Wanted gangster Vikas Dubey was killed in a controversial police encounter early on Friday morning, allegedly while trying to escape.
Vikas Dubey, who was arrested in Madhya Pradesh a day before after killing eight UP Police officers in Bikru village near Kanpur last week, was being transported to Kanpur in a Special Task Force’s (STF) convoy consisting of three cars.
One of them, the Scorpio in which Dubey was present, allegedly overturned, injuring a policeman inside.
As per UP Police's statement, Dubey tried to stage an escape and managed to grasp a gun from an injured cop. As per some reports, Dubey fired shots at the police as well. He was gunned down by police while trying to escape.
The incident has raised several eyebrows, especially since it came in the wake of a midnight petition in the Supreme Court on Thursday seeking protection for Dubey. While opposition leaders including Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Congress's Priyanka Gandhi Vadra raised questions against the suspicious killing, several users on social media platforms such as Twitter resorted to nothing better than memes and whataboutery.
As debates regarding Dubey's sudden encounter peaked, many on social media found no better way to express their disgust and distrust with UP Police than by sharing Rohit Shetty memes.
For those unfamiliar with Bollyverse, filmmaker Rohit Shetty is known for incorporating fantastic auto stunts in his films which include the Golmaal and Singham franchise. Shetty is often the subject of memes, thanks to these CGI scenes that are fake to the point of almost laughable.
But Shetty's filmmaking tropes aside, the fact that a frustrated populace has to resort to nonsensical memes instead of asking tough questions from the government and those in charge of law and order is itself an admission of the eroding paradigm of constructive debate and discussion in India. Once known for being argumentative to the point of being garrulous, Indians today have managed to reduce an ancient tradition of learned discourse to a few memes and trends on social media.
Rohit Shetty joined Up Police : confirmed source #FakeEncounter pic.twitter.com/iwadW7h3B9 — Chandan Tamsoy (@Pro8cyborg) July 10, 2020
#FakeEncounter #VikasDubey *People to Rohit after watching his movies* Ese encounters nahi hote, kuch bhi dikhata hai ye movie me!! *Le Rohit Shetty now pic.twitter.com/0byHMiNSYX — Mihir (@who_mihir) July 10, 2020
Vikas Dubey's encounter is not the first such incident in Uttar Pradesh, a state that is plagued with persistently high numbers of encounter cases and custodial deaths. As per a Business Standard report in July 2019, as many as 76 criminals had been gunned down by UP Police since March 2017 after the Yogi Adityanath government came to power. UP Police has itself admitted to over "5,178 police engagements in the last more than 2 years" in a boastful tweet shared to respond to Mayawati's accusation that women were unsafe in UP.
The figures speak for themselves. Jungle Raj is a thing of the past. No longer now. 103 criminals killed and 1859 injured in 5178 police engagements in the last more than 2 years. 17745 criminals surrendered or cancelled their own bails to go to jail. Hardly state guests. https://t.co/3Tk8qFLtK3 — UP POLICE (@Uppolice) December 6, 2019
In September 2017, a senior police officer in UP has claimed in a statement that the encounters were "the desires of the Government, expectations of the public and according to the constitutional and legal power accorded to the police".
Just like UP Police, many on social media also felt elated over the police encounter, resulting in Dubey's death. Not just UP Police, Indians have increasingly been showing a preference for flouting of proper police procedure when it comes to the arrest and punishment of criminals.
The celebratory mood on social media today is reminiscent of the jubilation and ecstasy many expressed last year when four men accused of raping a Hyderabad woman and burning her body were gunned down by cops during an encounter. Many celebrated the extrajudicial killing as a victory for the police.
Many of the same Indians can be seen sharing Rohit Shetty memes today instead of questioning the police, or how the killing took place despite a petition just the previous night raised by advocate Ghanshyam Upadhyay who claimed that the UP Police was likely to "concoct the same story of encounter" for Dubey in a similar fashion as it did when four of his associates were killed after the 2 July incident.
In 2012, the Supreme Court of India ruling which specifically states that "It is not the duty of the police officers to kill the accused merely because he is a dreaded criminal. Undoubtedly, the police have to arrest the accused and put them up for trial. This Court has repeatedly admonished trigger-happy police personnel, who liquidate criminals and project the incident as an encounter. Such killings must be deprecated. They are not recognized as legal by our criminal justice administration system. They amount to State-sponsored terrorism,".
But meme-making netizens care not two hoots about SC rulings or human rights norms and violations. They are happy making Rohit Shetty memes. After all, it's just another day on Twitter and just another custodial death in a long list of names who were killed in extra-judicial action in UP. Perhaps some gallantry awards will now be underway, maybe Shetty himself would be inspired to make a film out of it, memorializing some cop who played a great role in the capturing of the dreaded criminal.
The incident also begs to raise the question about the kind of films Bollywood is producing which glorify the so-called bravery of "rogue cops". Can such films be the ones to blame for the lack of collective consciousness shown by Indians when dealing with acts of violence? Or is it the lack of accountability shown by police forces in India?