Killing Of Unarmed Undertrials Is Nothing But Cold Blooded Murder

Let me at the very outset begin by voicing my seething anger and uttermost dismay at the ruthless manner in which eight Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) members were killed by police in Eintkhedi village on the outskirts of  Bhopal hours after they escaped from the central jail after surrounding them from all sides. They were certainly not terrorists as their cases were yet to be decided and they were just undertrials. Even if terrorists escape and they are unarmed, it is the bounden duty of police to capture them alive and they have no right to spray bullets on them on the plea that they are terrorists!
Killing Of Unarmed Undertrials Is Nothing But Cold Blooded Murder

                                                       How can police be so insensitive? Why police failed to realize that their staying alive was precious even if they were terrorists in order to obtain valuable information on the future strikes being planned by SIMI? Why police did not try to capture even one undertrial prisoner out of the 8 alive whereas it should have tried to capture all of them alive?
                                               What  was there for police to hide? Why didn’t police fire at leg? Why didn’t police try to capture even one of the undertrial alive? When these undertrials had no weapon what was the need for police to shoot all of them? What does all this show?
                                                           Police role in this entire murky affair comes under a heavy cloud as several news channels were showing audio clips suggesting that the police were being instructed to “finish them all”, and videos that show police personnel shooting at bodies on the ground. It is hard to believe police version as it is full of inconsistencies and loopholes! A lot more was said even though the voice was being disturbed by which one could draw the clear inference that policemen were being instructed to kill and they were feeling very happy to kill them.
                                             There can be no gainsaying the fact that police has to abide by rules and regulations even while apprehending terrorists and they cannot be shot dead inspite of being unarmed as most unfortunately we see here. When they could have been captured alive, why were they killed at the first instance? Why no attempt was made to catch them alive?
                                                                       Why Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan after announcing cash reward for those policemen who killed them was later compelled to order a judicial inquiry? Why CM was compelled to withheld reward for those policemen who were earlier being praised for bravery? What is the bravery in killing unarmed undertrials?
                                      Let me mince just no words to say that there are nothing but holes and holes in the government’s version about the killing of 8 SIMI operatives who had escaped from Bhopal jail. How come 8 terrorists could escape from such a heavily guarded prison after killing one policemen – Head Constable – Ramashankar Yadav and yet police then did just nothing? How come majority of the jail employees were on leave on that day?
                                           How come they were able to travel so long and yet police could not catch them? How come they all stayed together and didn’t disburse as the absconders from jail generally do? How come no one came to know anything when these terrorists killed one policemen in jail?
                                           I find it very hard to believe that these 8 SIMI men used toothbrushes, bed sheet-ladders and spoons to escape from jail and police armed with weapons and everything necessary to defend themselves just could not do anything to stop them from easily escaping from such a heavily guarded prison. A senior police officer told The Indian Express on the condition of anonymity that the extent of “inside help” involved in the jailbreak was “staggering”. Why those who are involved in providing “inside help” still at large and not arrested for committing a crime worse than terrorism itself – abetting and aiding undertrial prisoners to escape? Why only 5 policemen have been just suspended and not arrested and jailed so that they are unable to influence the investigation in any manner?
                                             Why the three CCTV cameras installed where the 8 SIMI undertrials were lodged in Block B were non-functioning due to which nothing could be captured in it? Why all the three CCTV cameras installed were non-functioning at the same time and that too where these 8 SIMI men were lodged? Why nothing was done to get them functional? Why the other 80 cameras were all working and only these 3 where these SIMI undertrials were lodged were non-functional? How this very jail got the prestigious ISO 9001 certification and yet 8 undertrials escaped so easily?
                                                   Justice Santosh Hegde who is an eminent person who directly became the Supreme Court Judge because of his immense intellect and knowledge says that in an encounter a person or an accused has to be shot below the waist. How come they were all shot above the waist, some in the chest too and no one in the foot? Was it just a co-incidence? No, it was a pre-planned cold blooded murder.
                                         Senior eminent lawyer – Parvez Alam who is the lawyer of the Bhopal accused says that, “As a lawyer, I can say there was a possibility that they would have been acquitted. There was no proof that they were SIMI members. In Khandwa too, there was a similar case against 18 individuals and they were all acquitted. The court said they were not SIMI members. This is a question which needs to be answered for these eight men too. Mujeeb (one of the men killed) had a court hearing scheduled two days after the killing. Why would he flee? In the court, it was not proved that that they were part of any unlawful organization. It is wrong to dub them terrorists, they are innocent until proven guilty.”  
