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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 11, March 6, 2010

Academic-Activists Veto Police Theory

Saturday 6 March 2010, by Humra Quraishi

Though this time of the year there ought to be much love in the air and about, but there’s pain. The recent killings of two teenaged boys by the security forces on the streets of Srinagar has brought about a further dent. Outrage-cum- hopelessness, which comes about when there is havoc taking place night in front of your eyes and yet you can do just about nothing to cry a crying halt!

And even elsewhere things don’t seem brightening up. Whether those big games getting played in Mumbai or small players getting arrested with seemingly trumped-up charges thrown about on them. Don’t know what Congress leader Digvijay Singh unearthed in Azamgarh whilst on that whirlwind trip to that little township of Uttar Pradesh which is getting increasingly targeted for harnessing ‘terrorists’ but here, in New Delhi, a group of academics and activists have got together to counter the police theory vis-a-vis the young man—Shahzad Ahmad—nabbed last week from Azamgarh on charges of being the mastermind for the Batla House encounter. It isn’t a report based on some emotional outburst but these activist– academics —Manisha Sethi, Adil Mehdi, Ahmed Sohaib, Ghazi Shahnawaz, Tanweer Fazal, Arshad Alam, Sanghamitra Misra, Amabarien Al Qadar, Haris-ul-Haq, Azra Razak, Farah Farooqi, Anwar Alam—have picked up each pertinent clause and then countered the police theory.

This is the report sent by academic-activist Manisha Sethi. But before that this one-liner—this report is what an investigative report ought to be, complete with stark facts and more facts to veto the police theories in circulation.

“Shahzad’s Arrest and Goebbels’ Lies”

Goebbels, the Nazi propagandist, believed that a lie repeated several times over would soon acquire the legitimacy of truth.The Delhi Police has surpassed Goebbels’ strategy. By deluging the press and the public with one lie after another it hopes that the truth will never be extricated.

Who killed Inspector Sharma?

Shahzad Ahmed (not ‘urf Pappu’ as he has never borne that name), the most recent prize catch of the Delhi Police, is being charged with the murder of Inspector Sharma. Till now, we had been told that it were the two slain boys, Atif Ameen and Mohammad Sajid, whose fire had killed Inspector Sharma. Indeed, the NHRC report attempts to establish this at great length. According to “sources” quoted in the press, Shahzad fired from a.32 revolver. (Zee News, February 7, TOI February 7) Now according to the NHRC report, the cartridge cases recovered from the site of the ‘encounter’ matched the.30 pistols, W2 and W3, which the police claimed were found in flat 108, L-18, Batla House. Two mutilated bullets recovered from the bullet-proof jacket of a policeman, according to the NHRC, were fired from W3. It may be repeated here again that no seizure list was prepared in the presence of any independent witness, as is procedurally required, so the claim that W2 and W3 and the corresponding bullets and cartridge belonged to Atif and Sajid is just that—a claim. No unaccounted for bullets and cartridge cases have been mentioned by either the police or the NHRC.

So what happened to the cartridge cases of the.32 pistol used by Shahzad? Did the bullets and cartridge cases disappear in thin air, just as Shahzad and Junaid supposedly did? The Great Escape?

According to the police version, reproduced faithfully in the press, Shahzad and Junaid escaped from the building L-18 while the encounter was on. It has been repeatedly pointed out by civil rights activists that the building only has one exit point through the staircase which is covered by a heavy iron grill. In the stories that have appeared in the press and also repeated by the NHRC report, this is sought to be explained by the presence of two separate doors to the flat 108.

However, had the NHRC or reporters bothered to inspect the site, it would have been clear that these two gates are adjacent to each other. A police party standing at the landing of the 4th floor facing flat 108 would face both the doors simultaneously as both doors actually open in the same landing. In the bizarre reconstruction of events according to the police, first, Shahzad and Junaid supposedly opened the second door to the landing, where the police party was, and then ran down the stairs screaming that they were residents. (TOI report, February 5) Now, according to the statement of Karnail Singh, Joint Commissioner of Police, Special Cell, Delhi, there was a “back-up team, headed by ACP Sanjeev Kumar Yadav …which immediately rushed to the flat in order to rescue the team members and apprehend the militants holed inside the flat”. (NHRC report)

Now suppose, there were two militants who had fired upon the police and were running down the stairs, surely, they must still have wielded the pistols (.32??), and regardless of their protestations that they were residents, ACP Yadav’s team, which by the police’s own admission rushed upstairs immediately, should have apprehended them, or at least attempted to overpower them. And surely, the crowd of people, which the police claimed had collected around the building, hearing the firing, would have sighted two young men, pistols in hand running down the stairs. But all we have is police claims and custodial confessions of Shahzad (which, remember, are not admissible in court) that he and Junaid fired and fled the spot miraculously.

But wait, it gets more twisted. According to a news report, “Shahzad and Junaid, after making good their escape, walked to the bus stop and took a bus to Badarpur. In the evening, Shahzad and Junaid boarded a train to Mumbai without realising where it was headed…” (Indian Express, February 4) Imagine, a fleeing terrorist waiting at the bus stop for the right route number bus to arrive! In other stories, the duo travelled to Aligarh (some say by train, others insist they took a bus) but there is no consensus on their travel itinerary. According to TOI on February 5 from Aligarh, the two went to Lucknow and thence to Azamgarh, where Junaid parted ways with Shahzad. In another report in the same paper, this was the route: Aligarh, Bulandshehar, Lucknow, Khalispur, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Mumbai (where the two separated). (TOI, February 7)

So did they take a train out to Mumbai or a bus (or again train) to Aligarh? At the very least, the Delhi Police must try and be consistent in its leaks to the press.

The Pilot Theory Crash-lands

As early as January 6, there started to appear reports in the television media (Headlines Today/ Aajtak) that a 9/11 type of attack had been planned by the IM to be conducted by Shahzad Ahmad who had ostensibly received a flying license at an institute in Bangalore. This was attributed to information contained in a confidential communiqué of the Intelligence agencies… Following Shahzad’s arrest, there was frenzied reporting about his commercial pilot license. But now it turns out that he had never enrolled in a flying institute. One may not choose to believe Shahzad’s mother when she denies he never received any flying training, but the Uttar Pradesh Additional DG (Law and Order), Brij Lal, also refuted the allegation that Shahzad was a pilot. (Mail Today, February 6) All reports of the aerial module of IM and Shahzad’s key position in this supposed module are based of course on unnamed sources in the police. (End of the report sent by activist-academic Manisha Sethi.)

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