Recalling the September 19, 2008, Batla House encounter, an officer who was part of the then Special Cell team said Ariz Khan alias Junaid managed to escape because of the “L-shaped formation of the third-floor flat”. At least five persons staying on rent at the flat were allegedly involved in the serial blasts that had rocked the capital six days earlier.
Initially, inspector Dharmendra Kumar, sub-inspector at the time, was sent posing as a Vodafone executive. After verifying that the suspects were there, Kumar alerted the team, led by then inspector Mohan Chand Sharma. As soon as Sharma and seven team members entered, firing started and the occupants tried to flee.
“A door on the other side was open, and Ariz and co-accused Shehzad managed to jump on the balcony of another house before heading downstairs. Two of our officers were on the ground floor, but they couldn’t identify them in the rush and thought they are residents,” an officer said.
Sharma, meanwhile, was hit by bullets on the chest and succumbed to the injuries. Two of the flat’s occupants were shot dead, while one was arrested. Police said that after fleeing, Ariz and Shehzad visited relatives and acquaintances in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra to allegedly seek shelter and financial aid, but in vain. After about a month, they separated, and Shehzad was nabbed by the UP Special Task Force (STF).
Ariz, meanwhile, came into contact with one Nizamuddin Khan alias Nizam Khan of Nepal. “Ariz went from Varanasi to Bihar before reaching Biratnagar in Nepal. With Khan’s help, he procured a citizenship card and passport under the name of Mohd Salim,” said an officer. He initially ran a restaurant and taught at different schools. “He also married a local resident, who changed her name to Sarah,” said the officer. Reacting to Ariz’s arrest, Sharma’s mother Devinder Devi (80) said, “It’s good he got caught, but I wish it had happened sooner… I have lost my son; it’s not like he will come back.”