Kishalay Bhattacharjee's latest book, Blood on My Hands: Confessions of Staged Encounters, draws from the anonymous confession of a army officer with a conscience.

The encounter state Tales of the most brutal bloody staged encounters in India
Flix Human Rights Saturday, September 26, 2015 - 12:00

We all know they happen, and yet, very few are held accountable for it. They are glorified in movies, and the cops who are known to stage them are portrayed as real-life heroes. Police and army encounters in India are open secrets, but as former diplomat Satyabrata Pal says, Kishalay Bhattacharjee's latest book, Blood on My Hands: Confessions of Staged Encounters, confirms that our suspicions are justified, and perhaps also shows how tragic the situation is.

"His interviews with army and police officers show, sadly and shamefully, that in India’s conflict zones, these crimes were indeed standard operating procedure. Whether the families of the victims, or the survivors, will ever find justice, when the state refuses to acknowledge that these enormous crimes were committed, is moot." he says.

The book is based on an anonymous confession by an army officer about staged encounters, exposing the precarious human rights situation in Jammu & Kashmir and India’s Northeast. Blood on My Hands also explains, shockingly, how awards and citations are linked to a body count. Speaking to Kishalay Bhattacharjee, the confessor speaks of the toll this brutality has taken on him.

Bhattacharjee writes about the encounters in West Bengal, Punjab, Manipur, Assam, Nagaland and Mizoram and a postscript – where bureaucrats and diplomats speak on record about the hidden policy of extra-judicial killings and how it threatens India’s democracy – contextualizing this searing confession.

Here are some extracts.

“Then he is shot. I have never seen anyone react before the shooting takes place. Hands are never tied just in case they injure themselves but they know what it is and they don’t resist. It is a sort of resignation.”

“This book records the chilling moments of planning and execution of innocents, in the voices of the people who ordered them, the people who carried them out and those who witnessed them. In hearing their voices, we can see that this is an undeclared war, where civil and private spaces have become battlegrounds.”

“In Jammu and Kashmir the battalions facing the international border buy weapons from Pakistani intelligence agencies. Muslim men from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are abducted from Jammu, kept in the post for two or three months, and once these weapons are purchased, they are killed and shown as militants trying to infiltrate with weapons. The CO gets a thumping report and the unit gets a citation.”

“In Manipur, there was a GOC who found he was lagging behind by two kills. He and I know this for a fact: he called up his juniors, telling them to get him three kills. That night, three persons were killed.

“If you are part of the system, you can prosper. If you are trying to do a good job, you may be ostracized.”

“All the chakras (awards, referring to the different gallantry awards all of which end with the word ‘chakra’) give you points, and how do you get the chakras? Kill people. Add up points. Move up the ranks. The only casualty in this is the truth. The stories they make up – how they ‘put their lives at risk’ and ‘managed to avert a terror attack’, and killed whomever.”

“They were two militants who were picked up just after their prison term and before they went home. So as they stepped out of the central jail, they were abducted. This is crazy, but it is routine. This is another target group exploited by the suppliers. They wait for their release and then abduct them. In the villages, everyone would know they are in jail and would be indifferent to their absence. There was an open bidding and I won the bid.”

“In this book, perhaps for the first time, some of the perpetrators of this form of violence have narrated accounts of how they hunted down their prey. Their revelations of how the system has coerced and supported them in committing atrocities, then concealed and even rewarded acts of almost unthinkable depravity, are profoundly disturbing, and compel one to question the essential morality of civil government in India.”

“Name after name, story after story, date after date. The sheer volume and horror of the stories is numbing. And it is just as difficult to maintain sufficient civic indignation to question and debate all the preposterous accounts of encounter killings that are fed to us by a tame media. It is far easier to rationalize that the victims were in some way culpable, and deserving – at least in some sense – of their fate. Because the reality of a democratic State whose agents arbitrarily kidnap, torture and kill for personal benefit or gratification, is simply too horrific.”

You can know more about the book here.