If the Bikru massacre brought the criminal-politician-nexus into sharp focus, what followed revealed either a lawless pursuit of vengeance by the UP Police, or its complete lack of competence. A closer look at the purported crackdown on the Dubey gang, also called the “Bullet Gang”, and the disturbing scenario emerges in no time. In the second part of this three-part series we look at the disturbing development.
Part 2 – After The Bloodbath
The very next day, on July 4, 2020, the police went ahead and razed Dubey’s house in Bithoor, Kanpur Dehat, to the ground purportedly in search of incriminating evidence after Dubey had already absconded after having slain eight policemen, including a Deputy Superintendent of Police, and a reward of Rs 50,000 had been already announced — which was later raised to 2.5 lac and then to 5 lac — by the police for any actionable information leading to Dubey’s apprehension.
In addition to bringing the house down, the police also smashed two SUVs belonging to Dubey. “It was a hub of crime. Most of the villagers have said that he (Dubey) grabbed people’s land using muscle power, and built his house. He used to extort money from people,” explained Mohit Agarwal, Inspector General (IG), Kanpur Range. Another report cites the IG as saying, “There was anger among the local people, and there was a feeling of vengeance among them.”
So houses and structures that have been “hubs of crime” have to be demolished like they were haunted by the ghosts of the crimes committed under their roof, is it? When did this provision of law, with no rationale to support it, find its way into the statute book? Or is it because Dubey had built his house by ill-gotten money that the police decided to dish out instant street justice by bringing down the house without having the claim tested in a court of law and without obtaining a court order directing a demolition? Or was it because there was a “feeling of vengeance” among the local people — that the police decided to wreak vengeance on behalf of the people?
The reasons offered by the IG may make sense to some vigilante out to dispense revenge for justice, but cannot form a legal basis for the demolition of any property by the police acting on its own. Dubey had built the now demolished palatial house some seven years back by way of land grab and extortion, as the IG said, which makes the said “feeling of vengeance” at least a decade old. And when eight members of the same police force — under the protection of which and despite its duty to act against such criminal conduct — Dubey had carried on extorting money and grabbing land, the people had their “feeling of vengeance” greatly heightened, if the IG is to be believed. The claim is very hard to swallow.
People have been victims of the exploitative nexus between Dubey, the police and the politicians, and a clash between the two oppressors with one getting a temporary upper hand over the other could be no source of pain or anger, if not a welcome relief. So the excuse offered by the IG is not only untenable in law, but is also unlikely to be true.
The other official reason cited by the police was that Dubey could be holding a cache of arms and ammunition on his property, and after razing the large, palatial house to the ground, they found six illegal country-made pistols, two kilos of explosives, 15 crude bombs, 25 cartridges and bomb-making material. The police very well knew that Dubey maintained a “private army” consisting mainly of the youngsters in the area and supplied them with arms and ammunition. Therefore, recovery of those many arms and explosives, and the existence of a bunker with sufficient supplies for Dubey to hole in with his associates for days is hardly surprising. A search of the house at any point of time would have resulted in the same discovery.
The police have not explained — not satisfactorily by any means — why it was necessary to bulldoze the entire house to search for arms. Dubey could not have plastered the weapons into the walls because that would have made ready retrieval impossible, which would be as good as not having any weapons at all. Also, he did not need to take any such measures, for he had no reason to fear a surprise police search of his house for weapons, having been comfortable in the same house without any such search for almost a decade. Besides, since when does search for weapons require tearing down an entire house, wall by wall? It’s unheard of.
And then there are trashed SUVs. Did Dubey have assault rifles and pistols buried between the first and the second coats of paint on his vehicles? Or did it not occur to the police that to search a vehicle all they needed to do was have the doors unlocked, and the hood and boot popped?
Also, a dreaded criminal — the leader of the “Bullet Gang”, no less, as the UP government calls him — had taken off after slaying eight policemen, and the police could think of no better course than investigating illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, if that was the idea behind destroying the house and the cars? The plain fact is that nobody truly believes the justification extended by the police for bulldozing the house. The simplest and the most credible explanation is that the police were exacting a minor revenge on Dubey after the criminal they had protected had turned against them in the worst possible fashion. And in doing that they quite obviously stepped outside the boundary drawn by the law once again.
Dubey’s Aides Start Falling Dead
Dismantling Dubey’s mansion was not the only thing that police did after the ambush; it also went into an overdrive to nab those of Dubey’s men who were involved in the Bikru shootout, and even before Dubey was arrested, they had managed to find seven of such men, five of whom died in “encounters” with the police.
In fact, two of them — Prem Kumar and Atul Kumar — had been found on the day of the ambush itself (July 3, 2020) within hours and had died in an “exchange of fire” with the police.
