Delhi Encounter Killings
By L. George
Finally it has happened: the main stream media in India has for the first time come out with something other than the 'official version' of the encounter killings that have taken place in the country.
An NDTV report with the headline 'Cover-up charges cling to terror probe' has said that Delhi's latest terror spectre throws up contrasting images. A police officer -- one of the finest -- shot 3 times. And, young, educated, fun-loving men who, the police say, are deadly terrorists.
The police are convinced that Atif and his young group, most of them in their 20s with the youngest just 17, is responsible for all the major blasts in India this year and the death of nearly 150 people.
But now, a group of lawyers and human rights activists are raising questions. They ask who are the two missing men, who escaped from the flat in Batla house on the day of encounter. And how could they possibly escape when the only way out was a narrow staircase and there were several policemen in the area.
The other point is that the profiles of these young men seem to indicate terror was the farthest thing in their minds. They were regular college-going students.
One of those arrested, Zeeshan, was taking giving his exams on the day of the encounter. He came on TV to surrender. Why didn't he run away?, asks NDTV. The police say they have evidence that he planted the bomb at Delhi's Barakhamba Road.
Another alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Saqib was also arrested. A gold medalist in economics honours from Jamia Millia University, he was a regular on Orkut. He maintained a profile like most users do and had a wide circle of friends.
Cops claim the 23-year-old was involved in both Ahmedabad and Delhi blasts. Saqib's family has countered the police claims and furnished documents to show that Saquib appeared for six exams from the 23rd of July to the 28th July -- the time that the police claim he was planning the blasts.
Shakib's brother says: "He was the topper in his class for the last two years."
The house where the men were staying and its caretaker are also under the scanner. The caretaker, who has worked in the PWD for several years, insists that he gave the details of the men staying at his home to the police almost a month before the blasts.
However, the police have now arrested him for forging these documents. His son has also been arrested for alleged nexus with the terrorists.
There are several such questions to which there are still no easy answers. And the police know they will have to find hard evidence to back each of their claims. However, they say the death of Inspector Sharma proves there was no fake encounter.
The Mali Today has also come out with a version raising many questions about the encounter:
It says two eyewitnesses of the September 19 cell action at Jamia Nagar have presented a version of the event that is at complete variance with what has been offered by Delhi Police.
Their reconstruction of the event, which indicates a scuffle had probably taken place before the shots were fired, many also explain why Jamia Nagar residents are not buying the police theory that the team has either eliminated or arrested the men allegedly behind the bomb blasts in Delhi, Ahmedabad and Jaipur.
This version given to MAIL TODAY on the condition of anonymity, squares up with the hitherto unreported autopsy report on Sharma and the nature of wounds on the bodies of the two young men killed by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police. The autopsy report on Sharma, which is with the Headlines Today, says he was shot at from extremely close range, no more than a few centimeters from him. he was hit by three bullets. All of them entered through the back and followed a top-to-down trajectory.
The body of one of the 'terrorists' bears injury marks, sharp wounds and multiple internal injuries in the stomach. Doctors say such injuries are usually attributed to a scuffle, a violent physical assault. Someone may even have stamped on him. His flatmate Mohammed Sajid also dead, was apparently shot in the head. Could his death too have occurred during the scuffle?
Further, could Inspector Sharma have been injured during the fisticuffs that ensued between the alleged Delhi bombers and the policemen who were raiding supposed terrorist hideouts? Is it possible that he suffered the injuries when a bullet went off accidentally during the scuffle?
There is no way to find out the kind of bullet injury that Sharma suffered. No bullets were found on his body during his autopsy. The medical bulletin of Holy family Hospital, where he was taken first, said no "foreign bodies were found in his chest and abdomen.
Mail Today took exhaustive eyewitness accounts of the police action on September 19. Eyewitnesses, who live in the immediate vicinity of L-18, Batla House - the alleged IM hideout - said the Special Cell team that raided the scene of action brought two young men to the ground floor from their fourth-floor flat. they had a verbal altercation with the two men and killed them after some of them realised Sharma had been shot.
