BHOPAL: The families of eight suspected Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) men, who were killed in an ‘encounter, plan to legally challenge the single-member panel which absolved
The eight were killed in an alleged encounter with police, just a few hours after they allegedly escaped from the high security block of the Bhopal Central Jail, after murdering a jail guard and holding another hostage on October 30-31, 2016.
“My father and the seven other men were killed in cold blood by the cops. Despite submitting audio-visual evidence before the commission, including clips of conversation between cops during the alleged encounter, we failed to get justice,” said Mohammad Jaleel, the son of Aqeel Khilji. “But we’ve full faith in the judiciary and will seek justice from the High Court or Supreme Court,” added Jaleel, from Khandwa district.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Zahid Nagori, the brother-in-law of Majid Nagori, one of the eight killed. “My brother-in-law who was an electrician wasn’t arrested, but surrendered before the police in 2014. How can a surrendered man even dream of escaping the jail after murdering a jail guard?” said Zahid, who’s from Ujjain district.
Senior counsel Sajid Ali, who headed a battery of lawyers that represented the kin of the deceased before the judicial commission headed by retired High Court judge SK Pandey, said the report submitted in the MP Assembly was one-sided.
“We sought cross-examination of witnesses, which was denied. We wanted to be present in the jail and at the alleged encounter site when the panel visited the place, but that too didn’t happen.”
“Clearly, the Commission was an eye wash and there has not even been any pretense at proper enquiry,” concurs Madhuri Krishnaswamy of the Peoples Union for Civic Liberties (PUCL). She also raised a host of unanswered questions, which include:
•How did the prisoners make keys out of toothbrushes as alleged by the MP government?
•Under what circumstances was under which one jail guard was murdered and his colleague tied up by the fleeing inmates?
•Why were prisoners not re-captured despite a guard noticing their movement and raising an alarm?
•How did one of the prisoners, who was lame, scale the wall?
•How did prisoners obtain the clothes, shoes and watches they were wearing at the time of alleged encounter, yet failed to get a vehicle to escape?
A few hours after the incident, the MP ATS chief Sanjeev Shami had publicly asserted that the prisoners were not armed, but the report says the prisoners were killed in retaliatory fire by the police.
The PUCL leader further said that the report doesn’t mention anything about the nature of connivance of jail/staff police in the alleged jailbreak. “It merely accepts state government’s version that a departmental probe has been initiated.”
“The deafening silence of the report key questions pertaining to the alleged jail-break only strengthen the widespread public belief that the prisoners were deliberately taken out of jail so as to ensure that they could be killed later,” alleged Krishnaswamy.
➊ Eight alleged SIMI men lodged at Bhopal Central Jail escaped after murdering jail guard Ramashankar Yadav and holding his colleague Chandan hostage on October 30-31, 2016 intervening night.
➋ The eight men died in an encounter with police on outskirts of Bhopal a few hours later.
➌ A judicial probe panel headed by retired High Court judge SK Pandey was constituted to probe the jail-break and encounter on November 7, 2016.
➍ The probe panel submitted its report to state government in August 2017, but it was tabled by the government before the State Assembly on the first day of monsoon session on June 25, 2018.
➎ The report concludes the encounter was reasonable under the prevailing circumstances. The deaths were quite inevitable, reasonable, it notes.