Human Rights

Batla encounter: NHRC relied only on police version

New Delhi: Eleven months have passed since the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) submitted its inquiry report of the controversial Batla House encounter to the Delhi High Court. The commission had carried out its own inquiry and had said in its report that the encounter was not fake and that the police did not violate human rights and had fired in self-defence. When commission came out with the report concerned people had rejected the panel’s probe and termed it as inconclusive and fudged. People at the time had said that the agency’s probe is the police version and that the NHRC did not visit the site or talk to the victims, the accused or their family members. The commission, however, kept saying that the report is conclusive.

It is surprising now that the commission’s panel, which carried out the probe, has now admitted that during its 11-month-long probe, it never visited the site where encounter took place which is barely a few kilometers away from the NHRC’s headquarters in Delhi. The rights panel also admitted that whatever the report contains is the police version and that on the basis of the Delhi police story, the had said that the encounter was not stage managed.

The commission failed to give any answer to the questions asked by a Right to Information (RTI) activist, Afroz Alam Sahil, who had sought the names from the commission whom it contacted during its investigation. However, the panel said in its reply that whatever police offered it seemed sufficient and genuine to prepare a final report.

“The Commission did not send its team for a probe to the spot. The conclusion, the various reports sent by the department concerned (Delhi police) were found to be adequate and sufficient,” said a tell-tale note from NHRC deputy registrar Sunil Arora.

The commission’s reply adds in good measure: “The NHRC first asks for a report from the department and if that report is found satisfactory, the probe is closed. If that report is found inadequate or incomplete, the NHRC can start its own probe.”

The panel’s reply has made it clear that it never went to the scene of crime but relied only on police theory, and that was not its own probe.

The NHRC justified not contacting the accused or the family members of the deceased or any witnesses on the plea that it was “satisfied” with the Delhi police version of events.

The Delhi police had claimed that it fired at the two boys in self-defense while they were hiding in flat L-18 at Batla House, Jamia Nagar, Delhi. The Police had also claimed that the duo had fired upon the police which resulted into a fierce encounter during which two Azamgarh boys, Atif Amin and Mohammad Sajid, were killed. Delhi police inspector, MC Sharma, also succumbed to his injuries suffered during this encounter. A third boy called Mohammad Sajid, police claimed, was nabbed from the flat. In the wake of the encounter, dozens of Muslim boys from places like Azamgarh and Delhi were rounded up and tortured.

The NHRC reply came three months after Sahil received the autopsy report which blasted the police story. The post-mortem report established that the cause of death was due to the impact of some blunt object before pumping bullets into the duo’s bodies. The autopsy report picked holes in the police version.

In his RTI application, Sahil had asked the commission to reply if the panel took the help of a forensic expert to analyze the post-mortem report. The panel avoided a direct answer to this question.

The families of deceased following the commission’s findings had asked the government why the panel didn’t contact the aggrieved party and why it solely relied on the police theory.

Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association’s Manisha Sethi said that the commission’s acknowledgement of not even visiting the site of the crime only strengthens the belief that the inquiry was partial. The panel’s report is highly suspicious and shoddy. Even applications by residents of Azamgarh to depose before the commission were not entertained, she said adding that on 4 April 2010, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said that he would seek the full report on Batla encounter from the Home Minister, P Chidambaram. The Home Minister, on the other hand, time and again referred to the NHRC’s report justifying that there is no need of a judicial inquiry. An emotive issue like Batla House encounter needs an unbiased probe. And the commission has failed to bring the truth to the fore.

The commission some two moths back had revealed to the same RTI activist, who had asked it if Batla House is on the fake encounters list, that the said encounter was on its list of fake encounters.

The NHRC’s startling revelations in the Batla House encounter have made one thing clear: 19th September’s shootout was fake and the two Azamgarh youths were killed in cold blood.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 July 2010 on page no. 11

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