                                      Parvez Alam also very rightly points out that, The first statement from the State government said they had no weapons on them when they were killed. Later, they said the accused had fired first. If they had indeed fired, why was not any weapon discovered from them? Even the local villagers denied seeing any weapon with any of the men killed. And, if going by the official version, they could procure weapons, new clothes, jeans, T-shirts, sneakers, as also pista (pistachio), badam (almond) and kishmish (raisins), why could not the outside aide get them a vehicle to travel in after the jailbreak? Why did they have to walk 10 kilometres in eight hours and wait for the police? Usually, in any jailbreak, the prisoners run in different directions and assemble at one place after the din dies down. Here, we are being sold the implausible story of prisoners sticking together in a group after fleeing from jail. The fact of the matter is they were killed in cold blood. The policemen probably dumped them into a van and killed them altogether.”
                                               Why the three cops who the government said were injured in the encounter have gone missing? Why is there an unwillingness on the part of the police to share details? Why one of the three policemen said to have been seriously injured has been attending office without a break since the encounter on the outskirts of Bhopal onOctober 31. Why police is not giving details of the hospital where these three cops said to have been injured were referred to?
                                             How was it possible to know that jail warder Ramashankar Yadav was killed with a knife made of kitchen utensils even before any such weapon was found? Why the prisoners chose to scale a stretch of the outer wall that was next to a watch tower manned by two sentries round-the-clock? Why they did not chose any other point? Why no one failed to notice them while they were escaping?
                                              Why eyewitnesses were giving conflicting versions of the alleged shootout? Were some of them being tutored? Some said that both sides shot at each other but some said they pelted stones and shouted anti-India and pro-Islamic slogans but never fired shots! Who is telling the truth? Only an independent judicial inquiry headed by an eminent Supreme Court Judge of impeccable credentials like Justice Santosh Hegde should be tasked with the onerous job of finding out the real truth!
                                          Why only two warders were available to keep an eye on the prisoners? Why there were not more to keep a tab on these prisoners? Why no Special Armed Force (SAF) guard was able to locate the escapee from the 25-foot watch tower? Were they sleeping? Why the first warder who was on duty from 8 pm to 2 am did not go near the block where the SIMI cadre were lodged? Why the surveillance cameras were not working?
                               Parvez Alam who as lawyer represented these 8 SIMI operatives in court very rightly points out that the police’s version was based on pure fantasy. He also rightly asked “Can you believe the escapees used keys made of toothbrushes and tongue cleaners to open eight different locks?” He also made it clear that, “I will soon file a writ petition in the High Court and demand a high-level judicial or CBI probe.” Speaking for myself, I feel there should be only a judicial probe and not CBI because CBI too can be influenced. A judicial probe and that too headed by an eminent and impeccable former Judge of the Supreme Court as I had pointed out earlier also.  
                                       More than a year before they were killed in an encounter in the outskirts of Bhopal, one of the 8 SIMI activists – Akeel Khilji was acquitted of charges under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) by a court in Khandwa. Coming down heavily on Madhya Pradesh police and the investigating officers, the court had observed that the allegations listed in the chargesheet were “not believable” and questioned the jurisdiction of the investigating officer to carry out the probe under UAPA. Khilji was arrested on charges of causing enmity between religions and the UAPA on June 13, 2011 and acquitted four years later on September 9, 2015. The court had also acquitted Abdullah, the brother of Zakir Hussain who was also killedin the encounter, and Khilji’s son Mohammad Jaleel in the same case. Two other activists killedin the encounter, Amzad Ramzan Khan and Mohammad Saliq were also named as accused in the case  but a judgment was not passed against them.
                                       Was it possible for the accused to scale a 32-foot-high wall of the most secure jail in Madhya Pradesh without being noticed by anyone? Was it possible for the accused to lay their hands on weapons in such a high security jail? Was it possible to make duplicate keys out of wood and toothbrush? Why are there contradictory statements from police officials on whether the alleged SIMI operatives had weapons or not? Why no bullet fired by these 8 undertrials have been recovered? Why no weapons have been recovered from these 8 undertrials?  
                                     How can it happen that they opened the gates of their cells themselves but no one noticed them while they were doing so? How can it happen that they caught hold of Chandan Ahirwar, gagged him and put him in the room but no one again noticed? How can it happen that they killed one policemen – Head Constable Ramashankar Yadav but no one noticed them? How can it happen that with just a steel plate - Ramashankar was killed? How come no one came to know about the murder?
