Questions are being raised over the killing of eight SIMI activists in an encounter by security forces on the outskirts of Bhopal hours after they escaped from the high-security Central Jail killing a security guard. As the government congratulated security forces for their successful operation and ordered NIA probe into the jailbreak, videos purportedly from the encounter site surfaced showing a policeman pumping bullets into a man from close range after some unidentified person takes out what appears to be a knife said to be in a plastic cover and places it back, raising doubts over the police theory which described the encounter as a raging gun battle, with the SIMI members instigating the gunfire.
Alleging “discrepancies” in the official version on the escape of SIMI activists from Bhopal jail and their killing in a subsequent encounter with police, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi demanded an inquiry by Supreme Court to bring out “all facts”.
“There is huge discrepancy in what the Home Minister and the police officials are saying. The Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh says that these undertrials were armed with spoons. If they were armed with spoons, the Madhya Pradesh ATS could have easily overpowered them, because ATS has all sophistacated weapons. They could have easily arrested them. But, people who have run away from prison after assassinating a guard and they only have spoons. So, to any normal person, this theory is unbelievable,” he said adding, “what’s surprising is that these under trial prisoners were wearing proper clothes, shoes,watches. These are not given to under trial.”
Holding that the statements of the IG and the Home Minister were contradictory, opposition Congress demanded a judicial probe into the encounter. Senior Congress leader Kamal Nath said, “SIMI activists have escaped from the jail which is a high security prison, and within few hours they have not only been traced but killed. Now they can’t be questioned, there is no evidence, their statements cannot be recorded. I am demanding a judicial probe because even the government must know under what circumstances they escaped.”
Congress leader Digvijay Singh, a former chief minister of MP, smelt conspiracy and, in a series of tweets, asked whether the SIMI activist ”escaped” or they were ”made to escape”.
Reacting to Singh’s statement, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy the former has lost his ‘mental balance’ after second marriage and hence it would be pointless to aggravate the issue by commenting on his ridiculous remark. “Digvijaya has made so many statements, which are wrong and ridiculous. He had also said something about Hemant Karkare (IPS officer) being killed by the RSS. After the second marriage, he seems to have lost his mental balance and, therefore, there is no point in further aggravating his mental tension by commenting on his remarks,” Swamy said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also demanded a Supreme Court-monitored investigation into the alleged encounter killing of eight SIMI activists in Bhopal. “This is very serious. We demand an SC monitored investigation,” he said on twitter.
How the encounter happened
The activists of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India had managed to escape around 2-3 AM after killing a jail security guard and scaling the prison wall with the help of bed sheets, according to police. Acting on the leads provided by locals, the cops tracked them down to Malikheda, where they were encircled and killed when they tried to challenge the police.
The activists were identified as — Amzad, Zakir Hussain Sadiq, Mohammad Salik, Mujeeb Shaikh, Mehbood Guddu, Mohammad Kalid Ahmed, Aqeel and Majid. Soon after the incident, the state government released their sketches and suspended four officials including Jail Superintendent Akhilesh Tomar. It had also announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh each on the heads of the activists.
This is the second major jail-break by operatives of SIMI in three years after the sensational escape by seven members of the group from a jail in Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh in 2013.
The Union Home Ministry has sought a detailed report from the state government on the jail-break and whether there was any lapse on the part of the jail administration and the steps taken to check such incidents. The central security agencies were particularly anxious as four of the seven SIMI activities, who escaped from a jail in Khandwa on October 1, 2013, could be arrested only after three years and during the period of their hiding, they were involved in multiple incidents of terror and a bank robbery.
While in hiding, the SIMI men were allegedly involved in terror activities in several states including Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. SIMI was banned by the government in 2001.