An independent fact finding team Tuesday released its report on last month’s Bhopal encounter, where eight alleged SIMI activists were killed. The report raised several questions on the official version of the events that led to the encounter, suggesting that a jailbreak was “next to impossible” at Bhopal Central Prison and, also, highlighted several “inconsistencies” in eyewitness accounts. Speaking at an event in Delhi to mark its release, Vipul Kumar of Quill Foundation, and Ansar Indori of NCHRO, who were both part of the team, touched up on the main issues raised in the report.
After being denied permission to visit the jail premises, the team got in touch with an under-trial prisoner who was out on bail, a week before the jailbreak. The team claimed that it was “impossible to escape without anyone taking notice”, based on the inputs given by the under-trial. The team also visited the site of the encounter to inspect the markings of the dead bodies. The marking suggested that the activists were standing very close to each other and “seems inconsistent with the official version”. They concluded that there could be only three possibilities:
“(1) Either they were collectively offering to surrender, or (2) they were collectively challenging to fire (prepared to die) or (3) they were not actually encountered there but were brought there after being encountered somewhere else. ”
The fact finding team also interviewed eyewitnesses to the incident and claimed to find a number of inconsistencies in regard to the timing of the encounter and weapons used. They also met the family of the jail official killed by the alleged activists during their escape from jail. The family was apparently afraid to question the official version as they were allegedly being “threatened”.
The fact finding team consisted of Ashok Kumari (Research scholar at Delhi University), Ansar Indori (NCHRO), Hisham (Solidarity Youth Movement, Kerela), M H Banna (Senior Journalist, Madhyamam Daily), Salman (Criminal-justice fellow, TISS), Swati Gupta (Bastar Solidarity Network), Surya Ghildyal (Research Associate, Quill Foundation) Timisha Dadhich (MA Criminology and Justice, TISS) and Vipul Kumar, Researcher, Quill Foundation.