By Najeeb Jung
Sep 26, 2012
SEPTEMBER 19th was the fourth anniversary of the Batla House encounter.
Residents of the localities in Jamia Nagar and Okhla and students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University and the Jamia Millia Islamia took out processions reiterating the demand for a judicial enquiry.
On 18 September, a group of teachers from the Jamia Millia Islamia and the Delhi University released a report entitled “ Framed, Damned, Acquitted, Dossiers of a ‘ Very’ Special Cell” that listed 16 cases involving 36 Muslim youths who were detained on charges of terror and later released by courts because of lack of evidence.
Their periods of incarceration varied from 4 years to 14 years. The report was released by the Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association that has worked tirelessly for the past four years highlighting various instances of injustice and fighting for a judicial enquiry into the Batla House ‘encounter’. The Delhi Police have refuted parts of this report highlighting that some of the cases mentioned in the report did end in convictions and one case was still pending trial.
A quick recap of the alleged encounter is necessary. There was a shootout involving suspected Indian Mujahideen terrorists in the Batla House locality in Jamia Nagar, Delhi, in which two suspected terrorists, Atif Amin and Mohammad Sajid, were killed. Three other suspects, Mohammad Saif, Zia- ur- Rehman and Zeeshan, were arrested from the spot and numerous others taken into custody from various locations in India. Delhi Police inspector and acknowledged ‘ encounter’ specialist Mohan Chand Sharma who led the police action was also killed in the incident.
There was outrage in the area as residents believed that this was a contrived ‘encounter’, and that those killed and detained were innocent men falling prey to a beleaguered police that was under pressure to perform following incidents of bomb blasts earlier in Delhi. The overwhelming demand for a judicial enquiry was denied. However, over the past 4 years, this incident is a festering sore in the minds of a large number of Muslims not just in Delhi but also in other parts of India.
Today many people are concerned at the large number of arrests of Muslim youth by police agencies across India. Young men are picked up on charges of suspected terror links and incarcerated for long periods. In a large number of cases they are released after months, if not years in jail. After the Mecca Masjid blasts in Hyderabad, 26 young men were picked up and released after 3 years when nothing could be proved.
The Malegaon case was a bigger disaster when youths were imprisoned for 5 years, only to be let off by the courts. It cannot be denied that it is difficult to prove many cases in court and therefore the claim of the Delhi Police is to be respected that despite strong suspicion and basic evidence, prisoners are let off because in the final analysis, in the court’s view, the evidence is not hard enough. On the other hand, it is tragic to imprison innocent young men.
Coming back to the ‘Batla House encounter’, it is interesting to note that the police registered cases against all the three arrested in different states.
When appeals were made to consolidate the cases at one place so that the trial could be expedited, it was claimed that every state has different procedures and it was impossible to consolidate all these cases in one place. By implication this means that the three young men would live the rest of their life in prison. They would never have the resources to run from state to state to fight these cases.
The question is that should the country not know the true and full story? Who were these terrorists? What is their background? Who are their handlers? Who provided them local shelter and such sophisticated weapons? How did they hide all this in a crowded locality living cheek by jowl with neighbours? By inference, are their neighbours also involved? Or is their death or incarceration based on flawed information and evidence? What legal or constitutional sanction do ‘encounter’ specialists have? I truly believe that the memory of the decorated Police Inspector Sharma needs to be respected and he should not be remembered for a false encounter.
A judicial enquiry would convey to a large number of people that the government respects their sentiments. It would provide balm to a community and succour to the Okhla locality that still reels under the stigma of this encounter. Fast- food chains refuse to deliver food and taxis often refuse a booking. Banks decline loans and there is a general apathy in the civic authorities which at times leads to residents taking the law into their own hands. There have been incidents in the recent past where residents have not allowed the police to investigate against suspected criminals.
The reason that a judicial enquiry would demoralise the police is not good enough.
There are enough known cases of false or contrived encounters where the police have been found complicit. Police officers are in jail for the Sohrabuddin and the Tulsi Prajapati encounters, and had the courts not insisted on a clean investigation, these too would be listed as genuine encounters. Batla House is becoming a symbol of the alleged harsh treatment meted out to Muslim youth.
It is therefore important that the truth is out.
Najeeb Jung is Vice- Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia
Source: Mail Today