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Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Group: Some Questions for the Delhi Police and Embedded ‘Journalists’

October 13, 2008

In the past few days, our favourite newspapers have been scrambling to counter the growing doubts about the supposed “encounter” at L 18. (See Indian Express and Times of India).

Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Group responds to the latest claims by the police.

1) The police was caught by surprise. Or was it?

In its response to the questions being raised by the civil society, the police say, “the presence of armed terrorists took them by surprise.” “The police did not expect an encounter at L-18.” (Indian Express October 9)

However, Praveen Swami in his “Alice in wonderland” article in The Hindu (October 10) writes that “the investigators learned that top commander ‘Bashir’ and his assault armed squad left Ahmedabad on July 26 for a safe house at Jamia Nagar.” Further he says, “the investigators came to believe that Atif Amin either provided Bashir shelter or the two were one and the same person.”

Surely, there can be only one truth:

a)  The police knew that a “top commander” and his “armed assault team “was residing in L-18 (as claimed confidently by Swami). In which case, the Special Cell’s almost cavalier approach is inexplicable — unless we accept Swami’s contention that Inspector Sharma’s team did as well as it could “given their resources and training”.

While Swami and his ilk may rue the lack of “state of the art surveillance equipment” that can be found in United States or Europe, surely, even Third World police can use, upon knowledge that “dreaded terrorists” are holed up in a house, methods such as sealing the building, and making public announcements asking them to surrender.

b)  The Police went to L-18 merely for investigation and was ambushed. In which case, isn’t it surprising that it took them only a few hours to crack nearly all cases of bomb blasts that have occurred across the country? It was of course inconvenient for UP, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra state police, who had been claiming their own successes in uncovering their
‘masterminds’.

The Police commissioner Y.S. Dadwal announced at a news conference the same day that “Atif was the mastermind behind all the recent serial blasts,” and that he had plotted the Saturday blasts… was also involved in the Ahmedabad blasts on July 26, Jaipur blasts on May 13, and one of the August 25 blasts last year in Hyderabad. Sajid was described as bomb-maker.

“Explosives made by him and his team bore their signature — two detonators, wooden frame, ammonium nitrate and analog quartz clocks,” Dadwal said (HindustanTimes, 20 September). The question is that, the Police which did not even expect an ‘encounter’ in the morning, was able to say with confidence that the bombs used in Delhi blasts bore the ‘signature’ of the slain Sajid by evening.

The Police must pick one of these ‘truths’. It cannot claim both to be true simultaneously.

2) The puzzle of the Bullet Proof Jacket

Again, the Delhi Police has not made up its mind on this one. JCP, Karnail Singh and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Alok Kumar have reiterated that the Special Cell team members were not wearing BPVs. ["Entering a crowded locality would alert the suspects and give them time to escape" {Indian Express Oct 9); "To maintain secrecy in a cramped area like Batla House." (Tehelka Oct 4)].

However, now we are also told that some police men were wearing Bullet proof vests.

This new version has appeared following the outcry after the publication of pictures of Sajid’s body, which clearly show that he had been shot repeatedly in the head. Such bullet injuries suggest that he could have been killed from extreme close range while he was crouching or kneeling. This it self raises a huge question mark over the ‘encounter’. “Senior police sources” now claim that Sajid was “lying on the floor when he opened fire at a cop. The cop, unlike Inspector Sharma, was wearing a bulletproof vest. He retaliated by firing a burst from his AK-47, which hit Sajid on his head.” (Times of India, Oct 8).

Neat. It explains why and how Sajid was killed. And also, why the cop in question was not as much as injured when Sajid was supposedly firing at him. But it doesn’t square with the line the Delhi Police have been pushing up till now, that Inspector Sharma’s men did not deliberately wear bullet proof vests. Nor with the claim that the Special team was “armed only with small arms”. (The Hindu, October 10)

Nonetheless, the Delhi Police must clearly make up its mind if the cops that day were wearing Bullet proof vests or not?

3) Corroborative evidence?

