TWO videoclips, purportedly of the Bhopal encounter, have raised questions about the official version of events — and prompted a lawyer of seven of the eight SIMI inmates who were killed to call for a CBI probe.
The setting visible in the videos, at least one made by a police official involved in the operation, is the site of the shootout and surfaced within hours of the encounter which the police said took place between 10.30 am and 11.30 am on Monday.
In one video, police involved in the operation are looking for weapons on the bodies when someone, off camera, asks a plain-clothed man and others to back off. But the man goes ahead and takes out what looks like a brand new knife concealed in the waistband of one of the dead.
The camera pans across other bodies lying behind and a uniformed policeman fires at one suspect. Amid expletives, someone eggs him on to fire more rounds. “Arre iska koi video banata hai kya?’’ a policeman chides him (Does someone videotape something like this?) The man being shot shows signs of movement.
When The Indian Express visited the site, the bodies were kept together unlike in the video which shows them scattered.
Another video shows the policemen negotiating with the inmates, five of whom are standing on a huge rock. It’s unclear from the video, shot at a distance, if the men are carrying arms but their hands appear raised.
“Control, yeh paanch admi baat kar rahe hain, teen pichhe ki aur bhagneki…hai…charo taraf se gher lo. (control, the five men want to talk to us, but three others are tying to escape, surround them from all sides),” says a voice.
When questioned about the videos, Home Minister Bhupendra Singh and Bhopal (IG) Yogesh Chaudhary said that these would be included in the probe.
Earlier in the day, the Home Minister had tried to explain discrepancies in the accounts of senior police officials — one said the inmates had fired, another said they did not have arms — saying they were not present at the spot and their versions were based on what they had heard.
Later, asked about the videos, the minister said: “They were dreaded terrorists and could have caused havoc if they had not been eliminated because they faced serious charges like killing of ATS constables.’’
Chaudhary said the police fired 46 rounds. He said that three police officials had sustained injuries in the encounter.
Calling the encounter a “cold-blooded murder,” advocate Parvez Alam, who represents seven of the eight inmates, told The Indian Express: “There are lots of contradictions. Anybody who will pay a little attention to the videos and the official statements will have serious doubts about the police story. We are approaching the High Court with a plea to order a CBI investigation into this entire episode. There must be a fair investigation to ascertain the truth of both the alleged jailbreak and subsequent police encounter in which all of them were killed”.
“If they have escaped at 2:30 am from jail, as police is claiming, how is it possible they would cross just 12 km until 11:30 am when they were killed? How is it possible that they will all stay together after such an escape,’’ he asked. “Look at the clothes and shoes they are wearing. These are not issued to prisoners in jail. And if someone from outside has made clothes and shoes available to them once they escaped, why wouldn’t they get a vehicle too? Were they waiting for the police to come and kill them in an encounter after they escaped?”.
Another Bhopal-based lawyer Zeenat Anwar, who represented two undertrials Mujeeb Sheikh and Sheikh Mehboob, said: “I haven’t been contacted by their families as yet. I did get a call from the family of another undertrial Zakir Hussain from Ahmedabad. They wanted to know whether what they heard was true. Once I confirmed to them that their son is no more, they said they will come tomorrow,’’ she said. She said she was waiting for the families to arrive “because they alone can take a call on whether we should take any legal action”.-With ENS, New Delhi