With the recent narrative of zero tolerance to terrorism, hyped nationalism and bashing of so called liberal thought in the country, I too tried to convince myself that the killing of the escaped terror suspects from Bhopal jail was justified. But I could not. Try as I did, I found it indefensible. Killing terrorists is OK, but killing unarmed ones in cold blood, when they could have been captured easily, is not correct. Neither law nor my conscience allows accepting this act as tolerable in a civilized society, let alone praiseworthy.

Now, let us come to the crux. These dangerous SIMI activists were convicts with 10-12 cases against them. They killed a constable. They broke the jail. Both reprehensible criminal acts. They were also probably responsible for many more deaths in the past. Praise to our agencies that they were behind the bars. And when they tried to escape, they were shot dead.

On the other hand, the incident is being called as extra judicial killing. After all, they were under trials. I will not go into the reasons as to why they were under trials for so many years, nor the question why they became terrorists. But they had a right to live as guaranteed by the constitution. If you say the law and the constitution do not apply to these terrorists, who were Indian citizens, I have nothing more to say. If you say that this is the way to deal with outlaws, I have nothing more to add. If you say we are living in a police state and not a constitutional democratic country, I withdraw from further debate. If you ask if I wanted a court to be set up in the fields before shooting them, I say it was not required. We could have just caught them alive and put them in jail for life or hanged them, as decided by the courts.

Another aspect being bandied as an afterthought is that they were armed. When they escaped from the jail, they were armed with spoons and plates carved into deadly weapons! And when they were found on that hillock, they had knives and desi guns. The first part is acceptable, but second part is highly unrealistic. If they had access to guns, they must have had some big support outside the jail, and they could well have gone underground immediately and never been caught.

Another question being raised is, what if they had really escaped and committed other acts of terror. Accepted. But this does not look even remotely possible in this case. Surrounded by well armed police from three sides, these men, armed with "spoons, knives, and desi kattas", stood no chance and could have been easily apprehended without any casualties from either side. Local eye witnesses say they were throwing stones and sticks on the police. But the trigger happy policemen shot them. And they shot to kill.

The police are the same all over the country. But that is another story. I feel such incidents alienate a section of the society (of course Muslims who feel that they have been dealt with unlawfully) and dent our image as a tolerant, lawful, democratic nation. You don’t want that image? Well, then I am with you. Let the police be the prosecutor, judge and executor (executioner). And God knows where we will end.