Believe it or not, the evidence in support of their claim that the boys living in L-18 were terrorists, the police presents a bucket, adhesive tape and a bag! (Indian Express, Oct 9). The bucket was used to keep bombs (but was presumably empty at the time of’seizure’); the adhesive tape was used to seal the explosives (!!!); and finally the bag was used to carry the bombs (but again presumably empty when the police ‘recovered’ it).

Let it be noted that legal requirements were flouted with regard to seizures. The police is required to prepare a seizure list of all items recovered from the site and it should be attested by two public witnesses unconnected with the police. Given that a huge crowd had gathered at the site, surely, the police could have sought the assistance of members of the public. And why does L-18 continue to remain sealed?

4) Injuries and Bullets:

Photographs of the bodies of Atif and Sajid, taken during the ritual bathing before burial clearly indicate injury marks on the bodies. These marks could definitely not have been caused by bullets. The skin on Atif s back is ripped off. What caused these injury marks? Were they captured before they were eliminated? The Police is now citing the elusive post mortem report, saying that the two did not have any injuries on them apart from those caused by bullets, in order to buttress their claim of the “shootout being genuine”. (TOI, Oct 9). The documentary proof of the existence of such marks on the bodies however belies their claims.

Rattled by the photographs of an injured Inspector Sharma being escorted from the L-18 building, where no blood stain is visible on the front, the Police have stated that he was hit from the front as “one bullet hit him in the left shoulder and exited through the left arm; the other hit the right side of the abdomen, exiting through the hip.” (The Hindu, October 10) For this reason, they argue, the bleeding was from the back—the points of exit. However, according to a senior doctor who conducted the postmortem on Inspector MC Sharma at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, “It was difficult to establish the entry and exit points of the bullet because conclusive evidence had been wiped out by the interventions of the doctors at Holy Family [where Sharma was rushed to].” (Tehelka, October 4).

But at least one enthusiastic journalist doesn’t stop here. He tells us that the “abdomen wound was inflicted with Amin’s weapon and the shoulder hit, by Mohammad Sajid”. And how does he know? “The investigators believe that.” (The Hindu, October 10) And he believes the investigators. Has he seen a copy of the post mortem? Or the videography of the post mortem? What bullets were fired upon Inspector Sharma? What was the weapon that killed Sajid and Atif?

Why are the post mortem reports of Inspector Sharma and Atif and Sajid not being made public?

5  “Over confident terrorists”:

In response to why these supposed ‘terrorists’ left a trail of identification marks which would have made them sitting ducks, the police have a simple answer. They were over confident.

(Indian Express, October 9)

These boys (aged 17 years — 24 years) were so confident that they had their tenant verifications done in which they provided their genuine addresses; Atif had his driving license made by providing his genuine details; carried out blasts and returned home coolly to watch their exploits on television; felt no need to flee or change residences frequently; bought sim cards in their own names; registered as students in schools and institutions; sat for examinations midway through planning and executing blasts. And yet, these masterminds had no inkling of the special cell surveillance, and indeed helpfully stored material such as photographs of blast sites on their laptops and cell phones, so that their guilt could be proved promptly by the police whenever they were caught.
Mr. Praveen Swami writes that that “the allegations leveled over the encounter tell us more about the critics than the event itself.” Sure, we are skeptics, unwilling to lap up everything that comes forth from “police sources”, senior or otherwise; but what does taking dictations from the Special Cell tell us about you, Mr. ‘journalist’?

Our doubts remain. Our questions unanswered. Only a time bound, independent inquiry under the sitting judge of the Supreme Court can illumine the truth. What does the Delhi Police and the Government have to fear if the truth is on their side?

Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Group

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Subash permalink
    October 13, 2008 7:28 PM

    WOW. Now it is difficult to believe who is right. The civil society, concerned citizens, the embedded journalists, the police or the ….. There are so many opinions and theories that have been floating.

  2. Sunny permalink
    October 17, 2008 5:22 PM

    Sorry, it is difficult to beleive when you dont want to see the truth.

    The inconsistency in the police statements. the photographs of the victims, their clean record which the police claims to be their over confidence. All that atleast, atleast give us strong reasons to doubt the police version. On top of that the confident claims of the Jamia Teachers and locals that it was a fake encounters and their demand for a high level enquiry makes us believe that they are right.

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