The Uttar Pradesh police carried out a staggering 430 encounters in the last six months after the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in the state in March, with Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister. These encounters saw the neutralisation of 17 alleged criminals, and the arrest of 1,106. Of these, 868 were carrying a reward on their head. Eighty-four alleged criminals and 88 policemen were injured in these encounters. These encounters took place between 20 March and 14 September—that is over a span of 179 days. The UP police, thus, carried out more than two encounters every day, on an average. Taking strong and visible action against criminal elements in the state was one of the most highlighted points of the BJP’s election manifesto, which it had released before the Assembly elections.

As per the UP police, the maximum number of encounters took place in Meerut (193), in which 481 were arrested and nine were killed. This was followed by Agra (235 criminals arrested in 84 encounters) and Bareilly, in which the state police arrested 151 criminals in 60 encounters.

“We have started booking criminals under specific, stringent Acts, so that they do not escape punishment easily. In the last six months, more than 55 persons have been booked under the NSA, 1,150 under the Gangsters Act and more than 9,000 under the Goondas Act,” the officer said.

A DIG rank police officer, who himself has been involved in some of these encounters, said that a clear political message was given out by the Yogi government after it came to power to “make the criminals understand that it is the police whose writ will run in the state”.

“The morale of the police was quite low and that of the criminals high. Not just constables, even DSP rank officers were being beaten and heckled by local goons since the latter enjoyed political patronage. You can go through the official records and this will be confirmed. The recent trend (of encounters) is a natural fallout of this, as the criminals had lost the fear of policemen. To make sure that the criminals understood that the police would target them was necessary to uplift the police’s morale,” the officer said.

According to a 2015 report, which was released by the UP government in March 2015, 622 incidents of criminals attacking policemen were reported in the state after the Samajwadi Party came to power in March 2012.

A 27-year-old individual from Allahabad, who had joined the state police as a sub-inspector but resigned soon after, said the criminals had lost all fear of the police during SP rule. “During my first posting, I was heckled by a local criminal and I could not do anything as he was associated with an SP MLA. Soon thereafter I quit the service, for which I had prepared so hard. No officer should go through such an experience and it is good that such a trend is now changing,” he said.

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