Opinion

Kill people. Add up points. Move up the ranks: Disturbing truth in CRPF inspector general’s report

Inspector general of police Rajnish Rai filed a report saying the army and police conducted a fake encounter in Assam on March 30.

Not far from Guwahati on the busy NH 31 is the intersection Baihata Chariali, notorious for exchange of victims of staged encounters.

This is how it happens, say the insiders familiar with such operations:

A white Maruti van comes and parks itself near a fuel station.The police wait at a distance and watch. A second vehicle is already there – a civil car of some known person with changed number plates. It could also be an officer’s personal vehicle with ready-made fake number plates.

The most popular vehicles for exchanges are Maruti vans because their doors slide, making it easy to exchange passengers.

The sedated victim is shifted to the other vehicle, money is paid and he is immediately taken to the army unit. A doctor checks him and he is kept under observation for a few days to assess whether anyone has filed complaint for a missing person. 

Usually, various security forces operating in the area jointly work to diffuse accountability. Either the victim is a militant or a petty thief or an illegal immigrant from across the international border. The police confirm his antecedents. The place and time is determined by the army uni.

And then the victim is shot in cold blood.

For years now, the districts of Lower Assam in the north bank of the Brahmaputra, bordering Bhutan on one side and Bangladesh at the other, offer safe haven and easy crossovers. The proliferation of armed groups and presence of arms have allowed a free run for all involved in counter-insurgency operations. The chaos provides the smokescreen for encounters.

It is in this location that Central Reserve Police Force Inspector General (North East Sector) Rajnish Rai has recently alleged a staged encounter by a joint team of CRPF, the Army, Sashastra Seema Bal and the Assam Police, in which two militants belonging to National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit) were shot dead and, as he claims, weapons planted on their bodies.

Rai’s claim is not unlikely, given that it eerily follows the pattern of encounter deaths in Assam.

There are categories of encounters. One is when the security forces go out in the field, and are fired at and they fire back. “Fake encounters” are killing a genuine militant, but not in a genuine encounter. The third category, many say, is “false encounter” or “staged encounter”, which involves killing an outright innocent individual.

Pressure from the top

The job of a unit of army or paramilitary force is to catch or kill. It doesn’t help to create a climate of peace and reconciliation. They are meant to eliminate. When they fail to do this they are questioned – and asked to produce a headcount, show weapon seizures and all that comes with the kill.

That is the context in which staged encounters sustain themselves.

To ward off pressure from the top, these agencies tend to “create” militants with the help of the police. It is possible that some of those killed are not entirely innocent. But these are murders nevertheless.

In the process, the police also sets its record straight and eliminates the criminal class. So it serves a dual purpose. Mostly, criminals are weeded out. In this, there is some element of vendetta as well. Personal scores are also settled. When there is even greater pressure mounting on the army and the police, the poor Bangladeshi who has just jumped across the border fence, and is not identified, becomes a victim. And the cartel flourishes.

There is no brief – nobody prompts anyone. But the subtle pressure is there though it can be resisted – and many do resist. The consequence, though, is that they may have to lose their rank.

Awards and medals

“Encounters”, as is now commonly known, are staged to win medals and awards, among other benefits. In the army, the system of unit citations is based on points, which are earned by eliminating or apprehending militants, or having militants surrender in designated counter-insurgency areas. Thus, a unit that gets a citation may land in a United Nations mission. This will earn its personnel more money and allow them to receive other benefits.

It is like a bonus granted by the government for the “good work” they have done, which may include extrajudicial killings or hosting fake surrenders of ordinary young men and women.

This is how it operates: besides the genuine hard work required for a combat formation in a conflict zone, a formation – the army unit posted there – also needs professional acknowledgement. And that comes most easily through killings. So they scout for favourable heads for kills as well as candidates for surrender.

Illegal arms dealers inevitably flourish in such areas, since the security forces often purchase weapons that are shown in apprehensions, fake encounters or surrenders. This is how the surrendered militants then hand over these weapons to the government in ceremonies attended by the media. The ones arrested – again willingly – serve a three-month jail sentence. They then emerge to be recycled as militants or link men of some other armed organisation. They may be viewed as freelance fake militants – willing candidates for a remunerated arrest. Their families receive compensation while they serve jail terms. The “surrender” actions are often recorded as “joint operations”, so that the police may also claim a share of the “good work”.

The different gallantry awards (all of which end with the word “chakra”) have designated points in the hierarchy of awards and benefits. But how does one get the chakras? Kill people. Add up points. Move up the ranks. The only casualty in this is the truth.

Play

It is unlikely that the recent letter written by Rai will shake up the institutional nexus of state violence. This ambiguous violence is the result of regimes of impunity and it is extremely significant that a serving officer has stepped out to flag his concern knowing well that the consequences for his whistle-blowing act could be detrimental to his own career and well being. It will certainly not earn him a chakra.

Kishalay Bhattacharjee is an Associate Professor at OP Jindal Global University. He is the author of Blood on my Hands: Confessions of Staged Encounters.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and Logitech X300 Bluetooth Speaker at 58% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon.in and not by the Scroll editorial team.