                                            How can it happen that they opened the lock by duplicate keys and that too made from wood and toothbrush but again no one noticed? How can it happen that they climbed one wall but no one noticed, then climbed second wall but again no one noticed and then at the third wall they made a ladder made out of bed sheets but again no one noticed and then they climbed the wall on the ladder and escaped but again no one noticed? How can it happen that these 8 undertrials whom government says made foolproof plan to escape went walking 8 to 9 kilometers in 10 hours and did not fled away in a vehicle?
                                           How can it happen that these 8 undertrial prisoners were able to arrange jeans, T-shirts, sports shoes  in  a short span of time but not vehicle to escape? What was more important for them? Vehicle or jeans, T shirts and sport shoes? Certainly vehicle but what we saw was just the opposite! How can it happen that these undertrials whom government describes as terrorists who had previously also escaped from Khandwa jail were all kept together? How can it happen that security was so lax that they all again escaped so easily and why they didn’t fled in a vehicle?  This is completely unacceptable and is nothing but a “bunch of lies”! The gate from which they escaped was not beyond the reach of the guards. How did the watchtowers within the premises of the jail complex could have missed it while the undertrials were scaling up the walls? Why 8 undertrials did not disperse at different directions so that no one could notice rather most amazingly stayed together?
                                           Parvez Alam  who represented the 8 undertrials killed by police while rubbishing the jailbreak theory floated by police said that, “No, not at all. The police version, in fact the official version, is full of holes. The police claim sheets of cloth were used to scale the 32-foot-high (10 metre) wall. For that one person would have had to climb such a high wall. It is not possible for an individual to climb 32 feet without support. There were eight undertrials. So, normally, they would have had eight sheets between them. If you include the sheets which they might have been given to spread on the floor, it still makes only 16 sheets. (The police claimed that the prisoners had 32 sheets.) From where did they procure the rest of the sheets? There is no answer to that. Also, I believe there is CCTV footage in every nook and corner of the jail. Why has it not been disclosed? It has to be shared with the public. It will reveal it all.”
                                      He also rightly said that, “It is a fake encounter, a cold-blooded murder. It was pre-planned murder and I believe they did not escape the jail, but they were made to flee by the police.” Terrorists are trained in Pakistan and other hostile countries to kill innocents but who trains these men in uniform to kill innocents by staging fake encounter? They are more dangerous than terrorists and are responsible for many innocent turning into terrorists when their innocent relatives are killed in fake encounter.
                                         Even an armless terrorist cannot be killed by police or anyone else unless there is a direct threat to the person who kills the terrorist. Killing armless undertrials who had not yet been declared terrorists in a pre-planned cold blooded murder is an inexcusable crime which cannot be condoned under any circumstances. Those policemen who killed these unarmed 8  undertrials and those who gave order to them to kill them and those politicians who too were directly involved in ensuring that they were ruthlessly killed must be put behind the bars and they should be prosecuted for murder as in any other case if we really want our country to be known as “the land where law prevails and not gun”.
                                            Why the CM of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan was in a tearing hurry to honour those policemen involved in the controversial and highly suspected fake encounter killing? Why the CM was in a tearing hurry to announce cash award of Rs 5 lakh even before confirming that the encounter was genuine? A few days after the death we saw how three leaked videos surfaced whose authenticity the government did not deny and in which we ourselves heard how the killing was being ordered and celebrated. This is just not done in a democratic country like India.
                                              ATS Chief Sanjeev Shami told NDTV that the security forces were not fired at as the alleged SIMI terrorists did not have any weapons when they were killed. The use of force was still as per law, he emphasized. This statement we can see is in direct contradiction with the claim made by Inspector General of Bhopal Police Yogesh Choudhary who said in the gov ernemnt’s first official announcement of the incident at a press conference that the forces killed the eight alleged SIMI terrorists in “retaliatory fire” and that two country-made pistols and knives were found on them.
                                      The contradictory statements from official sources make it “curiouser and curiouser,” just as Alice exclaimed in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass. Why there is so much of contradiction between  what these two police officers said? Who is speaking lies? Who is speaking truth? We just don’t know. But truth must come out. Only an independent judicial probe headed by an eminent former Supreme Court Judge can get to the bottom of the matter and find out the real truth. But is the government interested in allowing the truth to come out? We shall know soon by its actions!   
