Preliminary Statement of the fact-finding team that visited Jamia Nagar, the place of the alleged 'encounter' of the police
A team of teachers, students, civil rights activists and intellectuals visited the site of the alleged encounter of the police with the 'terrorists' as claimed by them, on the 24th September 2008. The team comprised of Prof. Siddique Hassan, Deputy Amir Jamat-e-Islami Hind, SAR Geelani, Reader, Zakir Hussain College, Delhi University, Dr. Waqar Anwar, Jamat-e-Islami Hind, Dr. SQR Ilyas, Editor, Afkar-e-Milli, Suvojit Bagchi, Journalist, Anil Chamaria, Journalist, Dr. Karen Gabriel, Reader, St. Stephens, DU, Rona Wilson, Secretary (Public Relations), Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners, Mahtab Alam, Association for Protection of Civil Rights, Banojyotsna Lahiri (JNU), Vanessa Chisti (JNU) and Sumati Panikkar (Independent Researcher)
The following is a synopsis of the preliminary findings of the team. This will soon be followed by an exhaustive report of the team after it puts together substantial background information, more findings and inputs. The forthcoming exhaustive report will be a substantively documented elaboration of the following statement of facts.
Of fear, terror and suspicion The team started its investigation at 11.30 AM on 24 September in Jamia Nagar area under Jamia Nagar police station. Even five days after the encounter the tension was palpable in Jamia Nagar & the adjacent areas. People appeared scared to talk to the fact-finding team. The stress & tension, generated after the encounter, was evident. People were nervous and requested us NOT to mention their names under any circumstances. In the University premises the team had to face hostile queries about whether they were from the media. The hostile media trial of the entire Muslim community that accompanied the bomb blasts was discernable right from the premises of the university to the area of the encounter where the team visited. This we felt was largely because of the witch hunt that ensued after the 'encounter' story that the police have circulated about the two students of House No. L-18, Batla House, Jamia Nagar: the arrest of scores of Muslim youth from the vicinity. In fact, the arrests had already started right after the day of the blasts on the 14th.
In this scenario, instilling a degree of confidence in the people there was an uphill task: they remain at the receiving end of state terror that is out to brand anyone who dares to speak in favour of those killed in the 'encounter' as 'accomplices' and 'masterminds' of the successive blasts in India. We recall that the police action was followed by a media trial which only parroted the 'official version' and created an atmosphere of fear and suspicion among the people. Whosoever the team had talked had the stamp of fear on their face.
The team was constantly mindful of the actual incarceration of the locals, their isolation and the intense terror they had developed of an authoritarian and prejudiced state. The local residents also appear to have a definite and palpable fear of anyone and everyone picked up and framed by the police, who have a story for every occasion.
Police Siege and the wages of state terror To start with, the Gali in which House No. L-18 is located has been barricaded with a huge posse of police who have laid siege to it and to the surrounding buildings. No one is allowed to enter the House No. L-18. The constables of Delhi police told us decisively, albeit politely, that they need to get permission from higher authorities to let us go close to the building. We are allowed to approach the building after about 15 minutes. However, we were not allowed to enter the building, L-18. Rather, a man who is a resident of the house was asked to come out and give his version of the events. As we spoke to that man a contingent of police officers, constables, plain clothes officers from special branch were surrounding us. We got this man's 'version' in the middle of all these. We also came to know, the key of the house (L-18) is with the police who have to go undergo thorough checking whenever they ventured out or returned. Even the people staying in the nearby buildings also had to go through the police scanner. It was as if they were under house arrest and not just intense vigilance. We were informed that several children in the households nearby were facing trauma-induced depression and had to receive medical care. We also came to know, the children had missed their all-important examination because of police questioning on 19th September. The children are fearful of any kind of sound or noise expecting that it might be gunshots. The psyche of these young children has been seriously scarred by the fear that anyone could become the target of vicious police action. We further learnt that two more families residing in L 18 have left the place after the encounter. On further investigation we came to know that one family which has one woman pregnant left the house, because the circumstances were simply too stressful. The heavy presence of the police, both in uniform and plainclothes, has only aggravated the situation. When we asked police personnel present in and around the area to explain why the police are still laying siege to the premises, they gave no satisfactory or plausible answer. It is also important to mention here that we were followed by special branch officers throughout the process of our investigation. In fact, a journalist, who was not the member of the fact-finding team and a member of the team, were both routinely questioned about the details of the other team members. Anyone, even from mainstream media visiting the area more than once, is called up and quizzed by the special branch. The flat where the so-called 'encounter' has taken place in still sealed. The alleged seizure of weapons, laptop, etc., from the flat was done without any proper witness to the whole exercise. None of the members of the flat or of the locality was witness to the high profile 'seizure', which the police celebrated in the media. The conduct of the police was and is still shrouded in secrecy and arbitrariness that have only generated high levels of anxiety and anger among the people there who are among the worst affected by it. No attempts have been made to either reassure or instil confidence in the people there; rather attempt to do so are discouraged, and the conduct of the police and other authorities only adds more misery to their lives.