Jamia Nagar residents had been seeing heightened activity by the policemen in civilian clothes for about a week before the police action. Yet, they were taken aback when a group of policemen in civvies surrounded L-18, Batla House, on September 19, for they had not seen any suspicious activity in their building. It is hard to keep secrets in the rabbit warren of apartment blocks in Jamia Nagar.
A member of the Special Cell first went up to the fourth-floor flat occupied by Atif and Sajid, pretending to be a cellphone salesman. the young men inside the flat did not receive the undercover policeman cordially. They entered into an argument with sub-inspector Ddharmender, who was pretending to be the salesman.
All this took place in front of the neighbours who had come out onto the balconies of their flats on hearing the commotion. Reacting immediately when the arguments started, the policemen waiting downstairs rushed up.
None of them had their guns out. Clearly, they were not expecting any armed resistance. One of the men, whom the eyewitnesses were able to identify after seeing his images on television, Sharma.
Speaking from behind a grill that covers the fourth-floor staircase at L-18, Sharma yelled at all the neighbours who had come out of their houses to go indoors because they could get hurt in the "firing". Residents of the area followed his instructions. But the eyewitnesses, being quoted by the Mail Today, watched the goings-on from behind their toilet windows.
They saw only two men in the flat. that leaves the man who was arrested from the spot, Mohammed Saif, and the two men who reportedly escaped during the police action unaccounted for.
They saw Sharma's men drag Atif and Sajid to the ground floor landing. The two men, who were subsequently killed, appeared to be in panic and unarmed at the time. No one could see what happened thereafter as the partly covered ground floor landing was not in their line of vision.
The eyewitness could hear the policemen hurling abuses at the two youngmen. This was followed by gunshots. Then someone shouted, "Sahab ko goli lag gayi (the boss has been shot)." The young men could not be hard in this commotion. After sometime, the eyewitnesses hear more gunshots. The policemen came into the view of our eyewitnesses. They were dragging the bodies of two men upstairs.
Around the same time, they saw sub-inspector Dharmender, and another policeman leading Sharma out of the building. The eyewitness couldn't figure out the extent of Sharma's injury from what they saw.
The bodies of two youngmen, meanwhile, were dragged up to their flat by the policemen. Then they wrapped the bodies with cloth.
According to the eyewitnesses, after the two bodies were taken away and piled into a police van, a group of policemen materialised out of the blue with three young men they had rounded up, seemingly from within the L-18 flats. They were unable to make out where the men came from. One of them, it appears now, was Mohammed Saif. He is now in the police custody.
The reconstruction by the eyewitnesses posed some questions. Why did two young men, and their alleged accomplices, not flee the scene or clean up their laptops even after everyone in the neighbourhood was aware of the heightened police presence in the area?
Why did the policemen not have their guns out when they rushed up to the flat after the argument broke out between sub-inspector Dharmender and the two men?
Was Sharma shot at by the alleged terrorists or was he a victim of collateral damage because he happened to be in the range of a ricocheting bullet?
We are also forced to take a new look at the announcements made by the Police.
After killing the two youths Atif and Sajjid in Delhi, the special police cell chief Karnal Singh claimed that they were the masterminds behind the bombings of Uttar Pradesh courts (23 November, 2007), Jaipur bombings (13 May, 2008), Ahmedabad bombings (26 July, 2008), and Delhi bombings (13 September, 2008).
He also claimed that they were behind the Varanassi bombings of 2006 and Gorakhpur bombings of 2007. If what the Delhi police claim is true, what about the alleged mastermind that the Gujarat police arrested in connection with Ahmedabad bombings, Abu Basher?
Gujarat Police claimed that he was the master mind of all these bombings.
On September 24th, Mumbai Police have also arrested new 'masterminds' of all these blasts. Rajastan Police had arrested a cyber cafe owner, Shahbas Hussain. They also claim that he was the mastermind of the Jaipur blasts. Whom should we believe?
In the light of these revelations and views people in India and around the world may adopt a new stand: not to swallow the official versions as such.