                                       Killing of unarmed undertrials by men in uniform is nothing but cold blooded murder which I rate worse than terror killing. If men in uniform are allowed to get away after indulging in the worst form of killing, it will only set a very wrong andf dangerous trend which no democratic country like India can ever allow to happen under its very nose under any circumstances. To declare an undertrial as a terrorist even before he is convicted by a competent court is most deplorable and cannot be justified under any circumstances. The absence of arms and ammunition, photographs of the undertrials with arms raised as if they had surrendered, policemen shooting at the fallen men mercilessly, contradictory statements from authorities and bullet injuries primarily above the waist where it is forbidden are only some of the evidences that are a clear indicator of the cold-blooded fake encounter killing.
                                Truth must come out. Those men in uniform who are guilty must not be spared under any circumstances. There can be just no excuse of any kind for killing unarmed undertrials and that too after cornering them. Those who are guilty of killing these 8 undertrial prisoners who had not been designated as terrorists by any competent court must be made to face the most stringent punishment apart from being sent to jail. No reward should be given to them till they are cleared by a judicial inquiry and as I have said it repeatedly, it must be headed by a very eminent former Supreme Court Judge who conducts the inquiry on this impartially so that the truth comes out fully. India has an impeccable reputation in handling prisoners and the whole world knows that we treated more than 93,000 Pakistani prisoners of war very well and returned them back to Pakistan safely. This impeccable reputation that we have earned over the years must be maintained at all costs and under all circumstances. No compromise here at all, come what may!   
                                       Article 359 of the Constitution clearly lays down that Articles 20 and 21 are non-derogable. Article 21 of the Constitution clearly stipulates that no one shall be deprived of the right to life except in accordance with the procedure established by law. Justice JS Verma who was former CJI and former NHRC chairperson rightly said that difficult circumstances such as terrorism or insurgency could not be a justification for encounters. International human rights law also prohibits the arbitrary deprivation of life under any circumstances.
                                          Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) holds that, “Every human being has the inherent right to life. The right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” Article 4 of the ICCPR states that this right cannot be waived “even in times of public emergency threatening the life of the nation”.
                                        Also, under Article 2(3) (a) and (b) of the ICCPR, state parties are obliged to ensure that remedies are available to the victims of human rights violations and that those remedies are effective. The government also ratified the ICCPR in 1979 and by ratifying an international treaty unconditionally which enshrines the right to life, India is obliged to not only respect the right to life in principle, but also to take effective measures to ensure that extrajudicial killings are not allowed a free run as they clearly contravene the right to life. India has a free judiciary which has always raised its voice against fake encounter killings and has never dithered to punish those guilty men in uniform when there is clinching evidence pointing to the guilt of the accused.
                                        One hopes that in this latest Bhopal encounter killing of 8 undertrials if it is proved that the encounter was fake, no guilty men in uniform would be spared under any circumstances because killing of unarmed undertrials is nothing but cold blooded murder of the worst kind worse than even terror killing as it is executed most brutally not by hardcore terrorists but by those who don uniform! This will send a clear and loud message to one and all that no one is above law. Even those who don uniform have to always abide by law and cannot take law in their hands as and when they like by being trigger happy and yet roam free with no one to check them or question them on why they killed an undertrial when they could have caught them alive?
                                             The biggest testimony to the irrefutable fact that Bhopal encounter was fake and it was nothing but cold blooded murder is the latest Supreme Court directive of July 24 by a Bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi to Centre and Madhya Pradesh government on the plea of Mehmooda Mohammed Salim Mucchale who is mother of Mohammed Khalid – one of the 8 killed in the Bhopal encounter case asking categorically that why the CBI was not called in to investigate this Bhopal encounter that left 8 SIMI undertrials killed by bullets of policemen! Mehmooda in her petition cited the Supreme Court ruling in Rubabuddin Sheikh v State of Gujarat & Ors (2010) and RS Sodhi, Advocate v State of UP and Ors (1992) in which Supreme Court directed CBI to probe a case in which 10 were gunned down by Punjab police in an encounter.  Truth must come out! Those guilty of cold blooded murder of 8 undertrials must be identified and punished strictly as per law! They don’t deserve mercy of any kind! There can be no excuse for cold blooded murder and the guilty must face law! It is the bounden duty of Centre and MP state government to strictly adhere to what Supreme Court has said which should have been done voluntarily and make no attempt of any kind to whitewash such a cold blooded murder of 8 undertrials!

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.