The judicial probe committee, set up by the Madhya Pradesh Government into the Bhopal jailbreak and encounter of eight SIMI activists, has given a clean chit to the city police, citing that ‘the use of force resulting in the death of the escaped persons was quite inevitable and quite reasonable under the prevailing circumstances.’ This comes a week after the Mandsaur firing probe report, which also gave a clean chit to the state police and the CRPF personnel.
On October 31, 2016, eight SIMI members were shot dead by the police in Manikhedi Kot Pathar village on the outskirts of Bhopal.
“The encounter on 31 October 2016 done by police was reasonable under the prevailing circumstances. The action of the police was in consonance of the provision of law under sections 41 and 46 (2) (3) of the CrPC,” the report said adding that, “The use of force resulting in the death of the escaped persons was quite inevitable and quite reasonable under the prevailing circumstances.”
On the intervening night between October 30 and October 31, eight SIMI activists Mohd Saliq, Zakir Hussain, Amjad Khan, Mehboob Guddu, Mohd Aqeel Khilji, Mujeeb Sheikh, Mohammad Khalid Ahmad and Abdul Majid were gunned down eight hours after they escaped from ISO-certified Bhopal Central Jail by slitting throat of a guard name Ramashankar Yadav with a sharp-edged weapon.
Read More: ‘Our Sons Will Come Home Only in Body Bags’, Fear the Families of SIMI Suspects
Months after the incident, on June 6, 2017, the commission visited Bhopal Central Jail and Manikhedi Kot Pathar and compared the evidence. The commission said the under-trial SIMI men had opened the cell lock using a key and scaled the outer jail wall using a ladder made of bed sheets and wooden pieces.
The judicial commission held that the low height of the jail walls allowed the undertrials to stage the escape easily and recommended the department to increase the height of the wall height.
The commission, however, pulled up the jail personnel for negligence, which it said led to the escape of SIMI operatives. It added that the jail department has named 10 people prima facie responsible for the incident in reference to the alleged negligence of jail and special armed force (SAF) personnel.
“A departmental inquiry has been initiated against these persons. Similarly, departmental inquiry against special armed force personnel on duty will determine their fate,” it added.
The report further said, “The deceased persons were asked to surrender but instead of complying, they started firing at the police and public. So, it became necessary for the police to open fire on persons who had escaped from lawful custody. Even after the police opened fire they showed no intention to surrender and as a result, sustained injuries and died on the spot,’’ the judge said quoting depositions on the affidavit.
The family members of the eight SIMI men are outraged with the committee’s report and have said that they would move the High Court or Supreme Court against it.
Read More: Torture of ‘Terror’ Suspects in Bhopal Jail Worsened after Fake Encounter, Says Report
“The report is not at all shocking for us, as the government was acting in a biased manner since its inception. We will move the Supreme Court against it,” Khilji’s brother Khalil Chauhan claimed. The brother of Amjad Khan, Salman Khan said, “I am yet to see the report. I am unable to understand what to say. The Almighty will give justice to us.”
While the Opposition Congress said that the report had hardly surprised them as the state government wanted to hush up the matter right from the beginning just like the Mandsaur incident, the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly, Ajay Singh has rubbished the report.
“The government has been giving a clean chit to the police in every incident whether it was the Mandsaur police firing killing five farmers or those killed in the police encounter on October 31 (2016). We will raise the issue in the assembly,” Singh said.
The probe report was tabled on the first day of the Assembly on Monday and is yet to be made public. But according to sources, the statement of the only eye-witness in the incident, Chandan Kumar Tilanthe, a guard, is not clearly mentioned. The SIMI men tied him up when he had tried to create an obstruction to their escape
Moreover, on the day of the incident, the CCTV cameras of the ISO-certified Bhopal Central Jail were turned off and the reason has not been explained anywhere in the report. Also, the question of who had supplied fresh clothes, foods and weapons to SIMI men after their escape, remains unanswered.
Among the eight activists, the five who were from Khandwa district, Amzad, Zakir Hussain Sadiq, Mujeeb Shaikh, Mehbood Guddu, were accused under the attempt to murder charge (307) and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), while Mohammad Salik was only accused under UAPA.
Mujeeb Shaikh, of Ahmadabad, was accused in several bomb blasts and robbery cases, he was also accused under UAPA. Majid Nagore from Ujjain was accused under UAPA and of being an explosive expert.
After the encounter of all eight SIMI men, the advocate Parvez Alam, who was fighting their cases, requested the court not to close their cases but to continue the hearing, till the verdict, so that the truth can come to public.
“Mujeeb Shaikh was accused under some major cases of bomb blast and bank robbery and I was assured that court will punish him. But except Mujeeb, we were in more strong position because the opposition didn't have any pieces of evidence against the other six men”, said Alam.
“I was not defending the case of Mohammad Khalid Ahmed who was also accused in connection with SIMI,” he added.