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23 July, 2009

Activists question NHRC report on alleged encounter at Batla House

The following is a statement issued by concerned citizens on the National Human Rights Commission’s report on the alleged encounter at Batla House:

On 20th May, the Delhi High Court, acting on a petition filed by the
People’s union for democratic rights and Anhad, had asked the National
Human rights commission to conduct their own inqury into the alleged
Batla House encounter of September 2008 and give a report upon it.

This order came after the High Court was shown reports of four independent organizations into the encounter, including the report of People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), the Delhi Union of Journalists, the Jamia Teachers Solidarity group, all of which seriously questioned the version of the Delhi police regarding the encounter. These reports and the petition filed by the PUDR had pointed out several specific problems with the version of the Delhi police. In particular, the following questions were raised about the version of the Delhi police.

1. If these boys were killed in a genuine encounter, how did the
17-year-old boy Sajid have four bullet holes on the top of his head,
which could only happen if the boy was made to sit down and shot from

2. How is the skin peeled off from Atif’s back? This was clearly
visible in the photograph taken before his burial which is annexed to
the PUDR petition. Obviously Atif had been tortured before being

3. How are the other blunt injuries on the bodies of the boys
explained by the police version of the encounter?

4. If the police knew in advance (as they claimed) that these boys
in the flat were the terrorists involved in the Delhi and other bomb
blasts, why did Inspector Sharma go in without a bullet proof vest?

5. How could two of the boys escape from the flat which had only one
exit (two doors next to each other) and from a building which had only
one exit?

It was expected that in these circumstances, the NHRC, would conduct
its own investigation into the matter. The report dated 20th July 2009
of the NHRC given to the High Court on 22nd July, however shows that
far from conducting any investigation into the matter, the NHRC has
merely relied upon the Police reports for their report. They have not
even examined or investigated the above questions which were squarely
raised in the PUDR petition on which the High Court order was issued
to the NHRC. They have not even examined Saif, the third boy picked up
by the police from the flat, nor even any of the witnesses of the Batla House area who had deposed before the People’s Tribunal. They have just swallowed the police version hook, line and sinker. And this despite the fact that there has been no independent police investigation or even a magisterial enquiry into the encounter as mandated by the NHRC’s own guidelines.

It is extremely unfortunate that the premier human rights body set up
to investigate human rights violations is becoming a rubber stamp for
the police.

The same attitude of the NHRC was evident when the Supreme Court asked the NHRC to investigate allegations of rape and murder against the Salwa Judum. The NHRC sent a team of essentially police officers who spoke mainly to the local police and other officials and gave a white-washing report.

The time has come to seriously re-examine the manner of appointment of
members of the NHRC and its powers. The present system of appointment
by a committee of Prime Minister, Home Minister, Speaker and Leader of
Opposition etc. is not working satisfactorily. All of them seem to
want a toothless and tame body which will not question those in power.

Since the NHRC report does not address or answer the disquieting
questions raised by the several independent fact finding reports about
encounter, it is essential that there be an investigation into the "encounter" by an SIT appointed by the Delhi HIgh Court.

Signed by:
Shabnam Hashmi (Anhad)
Moushumi Basu (Secretary, PUDR)
Dr. Anoop Saraya (Jan Hastakshep)
Harsh Mander (Director, Center for Equity Studies)
Sreerekha & Tanvir Fazar (Jamia Teachers Solidarity Group)
Colin Gonsalves (Director, Human Rights Law Network)
Arundhati Roy (Writer)
Kavita Krishnan (CPI ML Liberation)
Kamini Jaiswal (Advocate)
Mehtab Alam (Association for the protection of democratic rights)
Prashant Bhushan (Advocate)
Harsh Dobhal (Human Rights Law Network)

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