India’s Dirty Harrys - a law unto themselves

March 26th, 2008 - 8:01 pm ICT by admin  


New Delhi, March 26 (IANS) The violent death of Rajbir Singh, Delhi Police’s much decorated police officer, threw the spotlight once again on India’s Dirty Harrys who lived by the gun, earned their fame and notoriety through it and, as in Rajbir’s case, died by it. With over 50 extra-judicial killings of suspected criminals under his belt, Singh, 48, who was murdered Monday by a man said to be his friend of 20 years, earned the reputation in the last decade for taking on the “dirtiest” cases and resolving them - even if it involved the violation of the suspects’ basic human rights.

“Dirty Harry” was a Hollywood movie on Inspector Harry Callahan (played by Clint Eastwood). Callahan’s nickname, “Dirty Harry”, was a reference to his reputation for taking on the “dirtiest” cases and resolving them even if it involved the violation of criminals’ rights.

In Indian lexicon, these were called “encounter specialists”, police sharpshooters who bumped off their criminal adversaries without legal sanction after making their ‘encounters’ with them look like shootouts.

Singh, Delhi Police’s “encounter specialist”, has also been accused of hiring out his services for builders and landlords and his brutal death proved his dangerous liaison with the latter.

His first brush with fame came in 1994 with the arrest of notorious and most dreaded criminal Virendra Jatta from Haryana, following which he was promoted to the rank of inspector.

The next big ticket targets were gangsters Rajbir Ramola and his accomplice Inder Pal Singh in March 1995. Ramola was accused in over 40 cases of murder, robbery, extortion and kidnapping.

A few years later Singh won more laurels for killing a rewarded criminal Ranpal Gujjar in Faridabad. The shoot-out brought another out-of-turn promotion for Singh, who joined Delhi Police in 1982 as a sub inspector.

Singh was promoted to assistant commissioner of police and was posted in west District. And with that the killings of more high-profile criminals continued unhindered.

The controversial cop killed at least 38 ultras and hard-core criminals in Delhi and its adjoining areas.

But in 2002 the ace sharpshooter became the cynosure of many watchful eyes with the “encounter” of two alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants at the sprawling shopping mall Ansal Plaza. An eyewitness, Sri Krishna stoutly maintained that the two alleged militants were shot at point blank range.

India’s other Dirty Harrys are Mumbai’s Daya Nayak and Pradeep Sharma and D.G. Vanjhara from Gujarat.

All these people flourished due to political patronage, with out-of-turn promotions and departmental benefits even as they gave protection to key political figures and indulged in actions that were not completely within their purview.

Daya Nayak, perceived as Mumbai’s ‘encounter specialist’ cop, now faces prosecution over charges that he made millions by renting out his services.

Starting his life as a waiter in a small Udupi hotel in Mumbai, Nayak joined as a lowly sub-inspector in the Juhu police station and within no time worked his way into the charmed special squad.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) probing Nayak reportedly recovered at least Rs.90 million worth of illegal assets in separate raids.

Nayak’s monthly salary was a mere Rs.12,000 but investigations revealed that he was a partner in a Dubai hotel, which boasted of a lavish dance bar and also had a flat in Switzerland in his wife Komal’s name.

Nayak’s colleague inspector Pradeep Sharma created a record of sorts with over 100 killings.

One of the rare Mumbai police officers to find a place in Time magazine for his action against the underworld, Sharma gunned down the gangsters in a span of nearly 14 years.

Gujarat’s Vanjhara, a man who rose up the ranks, is alleged to have amassed assets amounting to Rs.1.5 billion including bungalows and hotels in and around Gandhinagar.

“It is clear that some policemen are increasingly functioning as the personal assassins of politicians. The cops are sometimes pressurized to carry out such orders in lieu of personal benefits,” said a senior police officer

“The alleged encounter specialists deliberately choose to come closer to politicians for better postings and perks. The current system provides power to these ministers to transfer officials anywhere in the state,” the official added.

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