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Batla House feels the brunt after Red Fort shootout

The slain militant2 December saw an unexpected turn of events in the history of the capital, Delhi. Six Lashkar-e-Toiba militants barged into the Red Fort and killed three people including two army personnel. It happened first time in the history that militants took such a daring step and attacked the Red Fort in the very heart of the capital. The LeT has not so far accepted the responsibility of the attack on the Red Fort, though an unidentified caller claimed it to be the handiwork of the dreaded terrorist outfit.

Later in a dramatic breakthrough, the Delhi Police shot dead Abu Shamal , one of the six Lashkar-e-Toiba militants reportedly involved in the attack on the Red Fort, following the tip off of one Ashfaq Ahmad whom the police arrested from Ghazipur area of Delhi.

A team of Special Cell officials led by ACP Rajbir Singh of Delhi Police, swooped down on a flat in a three storied residential building in the heavily congested Muslim area of Batla House area of Okhla in South Delhi and shot dead Abu Shamal, in his early 20s in an ‘encounter’ that lasted for around 20 minutes. 

The police sources claim that the police opened fire only in retaliation when Abu Shamal opened fire on them. According to the police, more than 20 rounds were fired from both sides in the wee hours of 26 December. It claimed to be acting on the tip offs given by Ashfaq Ahmad who along with his wife was arrested three days after the Red Fort incident. Ashfaq Ahmad, said to be a Pakistani national, had sneaked into the capital via Kupwara. He is said to have revealed that five militants including him and Abu Shamal were involved in the attack on the Red Fort. Ashfaq Ahmad was running a computer center called Knowledge Plus in Ghafoor Market in Okhla. Three hand grenades of HE-84-make were ‘recovered’ after his arrest from a lair near his computer centre. 

The police say that following the tip off from Ashfaq Ahmad, it went to the Batla House area. According to its report, the police team conducted a raid on the first floor of G-73, Muradi Road Batla House where Abu Shamal was reportedly holed up. The Delhi Police claimed that the raid was conducted between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. and Abu Shamal was gunned down after he allegedly fired at the police.

According to the police when it knocked at the door, Abu Shamal fired from inside and the police party retaliated resulting in his death. One AK 56 rifle, 28 spent cartridges, 30 live cartridges and two hand grenades were reportedly seized from there.

But people of the area refute the police version in its entirety. They say that no encounter took place in the morning of 26 December in Batla House area. They also allege that the whole version of encounter in the area is nothing but concocted and false. Several people living in the same lane told The Milli Gazette that they never heard any sound of firing in the morning. Some people from the neighborhood even said that any encounter in the house is impossible. 

People of the area say that the encounter was a ploy to sensitize this predominantly Muslim area. Most of the population in the area including Okhla village, Batla House and Abul Fazal Enclave is Muslim. The residents also claim that the police want to give the area same sensational look as is the case now with the Walled City area of the old Delhi. They also ask why the body of the alleged terrorist was not shown to the media? The pictures of Abu Shamal were later released to the TV and newspapers. The owner of the flat (a Hindu) is reported to have said that he never saw the slain militant in his house. 

In the meantime the All India Milli Council went to the National Human Right Commission (NHRC) on the issue. In its complaint to the NHRC it alleged that Abu Shamal was killed by the Delhi Police in a fake encounter. The Council also said in its complaint that ‘there are strong reasons to believe apart from the accounts of the local residents that it is not a case of encounter but a cold blooded murder of the deceased by the police.’ The Council also cited several omissions and commissions by the Delhi Police and said that the body of the militant was never shown to the media and only his photo was released. The Human Right Commission has ordered an enquiry in the case following the complaint. Two other human rights organizations, the PUCL and PUDR, are also probing the allegations. 

No person so far has recognized the photograph of the militant killed in the encounter. There are people who say that Mushtaq some time visited the area and met the two Kashmiri residing in the same building but none has said anything about the identity of the deceased.

Meanwhile Asif Muhammad Khan, the area councilor, who was protesting on the issue and lead the people’s agitation was also alleged to have been threatened by the police. The Milli Council in its complaint has also mentioned this and said that Asif was being falsely implicated in the case. There are several lose ends in the story and these are being highlighted by the people and the media.

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