With the killing of gangster-politician Atiq Ahmad's son Asad and his aide in Jhansi, the number of alleged criminals gunned down in police encounters in Uttar Pradesh has risen to 183 in the six years of Yogi Adityanath's government, officials said.
The UP Police data showed that more than 10,900 police encounters have taken place in the state since March 2017, when Adityanath took over as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh for the first time.
In these encounters, 23,300 alleged criminals were arrested and 5,046 were injured.
The number of policemen injured in them was 1,443 and 13 were killed, the data showed.
Of the 13 policemen killed in encounters since March 2017, eight were ambushed in a narrow lane of Kanpur by the aides of notorious gangster Vikas Dubey.
Dubey was shot dead by police when he tried to escape while being brought to UP from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh. Police said Dubey's vehicle had overturned during the transit and he had snatched a policeman's gun.
"As many as 183 criminals have been gunned down in police encounters in the state since March 20, 2017," Special Director General of Police (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar told PTI.
However, the critics of the government and opposition parities have alleged that many of these encounters were "fake" and demanded a high-level probe to bring out the facts. The UP government and the police have denied these allegations and said law and order has improved since the BJP came to power in 2017.
The demand for a thorough probe was most recently raised by Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati after Asad and his aide Ghulam were shot dead in Jhansi on Thursday.
Both Asad and Ghulam were wanted for the daylight murder of Umesh Pal, a key witness in the killing of then BSP legislator Raju Pal in 2005, and his two security guards in Prayagraj in February this year.
Hours after their killing in Jhansi, Yadav suggested the police encounter could be "fake".
"By doing fake encounters, the BJP government is trying to divert attention from real issues. The BJP does not believe in courts at all. Today's and other recent encounters should be thoroughly investigated and the culprits should not be spared. The government does not have the right to decide what is right or wrong. The BJP is against brotherhood," he said in a tweet in Hindi.
Shortly thereafter, Mayawati too demanded a "high-level" investigation to bring out "complete facts and truth" of the incident as "many types of discussions" were happening. She also linked the encounter to Dubey's killing.
But Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya has congratulated the police on the action.
"Nobody will touch you if you don't commit a crime. And nobody will be spared if they commit a crime," Maurya said, asserting that this was a BJP government and not an SP regime that criminals would be spared.
On Friday, the SP released a list on Twitter, asking whether those on it were close to Adityanath. It alleged everyone on the list belonged to the chief minister's caste and so were alive and running criminal gangs.
The party's media cell, using the handle @MediaCellSP, said, "Are these special to Yogi ji? Actually, they all belong to the same caste as that of Yogi ji. Hence, they are still alive, committing crime, running the gangs, and indulging in murder, rape, loot, dacoity and extortion."
"Note — the list is old, but most of the criminals in it are BJP-supported and are active," it added.
The list contained the names of several politicians with the alleged number of cases registered against them. Among them were Kuldeep Singh Sengar (Unnao, 28 cases), Brijesh Singh (Varanasi, 106 cases), Dhananjay Singh (Jaunpur, 46 cases) and Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias "Raja Bhaiyya" (Pratapgarh, 31 cases).
Some activists too have raised questions over the high number of police encounters in the state.
"We are of the view that the National Human Rights Commission has some guidelines on police encounters. And there should be a magisterial probe as per the guidelines of the NHRC. It will make the picture clear," Lenin Raghuvanshi, the founder-convenor of People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, told PTI.
Thursday's encounter killing of Atiq Ahmad's son and his aide was the seventh under Prayagraj police commissionerate. It was also the third such encounter in the Umesh Pal murder case.
In February and March, two men who allegedly took part in Umesh Pal's killing were gunned down.
Asad was caught on CCTV when Umesh Pal was killed and was on the run for 50 days, police said.
Atiq Ahmad, a former SP legislator, has expressed fear that he himself could be killed by UP Police while being brought to Prayagraj from an Ahmedabad prison, where he was lodged in connection with another case.