Shafiq R Khan

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Report on Encounter in Jamia Nagar

The following is the report of a team (set up by Jan Hastakshep, Campaign against Fascist Designs and People’s Union for Democratic Rights) which undertook a fact-finding exercise into the alleged encounter at Batla House in the Capital’s Jamia Nagar on September 19, 2008। The following is the report of the fact-finding team which carried out the exercise on September 21, 2008. The members of team were Dr N.K Bhattacharya (Jan Hastakshep), Shahana Bhattacharya (PUDR), Ish Misra (Jan Hastakshep), Prashant Bhushan (Advocate, Supreme Court), Prof Mir Imtiaz and Sreerekha (teachers in Jamia Millia Islamia). The report was released at a press conference on September 26, 2008.

Some of the Findings of the Team
1. L-18 Batla House, the scene of the two ‘encounter’ killings of Atif and Sajid, is a four-storied building with two flats on each floor and a single stairwell. There is only one entrance to the building. All the other spaces are grilled and cannot be used to get out of the building. The building is abutted on the left and right by two buildings which are only about two floors high. There is a narrow lane to the front and an even narrower lane at the back.
2. Documentary evidence proves that Atif had submitted his correct details to the police in a tenant verification form duty received by the police on August 21, 2008. The form is a printed form which has been countersigned and bears the seal of the Jamia Nagar police station. The form also has his correct mobile phone number.
3. The shooting seems to have begun at around 11 am. Eyewitnesses state that the regular police arrived about fifteen minutes thereafter, and the media arrived five to ten minutes after the police arriving, by which time the area had already been cordoned off.
4. The police did not show anyone the faces of the victims of the ‘encounter’ killings. Neither have they allowed the media access to the scene of the crime which has been sealed. By the time the media arrived, Mohan Chand Sharma had apparently already been carried down four floors of stairs with wounds, which eventually proved fatal. There seems to be a photograph of a conscious M.C. Sharma being carried out of the building by two of his aides showing some bleeding. People who saw him a few metres ahead, however, state that he was bleeding profusely when he was being carried past the Khaliullah Masjid in the vicinity.
5. Zeeshan, who also shared the flat, was writing the IIPM test at the time of the alleged encounter and was arrested later in the night of September 19 from the Headlines Today studios at Jhandewalan, soon after he had given an interview at the television studio which was partially aired. As he was coming out of the television channel’s office, he was arrested by the police. He too is being called a terrorist.
Questions regarding the Police Version
1. How many masterminds are there? A succession of organisations such as the HuJI, SIMI and the IM have already been named by different State Police as the organisations responsible for the blasts that have taken place in Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi and the bomb scare in Surat. Atif suddenly becomes the new mastermind of all the blasts after a succession of other masterminds such as Abu Bashir, Tauqeer, etc. His name was never mentioned earlier, not even a few days ago when the sketches of the Delhi bombers were released.
2. When did the police get to know that they were terrorists? If they knew before they entered, why did they not seal the exit to the building and ask the alleged terrorists to surrender without going in?
3. If the Special Cell knew that they were terrorists why was M.C. Sharma not wearing a bullet-proof vest if the Special Cell was going to arrest/apprehend dreaded terrorists?
4. If the Special cell did not know that they were terrorists before they entered, how did they claim soon thereafter that these were the terrorists and mastermind behind the blasts without even the opportunity of an interrogation of the person arrested and a thorough investigation of the evidence from the scene of the alleged encounter?
5. Could two persons have escaped, considering there are no escape routes save one which was the entrance from which the Special Cell police entered heavily armed?
6. If they were truly the terrorists behind the bombings they would surely not have given their correct personal details in a tenant verification form to the police on August 21, 2008, just after the Ahmedabad blasts and before the Delhi blasts.
7. The Special Cell now claims that the verification form is forged, despite the fact that it is countersigned and bears the seal of the Jamia Nagar Police Station. However, these documents were handed over to the media by the caretaker of the apartment within two hours of the alleged encounters and hence he did not have enough time to have carried out such a forgery.
8. As per news reports, the police has so far not carried out a Test Identification Parade by eyewitnesses who claim to have seen those responsible for the Delhi bomb blasts. Was a TIP done before the burial of the two boys who were shot dead? Has the police tried to match the sketches of the accused made at the time with those being arrested? What are the results of such efforts if they have been made?
