Few days back Indian capital Delhi witnessed a highly dramatic incident. Though nobody saw with their eyes any encounter, the Delhi police claimed that they shot dead two alleged terrorists Atif and Sajid at an apartment in Jamia Nagar in the afternoon of 20.09.2008 (Saturday).The police also claimed that Mohan Chand Sharma, an inspector of the Delhi Police's Special Cell also died in the operation while a third alleged terrorist was arrested.
Following the incident a team comprising activists, academicians and journalists visited the site of the police operation. And demanding a fair, impartial and independent probe into the incident they have raised a few questions and contradictions regarding the case. Given below are the questions posed by them.
On the basis of our interactions with the local residents, eye witnesses and the reports which have appeared in the media, we would like to pose the following questions:
1. It has been widely reported that in early August this year Atif, who is described by the Delhi Police as the mastermind behind the recent terrorist bombings in Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi, underwent a police verification exercise along with his four roommates in order to rent the apartment they were staying in Jamia Nagar. All the five youth living in the apartment submitted to the Delhi police their personal details, including permanent address, driving license details, address of the house they previously stayed in, all of which were found to be accurate. Though the police is now denying the veracity of the verification form, Mr. Rehman, the caretaker of the flat, has vouched, on camera, that he accompanied Atif to the Police Station for the verification.
Is it conceivable that the alleged kingpin behind the terrorist Indian Mujahideen outfit would have wanted to undergo a police verification--for whatever purpose-- just a week after the Ahmedabad blasts and a month before the bombings in Delhi?
2. The four-storeyed house L-18 in Jamia Nagar, where the alleged terrorists were staying, has only one access point, through the stair case, which is covered by an iron grill. It is impossible to leave the house except from the staircase. By all reports, the staircase was taken over by the Special Cell and/ or other agencies during the counter-terror operation. The house, indeed the entire block, was cordoned off at the time of the operation. How then was it then possible, as claimed by the police, for two alleged terrorists to escape the premises during the police operation?
3. The media has quoted 'police sources' as having informed them that the Special Cell was fully aware about the presence of dreaded terrorists, involved in the bombings in Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi, staying in the apartment that was raided.
Why was the late Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, a veteran of dozens of encounter operations, the only officer in the operation not wearing a bullet proof vest? Was this due to over-confidence or is there something else to his mysterious death during the operation? Will the forensic report of the bullets that killed Inspector Sharma be made public?
4. There are reports that towards the end of the counter-terror operation, some policemen climbed on the roof of L-18 and fired several rounds in the air. Other policemen were seen breaking windows and even throwing flower pots to the ground from flats adjacent or opposite to L-18. Why was the police firing in the air and why did it indulge in destruction of property around L-18 after the encounter?
5. The police officials claim that an AK-47 and pistols were recovered from L-18. What was the weapon that killed Inspector Sharma? Was the AK-47 used at all and by whom? Going by some reports that have appeared (see 'Times of India', 20.09.08), the AK-47s have been used by the police only. Is it not strange that alleged terrorists did not use a more deadly and sophisticated weapon like the AK-47, which they purportedly possessed, preferring to use pistols?
We feel that there are far too many loose ends in the current story of the police encounter at L-18 in Jamia Nagar.We demand that a fair, impartial and independent probe into the incident be initiated at the earliest to answer the above questions as also any other ones that arise from the contradictions of the case.
Shabnam Hashmi (Anhad)
Satya Sivaraman (Independent Journalist)
Manisha Sethi (Forum for Democratic Initiatives)
Tanweer Fazal (Forum for Democratic Initiatives)
Arshad Alam (Jamia Millia Islamia)
Neshat Quaiser (Jamia Millia Islamia)
Pallavi Deka (General Secretary, JNU Students' Union)