Amar Dubey, another associate of Vikas Dubey, who was also a known criminal was shot dead in Maudaha village, Hamirpur, on July 8, 2020. The police said they acted on a hot tip from an informant, and found Amar Dubey, who, on seeing the police, cast his bag aside and started shooting at the police. The police returned fire, killing Amar Dubey on the spot. A bullet from Amar Dubey caught a sub-inspector on his bullet-proof vest; no damage done. However, a constable was injured in the exchange of fire although the nature of the injury has not been reported.
Another criminal associate of Dubey, Prabhat, was killed on July 9, 2020. He had been arrested in Faridabad on July 8, 2020, and was being brought to Kanpur on transit remand to Kanpur when a police vehicle got a tyre punctured near Panki, a suburb on the outskirts of Kanpur, and Prabhat tried to flee after snatching a pistol from a sub-inspector. He started firing indiscriminately at the police, and was killed in the return fire.
The same day (July 9, 2020), Praveen alias Bauwa Pandey (by some accounts “Bauwa Dubey”) was also killed in an “encounter” with the police at around 4:30 a.m. after the SUV in which some people were attempting an escape after robbing a car near Bakewar, Etawah, was intercepted and a shootout followed in which Bauwa Pandey was killed while his three accomplices managed to get away. Bauwa was one of Vikas Dubey’s accomplices in the Bikru massacre and had tried to cut off DSP Devendra Mishra’s leg after he had been killed, and had also fired from his own terrace at the police during the ambush.
Shyamu Bajpai and Dayashankar Agnihotri have been arrested. While Shyamu Bajpai was arrested on July 7, 2020 during a police checking, Dayashankar Agnihotri had been arrested early morning on July 5, 2020 itself. Agnihotri had told the police and also the reporters that Vikas Dubey had been informed of his impending arrest by someone from the Chaubeypur police station, following which he called his associates over for a face-off with the police resulting in the Bikru massacre. Agnihotri had been shot in the leg by the police at the time of his arrest, as he had attacked the police in a failed attempt to flee, according to the police.
Shyamu Bajpai had been taken to forested areas on July 8, 2020 to recover a weapon used in the Bikru shootout. Shyamu dug the ground to retrieve a hidden piston, and when he did lay his hand on the weapon, he allegedly fired at the police. The police returned fire and shot him in the leg in self-defence. The version of the police is seriously contested by Bajpai’s family members, who say that he had been picked up by the police from his house on July 3, 2020 within hours of the ambush. He was sleeping at his house at the time of the Bikru ambush, as per the family.
Unanswered Questions Amid Questionable Conduct of the Police
The post-Bikru course taken by the UP Police from the demolition of Dubey’s house and destruction of his cars to the arrest and “encounter” deaths of his associates, strongly suggests that instead of going in pursuit of the criminals to bring them to justice, the police pursued brute vengeance by employing lethal violence. Either that, or they are awfully incompetent. How else could one explain criminals routinely snatching arms from policemen to attempt escape, or digging out a gun under the supervision of the police only to turn around and start shooting at the same policemen, or attempting escape during transit without outside assistance, or never feeling so hopelessly surrounded as to try surrendering?
Are punctures unforeseeable, or escape attempts during transit are? Is it hard to imagine that a criminal digging out a weapon he or she concealed may turn the weapon on those who hold him or her prisoner? Isn’t it the regular procedure that the suspect points out the spot, and the policemen dig out the buried evidence, especially if it might be a weapon? There was nothing more sensational than the brutal massacre of eight policemen, and there were no higher priority criminals to be apprehended, and still the UP Police failed to even bring home a suspect apprehended by the police force of a different state.
Suspects of heinous crimes are generally handcuffed with a longish rope attached to the handcuffs, which might be held by more than one policeman, and sometimes even their feet are secured to prevent escape attempts even when they are taken from the prison to the courts within the same district for hearings. Apparently, no such precautions were taken even in an inter-state transit involving a dangerous criminal, who could be a source of valuable information regarding the Bikru massacre, and could also be a very useful witness. So why didn’t the police have an alternative vehicle to transfer the prisoner to, in case of a perfectly imaginable vehicle breakdown? Resource crunch? Failure of imagination? And do policemen keep having their weapons snatched by the criminals trying to flee? If that is a foreseeable possibility, why was the arrestee not held by unarmed policemen with a cardon of armed policemen around to prevent such attempts?
The fact that none of the policemen who were part of such glaring failures of police work have been acted against leaves one wondering if it was really incompetence at work here because such bad work and acute lack of foresight, even for a largely incompetent police, is startling and could not have gone unpunished.
Vengeful or incompetent, the UP Police did not act like a professional police force entrusted with the job of enforcing the law and bringing offenders to justice: that much is plain as day.