There Is A Problem In How The Bhopal Encounter Of SIMI Men Is Being Discussed By A Section

9:18 pm 1 Nov, 2016


Monday was a very busy day for Madhya Pradesh police. Eight SIMI men escaped the high security prison in Bhopal before dawn and a massive hunt for them had been launched.

Before Monday afternoon, all eight men had been killed in an encounter on a hillock around 12-15 kilometers from the jail. And with that began the story.

The SIMI men were dangerous – there is no doubt about it. They were accused in everything from bomb making to bomb blasts and from bank robberies to killing of policemen. Being members of the banned terror organisation, their links with the Indian Mujahideen was not out of the question.

 

Police atop the hillock where they killed the eight men. PTI

Police atop the hillock where they killed the eight men.
PTI

But a series of videos doing the rounds of social media has sparked a raging debate and raised genuine questions on the encounter itself.

The videos show some trigger-happy cops shooting an injured SIMI man on the top of the hillock overlooking a vast expanse of grassland.

In the video, some cops are heard urging their fellow cops not to shoot while some others are doing just the opposite. And when a shot is taken, one of the cops utters an expletive at the dead SIMI men.

Now there are two sides to every coin. The same applies to this case too.

 

The bodies of the eight SIMI men after they were shot by the police. Reuters

The bodies of the eight SIMI men after they were shot by the police. Reuters

A slew of questions have been raised on the encounter from various quarters, including prominent names such as Justice Markandey Katju. Some of the questions do make sense while some do not.

For instance, the police claims that the men opened fire at the cops. If that is so then where are the weapons? The only weapon seen in one of the videos is the sharp-edged tool that was used to kill 58-year-old Head Constable Ramashankar Yadav.

Another question is, why did a cop in the video shoot at an injured escapee when the man could have been apprehended?

There are other questions too ranging from why the SIMI men did not spread out in separate directions to how they obtained the watches on their hands, shoes on their feet and fresh set of clothes. But these questions cannot be answered without a probe into the jailbreak, which the state government has ordered.

The Opposition have called for independent probe into the incident but the police maintains that the men were the first to fire.

 


The former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Digvijay Singh was one of the first to raise fingers at both the jailbreak and the encounter.

 


The Madhya Pradesh government defended itself. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan told reporters that the men were a threat to national security.

“I am pained to see the kind of politics being played out. Some politicians are turning a blind eye to the sacrifices of the martyrs,” he said.

He was supported by Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju. On Tuesday, Rijiju said that conclusions should not be drawn on the basis of some video clips and papers.

“The fact will come out soon. I am not dismissing anything but merely on the basis of a clip or some kind of papers, you cannot raise alarm bell like that. Things will come out as we are not here to sit and pass judgement on the basis of some report,” he added.

He also deplored the manner in which some were casting doubts on the encounter and questioning the police.

“This is not a good culture. But what we have been observing in India that the people have developed this habit of raising unnecessary doubts and questions,” said Rijiju.

 

A cop affixes a poster with the faces of the SIMI men on a wall. PTI

A cop affixes a poster with the faces of the SIMI men on a wall.
PTI

Of course, Rijiju is right at this point.

Raising questions on an encounter is a right under our democracy. But one should also note that three of them were involved in a jailbreak at Khandwa three years ago. That some of those who escaped were involved in activities as dangerous as terrorism is in itself alarming. Some media houses are using the words “extra-judicial” for the encounter while labelling the SIMI men as “terrorists” in the same breath. Playing politics over dreaded men will only hurt national security.

Most importantly, they did not just escape. In the process they killed a cop, who was just two years away from a retired happy life, in cold blood using a sharp weapon. Sadly, hardly is anyone talking about that cop’s family.

The MP government has handed over the investigation into the jailbreak to the NIA. How those men escaped the prison and how they reached the encounter spot is perhaps very important to know so as to plug loopholes and punish those whose callousness led to their escape.

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