It is a painful narrative that we stomach almost every other day. Reports of people killed in crossfire make headlines almost daily, only to be explained away by the authorities as mere incidents of crossfire. Not only that, background and past credentials are added to justify the killings. We have been commenting on this issue ceaselessly, and will continue to do so till the culture of the law enforcing agencies, behaving as the judge, jury and executioner, is purged.
For one thing, we have difficulty in comprehending the term "crossfire". If it were truly an exchange of fire, as the term means, how come in most of the cases, no arms or lethal weapons are produced along with the victims' bodies? The accounts of these incidents are likely to convince only the most credulous persons. The statistics are also very disturbing, and no society that claims to be adherents to the rule of law can remain unperturbed at the figures. There were 466 killed in 2018, 388 in 2019, and till the end of July, 196 people have fallen victim to the bullets of the law enforcing agencies. The peak year of 2018 was when the government launched the anti-narcotics campaign.
And these persons have become merely numbers as the days have gone by because, contrary to the legal norms which stipulate that all such deaths should be probed and where necessary, a judicial probe should determine the veracity of the police account to dig out the facts, very few of these cases are actually investigated, and whatever few that are, find their way to the backburner eventually.
It needs repeating that extrajudicial killings have grave consequences on the state and state machineries. Resorting to such means, even if that is to deal with a law and order issue, is illegal, because it takes away the most fundamental right of a person, the right to life, which the state is obligated to protect. And when a state agency deprives one of that right, it saps public confidence and trust on law enforcing agencies, and indeed on the administration. It shakes international confidence too by impacting our credentials as a nation run by the rule of law. It also acts as a dampener, among other things, to foreign investment. Punishing the law breaker by breaking the law is not how the law enforcing agencies should function.