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Indian civil rights groups demand terror encounter probe

Sep 29, 2008

Serial blasts had rocked the Indian capital earlier this month. Later police raided a house in South Delhi. An encounter ensued. Two persons killed. Two escaped. One arrested. An inspector dead, a constable hurt. Case cracked. But holes galore in the police version, says a fact-finding team of civil rights groups.

New Delhi: Five blasts had occurred in quick succession on Saturday evening of September 13 in busy crowded market areas of New Delhi. These blasts left 24 dead and more than hundred injured. Later one more person succumbed to his injuries in a government hospital taking the total death toll to 25.

Six days later, on September 19, Delhi Police’s Special Cell raided a house in Jamia Nagar, a Muslim dominated area in South Delhi. Heading the police team was Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma. They entered house number L-18 at Batla House. Firing started. Few minutes later M.C. Sharma was seen coming down with the help of his colleagues injured and bleeding profusely.

Eyewitnesses saw two dead bodies being carted out. One person was taken into custody. The two dead were later identified as Atif Ameen and Mohammad Sajid. Police claimed there were two more who managed to escape. Immediately thereafter they were linked with the Delhi blasts with Atif as mastermind.

A six-member team of Janhastakshep – A Campaign Against Fascist Designs and People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) has raised several questions about the veracity of the alleged encounter.

The civil rights groups have serious objections to various ‘allegations and innuendoes’ that the police are leveling against those killed, escaped and arrested. It has also pointed out towards several procedural lapses before, during and after the ‘encounter’.

One of the team members Prashant Bhushan, a senior Supreme Court lawyer, rubbished the claims of the police saying that it was inconceivable that Atif, dubbed as the mastermind behind the blasts, would provide his correct particulars in a tenant verification form to the police just before hatching a conspiracy to carry out serial blasts.

Procedural lapses

No attempt seems to have been made by the police to ask the holed up people to surrender.

Despite three persons dying in that ‘encounter’, there is no First Information Report lodged contrary to the requirement of law and guidelines of National Human Rights Commission.

No Test Identification Parade (TIP) has been conducted until now by eyewitnesses who claim to have seen those responsible for the blasts.

Post-mortem reports of the two persons killed have not been made public or given to families.

Puncturing police claims

As regards the killing of M.C. Sharma, Prashant Bhushan said that his own colleagues could very well have shot him at – accidentally or otherwise.

Bhushan also said that the police claim that the caretaker of the house had forged the tenant verification form of Atif was an utter lie. He said that he had examined the form and it was an authentic document.

Zeeshan, who the police claimed had sneaked out, was writing his entrance test at the time of the encounter. He was arrested later in the day when he was coming out of a news channel office after giving an interview to clear his name from the list of suspects.

How could the police claim that they were terrorists without even a proper interrogation and thorough investigation of the evidence from the scene of the alleged encounter, wondered Shahana Bhattacharya of PUDR.

She also refuted the claims of the police that the two of their associates had managed to escape, considering that there were no escape routes other than the one from which the police entered.

Shahana also wanted to know that if the police knew in advance that the people holed up there were the same who had taken part in blasts; then why did they not bother to go there prepared with bullet-proof vests?

Demonising a community

Prashant Bhushan also expressed his anguish over the subsequent events that he said were more serious and objectionable. According to him, a large number of persons are being picked up and implicated from the area, including the students from Jamia Millia University and other institutions.

This was creating enormous sense of fear and insecurity among the Muslim community in that area, in Azamgarh [many of the persons picked up by police are from Azamgarh area of Uttar Pradesh] in particular and among the community in this country as a whole in general, he said.

He added that it was unfortunate that the media was parroting and amplifying the “inspired leaks” being given by the police without critical examination and analysis whatsoever.

“All this is adding to the climate of fear, insecurity and polarisation, which is very dangerous. Because if you are going to pick up innocent people and implicate them in such serious crimes, then one consequence would be that some of these people would be forced to go underground and some might even join the militant organisations.”

Janhastakshep and PUDR have demanded a time-bound comprehensive probe by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court into the incident.

Meanwhile Jamia Millia Islamia University Vice-chancellor Professor Mushirul Hasan along with his faculty members and students has come out in support of the two arrested students – Mohammad Shakeel and Zia-Ur- Rehman. The faculty has decided to extend full legal aid to them.

They even took out a peace march last Thursday with an idea of instilling confidence and solidarity among the Jamia fraternity.

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