A top suspect in dozens of crimes, including the killing of eight police officers last week, was fatally shot on Friday in police custody while allegedly trying to flee, officials said, with critics and opposition politicians calling the killing a “staged drama”.
Vikas Dubey snatched a gun from officers after their vehicle overturned on a highway near the northern Indian city of Kanpur and tried to flee, police officer Mohit Aggarwal told The Associated Press news agency. He said Dubey died in an exchange of fire.
Dubey, in his 40s, had given himself up in the central town of Ujjain on Thursday after a weeklong search. He was being driven in a police convoy to Kanpur where the eight police officers were killed.
The cold blooded murder of criminal Vikas Dubey is an insult to our Constitution & the due process of law. This is one of those key moments in time when our Judiciary is under test. Will they stand up and defend our Constitution or will they look the other way?
— Nikhil Alva (@njalva) July 10, 2020
Dubey was on the run for about a week after he allegedly ordered the ambush on a police team. He is believed to have links with state politicians and the police. Two police officers were arrested this week for allegedly tipping him off about a police raid on his home last Friday.
The gangster had been accused in 60 criminal cases, including offences like murders, attempted murders, robberies and kidnappings, and talk of his links with police and politicians has been dominating headlines ever since the shoot-out last week.
Two of Dubey’s aides were killed in last week’s violence.
Amarnath Aggarwal, an opposition Congress party leader, accused police of killing Dubey. “It’s a preplanned murder. It was committed with the motive that Dubey did not reveal the names of people who provided patronage and protection to him.”
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has called for an investigation into the incident. “Truth about those who’ve raised a criminal like Vikas Dubey should come out. No justice till nexus between politicians and criminals is exposed,” Vadra, the daughter of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, said in a video statement posted on Twitter.
Jayant Chaudhary, the leader of regional Rashtriya Lok Dal party, called the gun battle that led to Dubey’s killing as a “drama” staged to “protect the real culprits” behind the killing of policemen last week.
Senior journalist Saba Naqvi dubbed it extrajudicial killing. “If you support extra judicial killing, you could be next. Remember that. On any pretext at any point. Rule of law means police and politicians can’t bump off inconvenient people without trial,” she tweeted.
Deaths in police custody are not isolated incidents in India.
OUTRAGEOUS STORY of Vikas Dubey encounter. The vehicle is seen lying "conveniently" on its side, all doors closed. Note the road condition. No reason to overturn "so softly"! Open fields all around! Even a fool with a paunch wud not consider running away in open. pic.twitter.com/8NGT2zx6lT
— Dr. N. C. Asthana, IPS (Retd) (1986-2019) (@NcAsthana) July 10, 2020
A report last month by a New Delhi-based rights group, the National Campaign Against Torture, said at least 1,731 people died in custody in 2019, which means five custodial deaths a day.
In December last year, police shot dead four men suspected of raping and killing a young female veterinarian in southern India after investigators took them to the crime scene. Human rights groups have been calling for investigations into the deaths.
Dubey’s gang is accused of fatally ambushing officers who had come to arrest them. They blocked the road with excavators and fired from rooftops, police said. Five officers were also wounded and the assailants fled before police reinforcements could reach the area.
Uttar Pradesh, with a population of 230 million, is one of the most impoverished states in India. It is also considered one of the most lawless states with high incidences of armed robberies, kidnappings for ransom and crimes against women, according to the National Crime Record Bureau.
Dubey was also accused of the killing of a local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, Santosh Shukla, in a police station in 2001. Two policemen were also killed in the attack.