The year ends on a positive note for Mumbai Police: it is the first year since 1991 without any ‘encounters’.
The absence of even a single encounter death in 2011 is in sharp contrast to the situation a decade ago when 94 encounter killings took place.
Since 2001, the city police gunned down 272 suspected gangsters and terrorists. The Chhota Rajan gang was crippled as 97 of its members were killed in encounters, the Dawood Ibrahim gang lost 46. Police records show only seven gangsters were killed in 2010. “As most dreaded gangsters have either been killed or fled the city, there is no need for stern action (like encounters) against petty criminals,” said a senior crime branch official.
But a major reason why 2011 has been encounter-free is because encounter specialists had their wings clipped as the courts took a tough stand against such killings. Over the years, mumbai Police lost several cops responsible for the infamous killings. Three inspectors — Vijay Salaskar, Pradip Sharma and Praful Bhosale — were credited with 99% of the encounter killings. But while Salaskar was killed during 26/11, Sharma was arrested in connection with a staged encounter and Bhosale held for the suspected encounter killing of blast accused Khwaja Yunus. Bhosale, though, was later cleared of charges and reinstated. Two other cops were not so lucky. Sachin Waze was suspended and later resigned from the force, while senior inspector Arun Borude, on the run after being accused of a minor’s rape, allegedly committed suicide in December 2010.
“During the 90s and early 2000, the underworld had forced the police to take the extreme step of killing them. Dozens of businessmen, developers and film personalities were killed for extortion and the gangsters tried to create panic among everyone. However, timely police action crippled the gangs,” said a policeman. A senior officer added, “Encounters are not pre-planned. At least four suspects who were injured in encounters were rushed to hospitals and were saved.”
While encounters have been on every year since 1991, the decade began with the killing of four youths in their early 20s, near Patwardhan Garden, Bandra. Police claimed they were planning to kill Ashutosh Gowarikar, director of Lagaan which released that year, and the film’s lead actor Aamir Khan, at the behest of gangster Abu Salem.
The most controversial recent encounter was of Ramnarayan Gupta alias Lakhan Bhaiyya, in 2006. Senior inspector Pradip Suryavanshi is in jail in the case.
In 2008, an 18-year-old youth, Mohammed Imran, was killed in an encounter in Powai along with one Chandrakant Sahni. The crime branch claimed the duo was planning to kill a developer. Imran’s family said he was mentally challenged, but the crime branch claimed it had “recordings” of his conversation with Sahni, who they said was a gangster.