Encounters are a necessary tool of governance used by all governments to save society, the BJP's top leader in West Bengal has controversially said. "For the sake of peace, whenever it is necessary, it is the government's responsibility to hold encounters," Dilip Ghosh told NDTV to explain his recent encounter threat to Trinamool Congress leaders.
"All governments do it in their states, from Uttar Pradesh to Bengal .... Uttar Pradesh is the champion," he said. Mr Ghosh also credited Yogi Adityanath government with being "upfront" about its controversial use of police encounters to curb crime.
Questions have been raised about the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister nudging the police to kill criminals in encounters, a term often used to describe extra-judicial killings by the state. But Yogi Adityanath has defended the police shooting "criminals" and called opposition leaders, who questioned the killings by the police, their sympathisers.
Mr Ghosh, speaking at a protest against the Jalpaiguri district administration last week, had promised to make every bullet count and declared that leaders who indulge in hooliganism in Bengal would soon either be in jail or straight away, "there will be an encounter".
The police had promptly filed a case against him for the threat.
But this wasn't a first for him. Mr Ghosh has frequently landed himself in controversies including once for threats to behead people who raise anti-national slogans.
The 53-year-old BJP leader on Wednesday insisted there was nothing wrong in what he had said, or anything new about the encounters.
"When things go out of control, encounters have to be done to save the society," he said, adding
Mr Ghosh said encounters by the police wasn't new and was part of the government's responsibility to save society.
Prakash Singh, a former UP top cop, said he completely disapproved of Mr Ghosh's "thought process" about encounters.
"I am really surprised, disappointed and distressed that such an irresponsible should be coming in from a senior BJP functionary... If he means what he says, it is terrible," Mr Singh, who retired as head of India's border guarding force, told NDTV.
The BJP leader also claimed that Mamata Banerjee government too had killed Maoist leader Kishenji in 2011 in an extra-judicial killing. "He was picked up from one place, and killed elsewhere by security forces. What was it? It was an encounter and was considered justified by the government," Mr Ghosh said.
"In Bengal, Siddhartha Shankar Roy killed several naxals in encounters because he did not have an option. The CPM killed Maoists... and Mamata Banerjee (government) is also killing people by encounter. So if it is required for peace, it is the responsibility of the government," Mr Ghosh said.
"But if someone is killed for politics, then it is wrong," he added.
Asked if he had the approval of the party bosses for this encounter policy, Mr Ghosh said he didn't need anyone's approval.
"We will think about it (encounter policy) when we form the government. As of now, we are only talking about it," he said, contending that when he spoke about encounters, he did not imply that his party workers would come out on the streets with weapons. It was just a reference to the police doing its job. The way, he said, Yogi Adityanath government was doing in Uttar Pradesh and Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal.