Indian police were photographed apparently executing a hospital attendant in a busy market in northeastern India in the first such expose of a practice that rights activists say is increasingly rife within the country’s police force.
The police originally said that they shot dead Chongkham Sanjit, 27, when he fired on them as they were chasing him through the market in the northeastern state of Manipur, on the border with Burma, on July 23.
The Manipur Police Commandos said they had recovered a 9mm Mauser pistol from the dead man, whom they accused of being a member of a banned separatist group — one of dozens operating in India’s northeast.
But photographs published by the Tehelka investigative magazine clearly show police commandos approaching an unarmed Sanjit, frisking him and bundling him into a pharmacy, as one officer reaches for his pistol.
The officers are then shown dragging out his corpse moments later and loading it onto the back of a truck alongside that of a pregnant woman shot dead in the crossfire of an earlier police shootout.
The apparent execution took place in broad daylight — at about 10.30 a.m. — and near a building where the legislative assembly was meeting in Imphal, Manipur’s capital.
Tehelka said the images had been taken by a local photographer, who did not dare publish them in Manipur for fear of recrimination from the local police.
Human rights campaigners said it was the first time they could remember there being such incriminating visual evidence of what in India is known as a “fake encounter killing.”
“Is this the first time there has been such compelling evidence? I’d say yes,” Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch told The Times.
Suhas Chakma, Director of the Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights, said: “This is the first case where the actual has been caught on camera.” Police in India often kill people in “fake encounters” — staged shootouts with alleged suspects — but it is usually almost impossible to prove because they always claim the victims were armed.