The death of Uttar Pradesh gangster Vikas Dubey in an encounter with the police on Friday morning was reminiscent of a similar incident in Meghalaya 11 years ago, rights activists in the hill State recalled.
Dubey had allegedly snatched the gun of a policeman after the vehicle in which he was being taken to Kanpur overturned on a rain-slicked highway. Police claimed he was shot as he tried to escape while firing.
According to the Meghalaya-based Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO), the script of the U.P. encounter seemed to have been taken from the same playbook that prescribed an encounter death for Fullmoon Dhar in 2009.
Wanted for a series of crimes, including rape and murder, Dhar was said to have been on the payroll of some coal mine owners in Meghalaya, specifically East Jaintia Hills district. The major players in the now-illegal rat-hole coal mining business have allegedly been controlling the political parties, bureaucracy and police in the State.
Dhar was caught in September 2008 for the murder of two women, one of whom worked at the house of a former Director-General of Police. He was lodged in the Shillong Central Jail from where he escaped on May 31, 2009, along with six under-trial prisoners, or UTPs.
The police allegedly shot him in an encounter in West Jaintia Hills district 24 hours later, while the six UTPs were recaptured.
Two rights organisations lodged complaints soon after the incident that the encounter was fake and needed proper investigation. Nothing came out of the case, said CSWO president Agnes Kharshiing.
“I joined a few days ago. So I am not in a position to say anything about the status of the case,” Bikram D. Marak, the Superintendent of Police of West Jaintia Hills district had said.
The probe ordered in 2009 took almost two years to get off the ground. A fresh investigation was initiated in 2016 and two investigating officers subsequently closed the case for lack of evidence. The CSWO objected to the closure and the case was handed over to the West Jaintia Hills district police chief.
“The UTPs in that jailbreak said the guards saluted Dhar and that they had virtually walked out. Dhar spoke to someone on the phone while they were making their way through a forest. The police were waiting for them when they reached the spot where Dhar was shot,” Ms. Kharshiing said.
Rights activists said Dhar invariably had the same set of police officials in his areas of operation and even used the gun of an officer-in-charge of a police station.