The scene of the “encounter” in Telangana, where five SIMI activists were shot dead on Tuesday morning, stands out from that of most others.
The site is a brand new Eicher minibus, the plastic covers on some seats intact but the windowpanes including the rear one shattered.
Bloodstains are all over. A lifeless, bearded man lies with a rifle in his hands and handcuffs dangling from his right wrist. Around him lie four other bodies in various positions on their seats.
And, unlike most encounters that happen in remote areas late in the night or early in the morning, this one was on the side of a busy highway at 10 am.
As traffic jammed Hyderabad-Warangal NH 202, the encounter scene travelled from Pemburti, where it had taken place, to Jangaon Government Hospital for a postmortem. There, police waited two hours for a decision on which district had the jurisdiction for that spot at Pemburti on the border of Warangal and Nalgonda, and for a team of doctors to arrive. The postmortem did take place at this hospital.
Hundreds of onlookers gathered at the hospital.
Some 70 km from Pemburti, another encounter had happened on Saturday morning when SIMI members Mohd Eaijazuddin and Mohd Aslam had killed a constable and critically injured a sub-inspector. Two days earlier at Suryapet bus station, they had killed a constable and a home guard.
Warangal police were escorting the five on Tuesday before they were killed. The whereabouts of only one relative, Vikaruddin Ahmed’s father, is known to police; he chose not to claim the body.
Vikaruddin, a former SIMI activist, is accused of having shot and killed two cops in Hyderabad earlier. According to reserve sub-inspector Uday Bhaskar who was in charge of the 17-man police team on the bus, Vikaruddin was in a foul mood and started spitting at him and abusing other policemen as soon as he boarded the bus.
According to the SI, the four others too were aggressive, spitting and glaring at the cops. When the firing started, a few vehicles reportedly slowed down on the highway after hearing the noise but then drove away. Later, the cops got out, their wireless sets crackled and phone calls were made.