There has been a flurry of allegations against the UP police following the murder of the convicted criminal Atiq Ahmed and his brother in Prayagraj. Many laymen and un-informed journalists are casually describing it as police failure. They have no idea of what the police are expected to do and what they can do in such situations. Their expectations from the police are absolutely unrealistic. In the following, I present a comprehensive analysis of the incident and its allegations from a professional perspective.
Professional Perspective: Police Failure?
Do They Want a Bulletproof Capsule for Them?
Readers may recall how former Pakistan PM Imran Khan was escorted to the court as an accused under the most ridiculous situation—with a supposedly bulletproof bucket placed over his head and a posse of policemen with bulletproof shields raised in their hands in a ring around him. The dumb fellows did not realize that if someone was so keen on killing him, why would he bother firing at the bulletproof shields and waste his bullets? He could lob or fire a grenade from a safe distance or blow himself up in a suicide attack when bulletproof shields would become useless. Alternatively, he could shoot at his legs or the legs of the cops. That alone would create enough confusion in the shields would naturally come down and then shots at the body could be taken easily. Who said that you need only a headshot to kill—multiple body shots also will cause enough bleeding for death to result?
Did the critics want a ridiculous situation similar to that in Prayagraj? Or, do they want that the state must spend millions to fabricate a bulletproof capsule in which the criminal could be placed and then, slung on the boom of a crane, carried wherever they wanted?
Was the Police Short of Numbers?
No, not at all. There was more than a sufficient number of armed policemen with him. Do the critics want an entire battalion of the PAC (Provincial Armed Constabulary) to have gone goose-stepping with him to the hospital?
According to the central government’s official figures submitted to the Rajya Sabha in March 2021, India has a sanctioned police population ratio (police personnel per lakh of the population) of 195.39, against which we have 155.78 cops actually present. These cops are supposed to perform myriad statutory duties including law and order management; crime investigation; crime prevention; traffic management; regular police station work; court-related duties like serving of summons/execution of warrants, prisoner escort, and court appearance, etc.; VIP security and static guards, etc.
Now, every citizen has an equal claim on the limited and scarce police resources. This is what democracy means.
Was there anything wrong with the media having been allowed to go near them?
No! There is no court order that while being taken to the court or the hospital, no person of any description should be allowed within a certain distance near Atiq. In fact, it is very clear from the manner in which the duo was seen talking to the media that they had no objection to the media coming close to them. Otherwise, at the very first sight of the media persons, they should have started screaming from the moment they got down from the van that they do not want any media person near them.
They were taken by surprise—what could the police do in that case? That the killers masqueraded as journalists and managed to slip near them is their cleverness. Remember, this was not PM’s security. There was no order that the cameras of the TV crew should have been checked. There was no order that people present there should have been frisked in advance. For all you know, a small handgun could have been easily concealed in a camera or the paraphernalia also and pass a cursory inspection.
What Could the Police Have Done?
I am a very senior police professional and take it from me—there is nothing, the police could have done in such a situation. Somebody springs a complete surprise and within a fraction of a second shoots somebody in the head by placing a pistol on his head. Take my word, nobody in the world—the US Secret Service, the Green Berets, the Delta Force, the Navy SEALs, the SAS, the Royal Marine Commandos, the Spetsnaz, nobody could have done anything at all.
What do the critics expect? Should the police have started shooting at the assailants? By God, the cops had rifles. If they would have started shooting, you would have run the risk of killing scores of innocent people present there and beyond—perhaps inside the hospital as well. They could not do that.
In any case, media reports say that the assailants fired 14 rounds in just 22 seconds and then immediately surrendered with their hands raised. It was a police escort taking a convicted criminal to hospital for a routine check-up—they were not specially trained commandos guarding some head of state. For your information, even trained commandos could have done little in such a short time except for fire back in which they would have killed many innocents. Keep in mind that the very first shot fired at Atiq on his head was fatal. There was no way that shot could have been prevented.
Precisely for this reason, the basic principle of VIP security/Executive protection/Personal protection all over the world is “isolation”. If you are afraid that you could be attacked in the presence of people, you must not go anywhere near them—as simple as that. That is why, in VIP security, you must have seen in innumerable public meetings that they make a semi-circular enclosure in front of the stage or rostrum. This is to create a stand-off distance between the protected person and the people. No such thing is possible for a criminal to be taken to a hospital.
Readers are advised to read about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Three shots were fired at her from a close distance as she stood on the sunroof of her Toyota Land Cruiser amidst a rally crowd. Did the cops start shooting randomly then? No, and no fault was found with them.
In any case, this is India and not the USA where the cops start shooting even if somebody takes his hand inside his pocket in a suspicious manner for which it could be suspected that he intended to draw a weapon, firearm or knife, etc.
Question of Medical Check-Up:
Their regular medical check-up was ordered by the court. They had not obtained any such order that they should have been examined inside the jail only. Hence, there was nothing wrong on the part of the police in taking them to a public hospital. Do the critics expect that the hospital should have been got vacated by all people when these people arrived there? If he was so scared of going out of jail, he should have moved the court for his medical check-up to be conducted at the jail itself by some government doctor.
More importantly, if regular medical check-up was not done as ordered, the very same critics could allege that he was being tortured inside the jail or maybe even slow-poisoned.
Unproven Allegations of Complicity of the State Must Face Prosecution
Section 505(1)(b) IPC reads: Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report, with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquillity.
