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21 February, 2009

Report on Batla House encounter rips apart police stories

MUMTAZ ALAM FALAHI
TwoCircles.net

New Delhi: Full five months since the globally much publicized Batla House encounter, the mystery over it still remains as the police just confused the public and contradicted their old versions whenever they came up to explain what happened on that day. The much-awaited report on the shootout, rigorously prepared by a dedicated team of Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Group in the inspiring leadership of Manisha Sethi, just rips apart all police stories about the encounter.

The report, based on police statements, press reports, testimonies of families and friends of the accused, both dead and detained, and other documentary evidence, highlights the numerous contradictions in the police version(s) about the encounter and the accusations.

The 65-page report, published in a book form, was made public today in a program at Jamia Millia Islamia, attended by novelist and writer Arundhati Roy, Supreme Court lawyer Collin Gonzalves, JMI V-C Prof Mushirul Hasan, Ansal Plaza encounter witness Dr Hari Kishan and ex-RSS pracharak and now full time human rights activist Jugal Kishore Shastri from Ayodhya.

In her opening remark Manisha Sethi, leading soul of the teachers' group, lambasted the government for not ordering judicial probe into the encounter even when there are deep holes in the police version of the shootout. Since September 19, 2008 – the day when the encounter took place at House No. L-18 in Batla House area in New Delhi's Jamia Nagar, killing two suspected terrorists Atif Amin and Muhammad Sajid, both from Azamgarh, Sethi's team has held various meetings, rallies, dharnas and public hearings on the encounter to highlight the discrepancies in the police theory and press the government for enquiry.

Noted writer Arundhati Roy said police atrocities, custodial killings and tortures and encounters seem to be result of a sort of collusion between police, media and judiciary. She also blamed the Bollywood – referring to films like Mukhbir and A Wednesday – for making publicly acceptable custodial atrocities and killings and encoutners. "That is the reason when I and other people questioned the Batla House encounter, we were called anti-national and gaddar," she said while reiterating her demand for judicial probe into the shootout.

Eminent Supreme Court lawyer Collin Gonzalves criticized the so-called secular government of UPA at the centre for rewarding Delhi Police Inspector M C Sharma with Ashok Chakra, as grave charges have been leveled against him in several earlier cases including Ansal Plaza encounter. While demanding judicial probe into the Batla shootout he said encounter killing is a murder which is an unnatural death, and for every such death, according to the law, an FIR has to be filed against those involved in the killing. He also said that anyone could be behind the terror attacks in the country – Muslims, Hindus or even police.

While recounting the police atrocities he had to face as he, being a witness to the Ansal Plaza encounter, stood up to say a spade a spade, Dr Hari Krishna compared today's police with Ravana who had become so notorious that he did not spare even Lord Rama's wife. He urged JMI V-C, being like father of the students, file a murder case under Article 302 against the policemen involved in the killing of the two youths, who were Jamia students.

Ex-RSS pracharak and Ayodhya ki Awaz chief Jugal Kishore Shastri said there seems to be a conspiracy behind implicating Muslim youths in all terror attacks in the country. "Following the Sachar Committee report which exposed real backwardness of the Muslim community, there was a sympathy wave for the community, but all of a sudden terror blasts began to take place and Muslims were accused from here and there," he said adding that this all was to keep the community backward and deprive them of their rights.

The report by Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Group has profile of those killed and arrested in the Batla House operation, contradictions in police version regarding the encounter operation, information about dreaded terrorists, bullet proof jacket, injuries and bullets to the suspected terrorists, evidences, escape routes and fired rounds, besides contradictions in the mastermind theory and instances of violations of NHRC guidelines for an encounter.

The teachers' group has demanded a judicial probe headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, transfer of investigations from the Delhi Police to CBI, exemplary punishment to police officers guilty of implicating innocent Muslim youth in false cases of terrorism and adequate compensation and jobs to those acquitted in the terror-related cases.

Some of the questions raised in the report are as follows:

1) Did the police have prior information about the presence of dreaded 'terrorists' in L-18 when they raided the flat? So far, conflicting versions have been provided by the police. In one version, they claim ignorance of such confirmed information, pleading that they went in only for a routine recee and were ambushed (then how did the Police Commissioner within hours declare Atif and Sajid to be the mastermind behind all blasts since 2005, when Sajid would have been 14-years-old); and in another, they claim to have put Atif under surveillance since 26th July 2008 (so how did these boys manage to plant bombs all over the city right under the Delhi Police's nose?)

2) Were the Police men wearing Bullet proof vests (BPV) or not? In some statements, the Delhi Police said that they avoided wearing the BPVs in order not to alert the 'terrorists'; in yet other statement they claim that their officer escaped all injury while firing upon an armed Sajid because he was wearing a BPV.

3) What explains the injury marks on the bodies of the deceased boys? Atif's back was sloughed off and Sajid had bullet wounds on his head as though bullets had been pumped into his head while he was made to kneel―all of which raises doubts about the genuineness of the 'shootout'.

4) The Police claim that Sajid was an expert bomb maker who used quartz clocks, detonators, ammonium nitrate, yet none of the 'recoveries' which even the police have purportedly made, comprise any of the above material that could be used for making Sajid's 'signature' bombs. So what made Dadwal and his force conclude that Sajid was the one behind the blasts in Delhi and elsewhere?

5) Why is there such rigid resistance to any independent probe on the part of the government and the Delhi Police? So much so that the Lieutenant Governor has even rejected a magisterial enquiry, which is mandatory as per NHRC guidelines on encounter killings.

6) Why are post-mortem reports of all the three killed not being made public? Is there something to hide?

The report also carries brief profiles of the accused in the case, including the two students killed. The fact that most of them were students enrolled in educational institutions, whether Jamia or elsewhere, or working gives the impression that they were regular young men in search of better opportunities in life. None of their actions puts them under suspicion: they enrolled as students, bought SIM cards in their name, signed a rent lease deed, duly verified by the police (copy in report), provided genuine address details etc. Moreover, the day after the blasts in Delhi, there were several arrests and detentions in the Jamia Nagar area, which was common knowledge. It is highly unlikely that actual terrorists would make no attempt to move away from a neighborhood which was obviously under the police scanner to a safer hideout.

Testimonies of eyewitnesses at the Jan Sunwai (12 Oct 2008, Batla House) have also been included in the report. Neighbours testified that they found nothing strange or suspicious about the boys and resented the fact that no senior local resident was taken into confidence or to crosscheck any information about suspected terrorists. The manner in which the police operated raised suspicions about their real motives. Further, they also said that while the operation was on, the policemen could be seen throwing pots etc on to the 4th floor flat of L-18, and that they heard gun shots of only one kind. This naturally raises the misgiving that the police was trying to create an impression of cross fire and struggle, where none existed.

The report is available with the following members of Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Group:
Dr. Ghazi Shahnawaz (Dept. of Psychology), Adil Mehdi (Dept. of English) and Ahmed Sohaib (Centre for the Study of Comparative Religions, Noam Chomsky Complex).

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