By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS
NEW DELHI: Notwithstanding all the claims made by Delhi police of having caught several terrorists and killed two in a dramatic shootout in the capital city (September 19), who allegedly masterminded the multiple blasts here (September 13), questions have begun surfacing whether this encounter was genuine or a fake one. During the encounter, called Operation Batla House, the police team reached a four-storied house (L-18) near a mosque in Batla House in Jamia Nagar, where the alleged terrorists were suspected to be hiding. The policeâ€™s attempt to storm the house at around 10 30 AM (IST) led to an heavy exchange of fire, in which two terrorists were killed and two Delhi police personnel injured, one of whom- Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma â€“ later succumbed to his injuries, according to the police.
â€œThere were a total of five terrorists at L-18. Two have been shot dead and one has been arrested while two managed to escape,â€ Special Cell Joint Commissioner Karnail Singh said. Denying the initial reports that police had targeted the house on the basis of information provided by a prime suspect in Ahmedabad serial blasts, Delhi Police Commissioner Y.S. Dadhwal said: â€œIt was an independent operation by the Special Cell of Delhi Police and it has nothing to with Ahmedabad blast suspect Abdul Bashir.â€
The alleged terroristsâ€™ killed were identified as Atif alias Bashir and Fakruddin, alias Sajed, both from Azamgarh (Uttar Pradesh). The one arrested is Saif Ahmad.
The Delhi Police announced on Sunday (September 21), one of the two killed â€“ Atif had planned 20 bombings in the capitalâ€™s Nehru Place in future. This information was provided by three alleged terrorists arrested in wee hours of Sunday morning from the same locality (Jamia Nagar), where the encounter had taken place on Friday. The three- Zia-ur-Rehman, Mohammad Shakeel and Sakeeb Nasir, according to Dadhwal had confessed to their involvement in Delhiâ€™s serial blasts and in those of Ahmedabad (July 26). The three belonged to Azamgarh, Dadhwal said.
The Delhi Police also claimed to have uncovered the conspiracy behind the attacks in Delhi, Jaipur (May 13) and Ahmedabad, which they said were carried out by Indian Mujahideen and Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), with support from Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Joint Commissioner Singh said: â€œLeT was backing these groups. It is a vital link between these two organizations.â€
Abdul Rehman, the caretaker of the house, where the encounter had taken place was also arrested for having allegedly forging tenant verification documents and falsely claiming that those had been submitted to the police. The police claimed that of the 13 people suspected to be involved in Delhi blasts, while five had been arrested, two were killed in the Friday encounter, hunt was on for the other six still at large.
With the Indian police known for its â€œrecordâ€ of being involved in fake encounters, several questions are being raised on the claims it has made regarding Operation Batla House. As the police had cordoned off the house from all sides- which has only one entry- a staircase – and the entire block, from where did the two suspect terrorists escape? Since the police seemed well aware of the alleged terrorists staying in the house and the encounter had been planned (apparently meticulously), why was Inspector Sharma not wearing bulletproof vest? There is also the probability of his being killed accidentally by bullets fired by his own colleagues. On this rests demand for the forensic report of the bullets that killed Sharma being made public.
The accounts given by residents of the area are hardly suggestive of the police being sure of their countering actual terrorists. The residents of the area claimed that policemen had started making rounds of the area since morning. He said: â€œThe police held some people and started inquiring whether these were the same as suspected people.â€ Some residents were also not sure whether there was any crossfire. A resident, Salim Mohammed said: â€œThey had earlier come into the area a day before Eid and conducted a similar operation. There must be a thorough probe and it should be clearly established if those killed were really terrorists.â€ Another resident said that the police could have deliberately planted bodies in the apartment to justify an encounter they called â€œfake.â€
Shadab Ahmad, father of Saif, the suspect who was arrested, said: â€œIf my son is guilty, hang him. However, I know he is innocent. He is my son and has lived with me all his life. I would have known if something was amiss. How can anyone just term my son a terrorist?â€ If Saif is proved to be innocent, he still has a life ahead. But what about the two who have been killed in the so-called encounter?
Even if a person is suspected to be a terrorist, constitutionally he has the right to defend himself as innocent till he is proved to be guilty judicially. Just as services of police officers need to be appreciated and rewarded when they provide security to citizens, some consideration should be given to taking action against them when they abuse this right. The encounter took place in a congested Muslim colony on a Friday in the month of Ramadan. If the encounter was a fake one and deliberately planned to enhance the reputation of intelligence and police services, which has suffered in the wake of Delhi blasts, than action must be taken against all those responsible for killing two suspects, without giving them a chance to prove their innocence and defaming the reputation of all those associated with them.