"It is a Fake encounter", say the people Despite extensive conversations and heavy police presence throughout our visit, we could not find a single person in the entire locality who agreed with the police's story of the 'encounter'. There is complete unanimity in the opinion of the people about the one-sided nature of the firing and the time for which it continued. Further, there are some witnesses, (who requested anonymity) who vouched that these youth who had fallen to the bullets of the police were just ordinary youngsters who were known for taking their career and their studies seriously. These witnesses have said that initially there were gunshots for 15 minutes. Then it stopped for a while. After a while the police went on firing intermittently for quite sometime positioned on the terrace and the Gali to show that it was a real encounter. In between, the police went on shouting loudly to generate the impression a real exchange of fire and a real encounter. Later, the police declared that the encounter was successful. We were told that after the firing, the police destroyed the flowerpots of the L-18 flat and the adjacent flats and used the pieces of the broken pots to break the windowpanes of L-18 to make it look like a REAL encounter. No one told us about an exchange of fire. They all emphasized that it was 'only one kind of sound'. After one visits and sees the rear and the sides of the L-18 flat, it is impossible to believe the story that someone escaped, especially since there was only a single entrance, which the police were already covering. It was impossible for anyone to jump from the fourth floor flat, as it would have resulted in cripplingly broken limbs, near death or fatal injury. This demolishes the theory of police that two of the 'dreaded terrorists' have run away. More importantly, one of these alleged and 'dreaded terrorists', Zeeshan, is supposed to have surrendered to Headlines Today Channel, within hours of 'jumping and running away' from a fourth floor flat! The locals, very pertinently ask why he would do that. The police have no explanation. There are more deeply troubling facts. First, there are witnesses to three men being dragged down from the fourth floor to the ground floor. None of the body of the deceased was shown to anyone. All the bodies were covered by cloths and put in a vehicle which was taken inside the porch of the flat. The people of the locality are asking unanimously: Where have all the bullets gone? The police claims to have killed the 'terrorists' in the exchange of fire. In the case of the deceased Inspector Mr. MC Sharma there is hardly any trace of the bullets. Why aren't the police allowing media to go inside L 18 in order to film and talk to people although almost a week has passed? Do they have anything to hide? Normally this is permitted within a few hours! Why didn't the police try to arrest these 'masterminds' alive? This is a crucial question since this is randomly done in India & rest of the world. Arrests rather than killings would have aided the administration in the 'investigations' it is struggling to carry out. So why kill them?
Clear evidence of point-blank shots on the head of Sajid The photographs after autopsy of Sajid (17 year old) show clear marks of 7-8 gunshots on his head from above. These shots are clearly at point blank range. Point blank shots cannot happen in the case of an encounter, since in the case of an encounter, shots are fired from a distance and the wounds open up. Police Version of fake Tenant verification disproved Prominent citizens of the locality have already questioned the police story of fake tenant verification. They have said that none of the details provided including the driving license, address, rent agreement paper were forged. The claim of the office stamp of the authority as fake was also disproved by the citizens in a press meet as they showed their own copies of tenant verification which bore the same official stamp. The Locals also feel, even if by some chance forgery has been done by the owner and the caretaker of the house, NO INFORMATION GIVEN ABOUT ATIF IS FALSE. Factually, as we came to know from local people, not a single piece of information given whether it is about his last residence, parentage, driving license or permanent address proved to be wrong. Mystery shrouding the death of Inspector MC Sharma No one is ready to believe that Inspector Mr. M C Sharma was killed in an exchange of fire. There are several witnesses who have seen him being taken away by two men in plainclothes to a Santro car stationed near the Khalliullah Masjid with bleeding bullet shot wounds on his shoulder. It is intriguing to note why an officer of such importance for the Special Cell of the Delhi Police went for an operation without any protective gear and why he was walked all the way to the car. Moreover, we were informed that the Hospital, Holy Family, which treated Mr Sharma has been told by police not to talk to press or civil society. The question that is paramount in the minds of many local people is: why would the most dynamic of Special Cell Officers, Mr M C Sharma, go to an operation where he may nab the masterminds of deadly blasts without wearing Bullet Proof Jacket? This question becomes even more crucial when we note that the police team had already made sure that the 'terrorists' were hiding in that flat. They had sent an officer in the guise of mobile salesman, prior to sending the rest of the squad. Even after confirming the whereabouts of the 'masterminds' how could a senior and highly experienced officer go in for an encounter without any protection? Simmering tension Any discerning eye can make out the simmering tension pervading the entire area of Jamia Nagar and its vicinity. With every passing day, a new arrest is made and yet another story circulated by the police. Unfortunately, the media, with the exception of a few reports in a few dailies, has more or less demonized the Muslims as a community. More and more Muslim youths are being picked up with impunity. Even those who have gone and surrendered before the police or media have been framed under several charges. In these circumstances the people are one in saying that they are being pushed to a situation where they have total distrust of what is going on in the name of the 'war against terror'.
Our Demands: 1. Immediately withdraw the police siege of Jamia Nagar in general and the Gali where house No. L-18 is situated. 2. Stop harassing Muslim youth under the garb of 'combating terror'. 3. Initiate a high-level judicial enquiry of the entire episode. 4. Make public the autopsy report of the two youth in the 'encounter'. 5. Make public the autopsy report of Inspector MC Sharma. There should also be a judicial enquiry into the circumstances leading to his death. 6. Press & civil society should be allowed to talk to doctors/authorities of the Holy Family Hospital 7. The State has to provide for the medical counselling of the residents of Jamia Nagar, who have been affected by this encounter 8. Police should stop releasing selective photos from CCTV cameras to Press to build opinions against Muslims.
Anil Chamaria, Banojyotsna Lahiri Karen Gabriel Mahtab Alam Rona Wilson SAR Geelani Siddique Hassan SQR Ilyas Sumati Panikkar Suvojit Bagchi Vanessa Chisti Waqar Anwar
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