A RETIRED policeman patrolling the area around Suleman Usman bakery on the day nine men were allegedly killed in police firing during the 1993 riots, told the sessions court on Wednesday that he could not identify any of the policemen who had entered the bakery, as they were wearing helmets.
Then a constable with the Mumbai Police, the witness said that he was standing at a distance from the spot where the policemen entered the bakery and hence could not see them.
Seven policemen are facing charges, including murder, for allegedly opening fire at a building housing the bakery, the Dar-ul-uloom Imdadiya madrasa and a mosque on January 9, 1993. The accused have claimed in their defence that there were armed persons in the building and they had opened fire in retaliation.
While initially an FIR was filed against those present in the building, the policemen were booked for murder in 2001, after witnesses, including workers at the bakery, students and madrasa teachers, filed affidavits before the Justice B N Srikrishna Commission that probed the causes behind the riots.
The witness told the court on Wednesday that on the day of the incident, he had reached Mohammed Ali Road, where the bakery was situated, around 10.30 am. He said when he reached the spot along with others, including then inspector A Ingle, an officer posted near the bakery reported that some people were firing at them from the bakery. He claimed that Ingle went on to climb on the terrace of a nearby building to inspect the situation and returned after 25 minutes. While waiting, he did not hear any firing from the bakery, the witness said.
The former officer said that around 12.30 pm, then joint commissioner of police R D Tyagi arrived. Tyagi, who was named as an accused in the case, was subsequently discharged.
According to the witness, the staff of Tyagi’s SOS squad, Ingle and others went towards the bakery. He then heard the sound of firing for some time, following which, a vehicle from Dongri police station arrived and took the injured to JJ hospital. The witness also claimed that no policemen were injured during the incident, which the accused’s lawyers said was not part of his initial statement given to the investigators.
When asked by prosecutor Ratnavali Patil if he identified anyone from the SOS squad, the witness said, “I do not know members of Tyagi’s staff as they had put on helmets and their special squad uniform. I also could not see them as I was standing at a distance of about 100-200 feet.” The lawyer of the accused policemen, Shrikant Shivade, confronted the witness with the statement he had given to the police in 1993, which also allegedly contradicted a statement given by him in 2001.
The witness, however, claimed that he did not give any statement in 1993. He also denied the part of the statement where it was claimed that he had fired five rounds from his service rifle. When confronted with an entry registry, where five rounds were shown to be used by him on the day of the incident, the witness claimed that the information was entered wrongly.
Shivade suggested to the witness that he had deposed falsely and given a false statement in 2001, as he was threatened to be made an accused in the case. The witness denied this.
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