One journalist has tweeted that if the state or the police had nothing to do with this murder, the response of a minister in the state government should have been one of horror and not that Atiq got what he deserved (Twitter timeline shows the minister’s tweet as deleted). I am not concerned with the comment of the minister or, for that matter, anybody in the country. People are free to celebrate a murder in any manner they desire—they can cut cakes, splash colour or burst crackers if permitted. However, I am concerned with the very serious allegation of the complicity of the state or the police in the murder.
Yet another journalist tweeted that in a country where central ministers gave a call (or order) for ‘goli maaro saalon ko’ no wonder that people actually start shooting. Now, who has established the causal connection between the two and how? Has any central minister been convicted for the alleged call or order for ‘goli maaron saalon ko’? No.
Both of them are under an obligation to prove their allegations or face prosecution under Section 505(1)(b) IPC. By claiming that a certain crime took place only because central ministers had given a call or order for killing people, or that the police/state was complicit in it, their allegations amount to inducing people to commit an offence against the State or against public tranquillity.
Agenda-Driven Criticism Must Be Strongly Rebutted
Let us ask ourselves a simple question. After all, what is so especially repugnant about this crime, which was missing in the crimes committed earlier by his gang? Why and how this crime becomes more condemnable than the crimes committed by these very people? The foregoing and following analysis shows that this wave of sympathy for the criminals or feigned horror is clearly under an agenda of running down the Yogi government.
Do they mean to suggest that when these criminals killed people in broad daylight on crowded public streets, those were just IPC crimes and they should have been accorded all protection and respect until their sentences were confirmed by none other than the Supreme Court? Do they mean to say that if some other people committed similar crimes against these criminals, it is not a crime but a mortal sin and democracy in the country is threatened?
Every crime is a violation of the law of the land. The question is what is so especially condemnable about this crime? One journalist said that it amounted to taking out the funeral procession of law and democracy. Can anybody in the world explain how democracy comes into the picture here? Another journalist said that there must be grave concern over the ‘normalisation’ of a double murder taking place in presence of armed cops and live TV cameras and that the state is meant to enforce rule of law and not rule by the gun. This is pure rhetoric. Now, what does he mean by normalising murder and who is normalising it? Why did he not talk in the same vein when, only a few weeks back, Atiq’s gang had killed Umesh Pal and two cops on duty with him? That was thus ‘triple murder’ in fact!
This is beyond ridiculous. When their ‘darlings’ commit crimes, they say that there is no law and order in the state—that is, in other words, the criminals are not responsible or culpable for the situation, the state government is. When the state government takes action against them, they allege that the human rights of the criminals are getting violated. When there is a gang war or some other criminals kill their ‘darlings’, they say that there is a ‘rule of gun’!
Also Read: How should police deal with armed criminals?
Yes, we know that the nation-State must ride a high-moral horse. However, it does not mean that criminals are at liberty to make a mockery of the law at will and expect that the State must continue to treat them with the utmost respect and accord them all protection until their convictions are confirmed by the Supreme Court itself. No, the State or government does not exist or function in a vacuum. The State exists for the people and it is under an obligation to perform in a manner so that people trust the State to be their protector. Otherwise, its very credibility to exist and govern is undermined.
Do not forget that this dreaded criminal for whom they are shedding copious tears now had sworn revenge on the police (agar zinda raha to inteqam loonga) only a couple of days back. He had said it to the STF (Special Task Force) team itself when they quizzed him about the role of his son Asad.
A convicted criminal cannot be given security greater than what every other citizen gets, and that too at the expense of those very citizens whom he torments. Why should he be given so and under which law?
From a professional perspective, we should also keep in mind that one who is daring enough and does not bother to escape can actually breach any security. Precisely for this reason, suicide terrorism is such an effective and attractive option for terrorists. For details, you could read one of my earlier articles on suicide terrorism. Thus, isolated crimes shall continue to be committed—no one is claiming that we shall create a crime-free society.
It Happens in the World of Crime
In the 1971 War, the Indian navy had mounted an audacious midnight attack on the Karachi harbour, codenamed Operation Trident. A Pakistani destroyer Khaibar was sunk, another destroyer Shahjahan was damaged beyond recognition and a merchant vessel carrying American ammunition from Saigon was also sunk. One of the giant Keamari oil tanks in Karachi was hit by a missile, spreading massive lethal flames in all directions. IAF Canberras bombed Drigh Road near Karachi as well as fuel installations and oil tanks. Karachi was reduced to literally a burning mess. Most importantly, the Indian warships managed to retreat to safety after the attack. A frantic Pak navy chief rang up the Pak air force chief at 4 a.m. and woke him up. In spite of all sorts of begging and pleading, the only answer he got was “Well old boy, this happens in war. I am sorry your ships have been sunk. We shall try to do something in the future!”
I must clarify that while it is the government’s prerogative to appoint a Judicial Commission of Inquiry and, if they deem fit, find fault with the police officials and take action against them, it is also my prerogative to submit my considered professional opinion on the issue. Taking a cue from the Pak air force chief, we could also say, “Relax, the bleeding heart critics of the government, this happens in the world of crime.”
One who lives by the gun shall perish by the gun
There is no need to overreact to an isolated crime, however sensational it be. Isolated crimes are, by no means, any reflection of the state of law and order nor do they have any bearing on it. A more fundamental issue is that of criminality in society and the sort of social respect criminals happen to command. However, in spite of the society according to them undue respect out of fear or whatever, they cannot deserve an ounce of sympathy more than other citizens. Crimes committed upon criminals are not more heinous than crimes committed upon other citizens. As the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 26, 26:52) says, “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”