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A man accused of raping and murdering a little girl was found dead on railroad tracks, police reported, two days after a politician vowed state forces would confront the suspect and kill him on the spot.
“We will nab the accused and kill him in an encounter,” Malla Reddy, labour minister of India’s Telangana state, told local reporters on Tuesday.
“Encounter” is a local euphemism for an extrajudicial killing.
“We will stand by the victim’s family. We console them and will provide aid to the family. We will kill him in an encounter,” Reddy continued. “Justice will be delivered.”
Reddy was referring to Pallakonda Raju, 30, who had been accused of raping and murdering a 6-year-old girl over the weekend.
On Thursday morning, police found Raju’s lifeless body along a railway, Telangana Police Director-General M Mahendar Reddy confirmed. Raju was identified through his tattoos. He may have died of suicide, according to Hyderabad city police commissioner Anjani Kumar.
Police suspected Raju of raping and murdering the girl, his neighbour, after they found her body in his house. The girl had been missing since last week.
The case triggered local protests, with a few politicians calling for an “encounter” killing of Raju. The police also released Raju’s photo, offering a bounty of INR 1 million ($13,631) for his capture.
Extrajudicial killings, locally called “ fake encounters,” are becoming increasingly common in India. The police or the army conduct “encounters” with impunity, citing “self-defence,” according to human rights advocates. The practice is widely encouraged by politicians, glorified by popular culture, and enabled by the public.
In 2019, in a controversial case in Telangana, the police opened fire on four men accused of raping and murdering a veterinarian. The suspects had allegedly set the victim on fire after raping her. The police claimed the suspects’ killings were in self-defence, and their actions were hailed by the victim’s family, politicians and the public.
Human rights activists say police vigilantism has encouraged the illegitimate exercise of violence by the authorities. Markandey Katju, a former judge at the Supreme Court, called encounter killings “cold-blooded murders” by the police.
“Fake ‘encounters’ completely sidestep and circumvent legal procedures, as it essentially means bumping someone off without a trial,” he wrote in a column. “Hence it is completely unconstitutional.”
A report by a news outlet that documents issues faced by the marginalised in India alleged that every other police encounter in India is “fake.” The latest data by the National Crime Records Bureau included 20 cases of human rights violations by the police in 2020, many of which were “fake encounters.”
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