The Business Of Encounters
Hardnews|March 2018

The UP police claim that it has seized over ₹146 crore from ‘gangsters’ in the state in a matter of 11 months deserves closer scrutiny as allegations mount of arbitrariness in seizing properties

Abeer Kapoor

ON THE EVENING of November 7, 2017, Ishraq Shaikh, a local realtor in a village in Azamgarh district, UP, had just come home after work and was getting started to play a game of carrom with his nephews. It was around 6.30 and the game had just begun when two men walked up — one held a pistol and the other an AK-47 — and held a gun to his head and asked, “Who is Ishraq?” He got up and introduced himself. “We want you to turn over the Pakistani you are harbouring,” they said.

The two intruders, claiming to be members of the Special Operations Group of the UP police, were suddenly joined by several others. “They bound my hands, those of my children, my wife and mother,” he recalled. The police, according to Ishraq, ransacked his house, took his cellphones (five), ₹25,000, his wife’s jewellery and ₹41,000 from his mother. This was not the end of the officers’ avarice. In search of more, they broke through all the trunks in the house. They took everything back to the police station, including his nephews.

The arrest was registered as an encounter and his land, money and other assets seized. Three months later, the 28-year-old was released from prison. According to the Gangster Act of 1986, properties and assets can be seized only if they have been gotten through illegal income. Also, such property has to be released within three months if documents of legal acquisition can be shown. While the 40-odd ‘gangsters’ who have been killed in encounters will not claim their property, there are many others who have been discharged and who are still battling to regain control over their physical assets.

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