSP) were killed. Their death was avenged with the lives of Vikas Dubey and six of his close aides who were killed in encounters in the immediate aftermath of the Bikru incident.