9. In view of the continuing speculation and controversies surrounding the ‘encounter’ and a version of the postmortem reports being discussed by the press, why have the post-mortem reports of the two youths and the policeman who were killed in the house not been made available to their families and the public?
10. Has an FIR been lodged or investigation launched into the incident of the ‘encounter’ itself?*
11. Since, according to the press statement issued by the Holy Family Hospital on September 19, 2008, X-rays of the chest and abdomen of M.C. Sharma had “not revealed any foreign bodies”, what has happened to the bullets fired on him? Have they been collected from the scene and sent for forensic analysis?
Preliminary Conclusions
1. The version of the police that they had learnt that these youths were behind the Delhi blasts when they went in to arrest them is clearly false since, in that case, Inspector Sharma and his team who were experienced policemen from the Special Cell and had in fact been involved in several lethal encounters in the past, would not have entered the premises at all and certainly not without bullet-proof vests.
2. The police gave the version of these youths being the terrorists behind the Delhi, Ahmedabad and Jaipur blasts and of Atif being the mastermind to the media soon after the alleged encounter. Till this point the police had not had the time to interrogate Saif, who had been arrested, or to thoroughly investigate the laptops recovered from the scene of the incident etc. and hence had no actionable information on the basis of which to make such claims. Therefore the police version that they were the terrorists behind the blasts with Atif as the mastermind clearly seems to be a story concocted by the Special Cell before they went to pick up these people.
3. The story of two people escaping from the building is an utter life.
4. The subsequent picking up of Zia-ur Rahman, the caretaker’s son, and of Shakeel and others on the pretext that they were also involved in this conspiracy is highly dubious and smacks of vindictiveness against individuals who came out with statements and evidence that contradicted the police version.
5. The claim of the police that the tenant verification form, handed over to the media by the caretaker, Rahman, only a couple of hours after the incident, is forged, is not at all credible. There appears no reason for Rahman to have forged such a form and kept it with him in advance, and there was certainly no time for him to have forged the papers and handed them to the media soon after the incident.
6. Saquib Nisar, who the police claim provided logistical support for the serial blasts in Ahmedabad and the bomb scare in Surat, was taking an MBA examination from July 23 to July 28, 2008. Copies of his admit card and exam sheets signed by the examiners are available.
7. None of the accused who are alive and arrested have legal representation or counsel. Moreover the police have been releasing information supposedly procured from them during interrogation to the media. This further adversely affects their chances of justice.
Recommendations
1. It is imperative that an independent, time- bound comprehensive probe has to be carried out by a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court of India into this incident and the claims of the police, to answer these questions. In any case, the NHRC guidelines on encounter killings require such an investigation.
2. The continuing random arrests and harassment of residents of Jamia Nagar and students of Jamia University since the time of the Delhi blasts and particularly after the alleged encounter must stop immediately.
3. The competition among various police agencies to claim credit for arresting dreaded terrorists and masterminds is resulting in the targeting of innocent Muslim youth. This must stop immediately. It appears that after making SIMI the scapegoat, the police has now shifted focus to Azamgarh which is being dubbed the nursery of terrorism. This targeting and victimisation of young Muslim boys from Azamgarh or those who may have been members of SIMI in the past, as terrorists involved in the blasts, has led to an enormous sense of insecurity, fear and resentment in the Muslim community of the country in general and young Muslim boys from Azamgarh or those who may have been members of SIMI, in particular.
4. It is very unfortunate and disquieting that significant sections of the mainstream media, particulary the electronic media, have been uncritically amplifying the successive absurd stories and concoctions of the police, built only on supposed confessions made before the police. This has not only defamed a large number of apparently innocent people but is also encouraging rapid communalisation and polarisation of people in the country.
• This is what the law requires: NHRC guidelines on encounter killings clearly state: “That when information is received that death was caused in an encounter as a result of firing by the police, prima facie the ingredients of culpable homicide under Section 299 of the IPC are satisfied. That is sufficient to suspect that an offence of culpable homicide has been committed.” The NHRC has now asked for a report from the police on the encounter.
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