BHOPAL/NEW DELHI: More questions cropped up today on the killing of eight SIMI men in Bhopal even as the police asserted that it was a genuine encounter and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and other BJP leaders decried attempts to "politicise and communalise" the incident.
Congress leader Digvijay Singh led the opposition charge saying that the NIA probe should be court-monitored and called for a separate judicial probe into "why only undertrial activists of SIMI and Muslims were involved in jailbreaks" in Madhya Pradesh.
BSP chief Mayawati, CPI(M) and RJD also made a strong pitch for a judicial probe into the encounter while casting aspersions on the official version in view of the "evidence" that has appeared so far including purported video clips.
"What is the reason that SIMI activists, who are muslims involved in jailbreaks and not Hindu prisoners. Earlier it happened in Khandwa jail and now Bhopal, why Muslims are only involved and not Hindus in jailbreaks," Digvijay Singh said.
Alleging that these were "cold-blooded" murders, lawyer of the SIMI activists Parvez Alam said their families have decided to approach the Madhya Pradesh High Court seeking a CBI probe.
"The families of the deceased have come to me and are weeping inconsolably for justice. We are going to move the MP High Court for a CBI probe into the entire incident," he said.
"The TV grabs show police and ATS firing. There is no evidence that the accused fired. This is a fake encounter and (these are) cold blooded murders," he claimed and contested the claims by police that the inmates had escaped from the jail and were armed.
However, Inspector General Yogesh Choudhary remained firm on the police version and said it was a genuine encounter. He added that they will probe the authenticity of the videos or other "evidence".
"I have not seen the videos. If there are any video or other evidence, their veracity as well as their usage would be taken into consideration.
"I would like to reiterate that we have recovered four firearms and three sharp weapons from these people. We have recovered two 315 bore countrymade pistols and two 12 bore 'Kattas' from which around six rounds were fired.
He said police will probe whether the SIMI men got some external help.
"Between 2 and 3 AM and at 10:30-11:30 AM when the actual confrontation took place, the main point and the road map of investigation is that what happened in between and from where did they get help. Did they get any external help or they had something on their own is one of the main points of investigation," he said.
"I am very clear that the incident as I have depicted has happened the way it has happened. Three of our men had injuries from sharp weapons," he said.
Slamming the critics, Chouhan and Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu alleged that some leaders and parties were playing "dirty politics" and attempting to communalise the issue which dealt with the country's security.
Singh reminded that the slain men were "dreaded terrorists" who could have wreaked devastation after fleeing the prison.
Government and BJP said while the facts will come out clearly after the probe, doubts should not be raised on the action of security and armed forces as it lowers their morale even as they called upon everyone to speak in one voice on issues of national security.
The eight SIMI activists were killed in an alleged encounter with police on the outskirts of Bhopal hours after they escaped from the high-security Central jail there killing a security guard yesterday.
As a controversy raged over the police action after the daring pre-dawn jail-break, TV channels had shown footage purportedly from the encounter site in which a policeman is seen pumping bullets into a man from close range after some unidentified person takes out what appears to be a knife said to be in a plastic cover and places it back.
BSP supremo Mayawati launched a scathing attack on Madhya Pradesh government, accusing it of using police for fulfilling the RSS agenda and demanded a judicial probe into the incident. She also charged that police is misused for political and communal motives in BJP-ruled states.
"Eight prisoners related to SIMI were unarmed. They could have been arrested easily again but no attempts were made in this regard. Prima facie this matter appears suspicious and justice demands judicial probe into the entire incident of encounter," she said in a statement.
Digvijay Singh recalled that in 2013, SIMI activists had escaped from Khandwa prison and claimed that information about a possible jailbreak was provided to the state chief secretary but no action was taken and a jailbreak happened on October 31.
"I am against all those who do politics by dividing society in the name of religion and that includes (AIMIM leader) Mr (Asaduddin) Owaisi," he said amid criticism of his remarks.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad also demanded a thorough probe into the encounter to ascertain whether it was fake.
"It must be investigated whether the encounter is fake or genuine. There is a doubt on that, hence it must be investigated properly," he said.
Former CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said the manner in which these eight people escaped from jail and were traced and shot dead shows that this was not any ordinary case.
"That is why the whole matter has to be inquired. It has to be done by an independent judicial probe," he said.
Raising doubts on the encounter, Karat said, "It should not be done by NIA as already evidence has appeared which casts doubts on the whole official version."
Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu defended the action saying some people are showing more concern for those who broke the law rather than for the security forces.
"Some people are showing more concern for them (activists) rather than showing concern for safety and security of Indians and India as a nation. This has become a fashion for some people. Some people are also attributing communal colour. This is all cheap politics. I appeal to all to avoid politics and take care of the safety and security of people," he said.
Another Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "I would appeal to all to speak in one voice on national security."
He questioned the Congress party and its chief Sonia Gandhi whether with Digvijay Singh's views, recalling how she had to dissociate herself from him when he made some remarks about Batla House encounter.
"I condemn this. Why do they not ask questions on who killed the jail havildar. Atleast on national security, all should speak in one voice. Narendra Modi government has taken effective steps against terrorism and will continue to do so," Prasad said.
Union Minister Kiren Rijiju also said raising doubts and questioning the police should stop as no conclusion should be drawn on the basis of videos alone.
BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said in a democracy, the rule of law is supreme but importance of human rights is also there.
"What needs to be seen is that those who are asking questions are approaching this with a disproportionate attitude. How many people have even shared a tear on the havildar killed.
"There is there a disproportionate focus only on raising questions against the police. Will it not in some way weaken the resolve of police forces, armed forces, the Army, when questions are only against of them. Focus is made to appear if they are always in the wrong," he said.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the jail break by eight SIMI activists in Bhopal, Gujarat Police also conducted a major security review at Sabarmati Central jail in Ahmedabad which houses over 75 prisoners alleged to be of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and Indian Mujahideen.