Saturday, November 1, 2008

(Batla house encounter case)


Delhi police, "annoyed by the campaign accusing them of staging a fake encounter", have made yet another attempt to 'prove' that the encounter at L-18 Batla House was genuine. A report titled “COPS PITCH IN WITH FRESH PROOF TO COUNTER SHOOTOUT CLAIMS" published in the Times of India (Page No. 7), New Delhi dated October 9, 2008 cites 'sources' in the department who have explained certain points in reply to various questions raised by us. And although it's not an official press release and no officer has been named which makes it very convenient for the authorities to completely disown it at a later stage, yet we consider it expedient to weigh and appreciate the points that have been put forth.
At the very outset reference has been made to the report of autopsy conducted on the bodies of Atif and Sajid and on that basis it is claimed that their bodies had no injuries on them apart from those caused by bullets. The argument seems to be that if the boys had been physically seized and then shot the bodies would have borne marks of scuffle." how can you capture two young men without causing injuries," a senior police official is quoted as saying. The argument holds no water at all. Seizure and capture does not always require physical contact and scuffle. Even a child can hold a much stronger adult at gunpoint and even kill them without any physical contact. In any case, since the autopsy report has not yet been made public, we refrain from further comment as there are several factors which have to be taken into account before arriving at a conclusion on that score. But what is totally inexplicable is the strange fact that while the walls outside the fourth floor flat and the landing itself bear no bullet marks, both the side walls of the ground floor parking of L-18 are riddled with them.

However, we shall examine in detail at the appropriate time what tale the scene of the crime has to tell.
The police have “shared with the Times of India the sequence of investigation that led them to L-18 on September 19, resulting in the death of their most decorated officer M.C. Sharma". This is simply ridiculous. Why was not this sequence of investigation shared with the entire media in the press conferences addressed by various officers including the Commissioner of Police? It is further asserted that joint investigations by Delhi and Gujarat police were conducted into the July 26 Ahmedabad blasts and five mobile numbers of prepaid connections were unearthed. " The numbers attracted the attention of the investigators because they went off-line immediately after the blasts". It is quite obvious that these numbers were not tapped, or the Delhi blasts would have been averted.
The report then mentions the arrest of Afzal Usmani and his 'revelations' on several points. But since Afzal Usmani's arrest came much later than the Batla House encounter, his revelations have no bearing on the nature of the incident in question.
As per the contents of the report, the police say that terrorists usually prefer pre-paid connections and so the investigators do not pay much attention to the post paid connections as the same are given out after obtaining the identity proof etc. of the applicant. But it is also claimed in the report by the same police 'source' that " Atif had switched from pre-paid to post-paid in July". It is also on record that Atif had used his correct identity to obtain the mobile connection. The facts simply don't add up!
Now comes the crucial part; the police account (albeit not official) of the proceedings on the fateful day. “On the day of the shootout, SI Dharmendra knocked at all the flats of the apartments but stopped at L-18 because the voices pointed to the presence of a group of people."
Let's take this statement apart: SI Dharmendra knocked at all the flats. With what result? And then he came to L-18. Now L-18 is the number given to the entire building on the fourth floor of which is located the flat where the encounter is alleged to have taken place. Anyway, Dharmendra heard voices indicating a group of people and concluded that the terrorists were holed up in that flat. This proves at least two things; one, the police had no specific information regarding the place and, two, they had no idea about the identities of the alleged terrorists. So SI Dharmendra did not knock at the door of that particular flat but called Inspector Sharma, presumably with the information that he had found the terrorists' hideout. Rest of the account is so ludicrous that it is to be carefully read to be believed, so we reproduce it verbatim. “As they entered the flat, Atif and Sajid, who were armed, fired at Sharma, hitting him in two places. Sharma fired back, hitting Atif in the abdomen. Taking advantage of the melee, two militants fled from the second door while one of them-Mohd. Saif-was apprehended".
Now consider the following points:
1. This account makes no mention of how Sajid was shot
2. The landing in front of the flat admeasures six by four feet and both the doors are at right angles to each other so that even a single person standing in front of the flat naturally covers both the doors . The alleged escape of the two boys through the second door was possible only if no one was left outside the flat after Inspector Sharma entered it which only means that the rest of the police party was waiting downstairs. And head constable Balwant Rana, a hefty six-footer, who is said to have been shot in his right arm does not find mention in this account at all. There is a lot more about the encounter, the killing of the two boys and the death of Inspector Sharma which we shall take up later when we graphically reconstruct the scene.
3. All commandos and police personnel associated with anti terrorist operations are trained to tackle such situations in a very specifically professional manner which also we shall describe in detail. Suffice it to say that a seasoned and highly trained officer like Inspector Sharma with more than 40 killings in encounters under his belt could never have walked into a flat full of alleged terrorists and got shot in the manner in which the police want us to believe he was shot.
4. Head constable Balwant Rana is said to have been shot along with Inspector Sharma but, for reasons best known to them, the police have not produced him before the media to give a firsthand account of the encounter.
5. Police have also claimed previously that Inspector Sharma and SI Dharmendra had gone for a recce and not to apprehend the terrorists. Not only does this previous statement come into conflict with the present report under discussion but it also establishes the fact that the police had specific information about the flat and its inmates. And yet they did not install a surveillance which could have resulted in the capture of all the militants and perhaps their accomplices as well. We shall also deal in great detail with the subjects of recce and surveillance in course of time.
It's all very well for the police to scoff at the doubts being expressed about the genuineness of the encounter, but the way bullet injuries on Sajid's head have been sought to be explained in the ToI report will invite nothing but boos and jeers even from a layman. As per the police source's explanation the picture that comes to mind is this: Sajid is lying on the floor with the back of his head toward the entrance and starts firing even as the police enter the flat. But he does not turn around and just extends his arm with the weapon backwards and fires blindly. At the same time he also raises his head a bit off the ground so one of a volley of bullets fired by the entering cop hits him at the nape of the neck. Talk of imagination!
There is no mention at all as to how Atif was shot in the head from point blank range and by whom.
Let the police now come up with an "official" version of the encounter if they have prepared it by now.
The investigative team of Rashtriya Sahara along with an expert in criminal and forensic matters visited L-18 on October 9, 2008. They were not allowed inside the flat on the fourth floor which was locked. However, they had the run of the entire apartment block and collected very precious evidence. We are making our best efforts to acquire all those things and shall publish a detailed report of the investigation as soon as it is compiled.

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