The job title ‘encounter specialist’, first of all: an ‘encounter’, in India, is an armed engagement between police/army and criminals/terrorists. In the police context, it has often come to mean a legalized killing of criminals, bypassing the overburdened and inefficient courts. In movies you see a policeman telling a crimnal 'Run!', and then shooting him while he tries to escape. Encounter specialists have been presented as heroes, albeit controversial ones, in the press. There was a 2004 Hindi movie about an encounter specialist called 'Ab Tak Chhappan'-- 'So Far, Fifty-six' (killings). The poster for this movie reads 'Doctors Cure / Engineers Build / I Kill.'
It's clear that this kind of power can clearly lead easily to a sense of being above the law.
photo from ibnlive.com
The dead encounter specialist looks a little like a younger Shatrughan Sinha (an actor) to me. The property dealer who killed him called a TV news channel to tell his side of the story. It's all so media-ready. Here's the story, from The Hindustan Times:
Encounter specialist Rajbir Singh outgunned, finally
People who live by the gun, die by the gun. Police officer Rajbir Singh, in fact, died of his own gun, not very far from the site of the first of his 45 encounters that made him such a legend, a controversial one no doubt.
Police said a Gurgaon property dealer, Vijay Bhardwaj, has confessed to killing Rajbir using a gun loaned to him by the officer a few days ago. Rajbir took two shots in the head and died on the spot. Gurgaon Police Commissioner Mohinder Lal said at a news conference on Tuesday that Bhardwaj and his office boy have been arrested. He added Rajbir was killed on Monday evening at Bhardwaj’s office. ...
Bhardwaj owed him Rs 60 lakh for a land deal -- the nature of which has not been specified yet. Rajbir had given him 72 hours to pay, ending Monday evening.
"He had threatened to eliminate me and my family and had given me an ultimatum," Bhardwaj told Hindustan Times, adding, "I was already under heavy debt and was unable to meet the deadline."
The troubled property dealer had even tried to commit suicide. "But my family found the suicide note before I could kill myself." And they prevented him from taking that extreme step.
Rajbir drove to Bhardwaj's office on MG Road in Gurgaon sometime between 7.30 pm and 7.45 pm with his security detail in a Qualis -- the police officer had been given Z category security.
They began talking. Gurgaon police said after some time, Rajbir asked the security people to fetch some snacks from a nearby petrol station. And now the two were by themselves in the office.
Rajbir and Bhardwaj had known each other for 20 years. But that evening, they could have been enemies. The property dealer got up from his seat, went behind Rajbir and opened fire from a .32 revolver. Gurgaon Police Commissioner Lal said, "Rajbir gave this revolver to Bhardwaj for his safety as he was expecting the payment of a huge amount of money -- his money."
The first shot went right through the middle of the head, the second grazed the side and the third completely missed. The first bullet had been sufficient to kill Rajbir.
Mumbai police's encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma, who knew Rajbir well, found it hard to believe how an amateur like Bhardwaj could keep a steady hold of the gun.
Bhardwaj also kept a hold on his nerves. He walked out of the office, got into his Hyundai Verna and took off. While driving around he called a friend for the telephone number of a TV news channel. He then called the local police station, asking if his office came under its jurisdiction. Bhardwaj then called the channel and said he wanted to speak to a reporter about the murder of a senior police officer. ...