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Encounter Or Conspiracy? Shoot Out At Batla House Explained 

On 19 September 2008, the police killed two Indian Mujahideen terrorists in the Batla House Encounter. Or did they? 

Updated
Explainers
11 min read
The Batla House encounter took place on 19 September 2008 in which two Indian Mujahideen terrorists were killed. 
i

(This explainer was first published on 7 October 2017. It has been reposted from The Quint's archives to mark the anniversary of the Batla House encounter.)

On the morning of 19 September 2008, the Delhi police received a tip-off on the location of alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) members from the Gujarat police. On the basis of cell phone data, the Police determined they were hiding out in flat number 108, L-18, Batla House, Jamia Nagar– a crowded, mostly Muslim neighbourhood in South Delhi. At 10:30 AM that Friday morning, a Delhi Police Special Cell team was dispatched to surround and raid the location.

But at the location, an encounter played out with firing being exchanged between the police and the alleged terrorists. Two of the house’s residents and the police inspector leading the raiding party were killed in the firing.

Policemen rush to Batla House during the encounter in New Delhi in September 2008.
Policemen rush to Batla House during the encounter in New Delhi in September 2008.
(Photo: PTI) 

Encounter Or Conspiracy? Shoot Out At Batla House Explained 

  1. 1. Why did the Police Raid Batla House?

    The story begins six days before Encounter Batla House commenced. On 13 September 2008, a series of five low-intensity bombs ripped through Delhi, killing 30 people and injuring 90. This, within months of similar blasts in Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Bangalore.

    The bombs went off within a span of half an hour at popular shopping locations, teeming with people on a weekend. Two exploded in Connaught Place, two in Greater Kailash’s M Block Market and one in the extremely crowded Ghaffar market in Karol Bagh. Three unexploded bombs were defused when people called in, to report unidentified objects. One of them was even meant to explode at a children’s park.

    On 13 September 2008, Delhi was struck by serial blasts planned by the Indian Mujahideen (IM).  
    On 13 September 2008, Delhi was struck by serial blasts planned by the Indian Mujahideen (IM).  
    (Photo courtesy: Twitter/HistoryFacts247)

    On 13 September 2008, ten minutes after the first bomb went off in Ghaffar Market at 6:10 PM, IM sent out an email taking credit. It was titled “The Message of Death” and said: “In the name of Allah, Indian Mujahideen strikes back once more [...] Do whatever you can. Stop us if you can.”

    IM had been pegged as the perpetrators of serial bomb blasts in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Mumbai the same year. The pressure on the states’ police to nab them and bring justice to the victims’ families was real. So, a week later when they received an intelligence lead on the location of IM operatives behind the Delhi blasts, the Delhi police moved urgently and sent an armed raiding party to Batla House.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Is The Official Version of the Encounter?

    The official plan was simple: The police officer leading the team, Mohan Chand Sharma would go (with one other) posing as a Vodafone consultant to extract details of the residents, while the rest of the team blocked the sole entry/exit gate and the back lane of the four-storey house, in case things went south.

    In the climb upstairs to reach Flat 108, M C Sharma removed his bullet-proof jacket owing to the lingering August heat that morning. He didn’t think the men would be armed since they were just investigating a lead. He was wrong.

    Unexpectedly, the alleged terrorists fired first when the two policemen turned the corner of an ‘L-shaped’ bend leading to their door. A 20-minute encounter followed, with several rounds being fired from both sides.

    The view as one climbs the steps to the first floor of Batla House. The alleged terrorists fired before the police officers could turn to face the door on their right. 
    The view as one climbs the steps to the first floor of Batla House. The alleged terrorists fired before the police officers could turn to face the door on their right. 
    (Photo Courtesy: SouthLive.in)

    Out of the flat’s five occupants, two were killed: Mohammad Sajid and Atif Amin. Mohammad Saif was arrested, while Shahzad and Junaid managed to escape. All five were from Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh. Encounter specialist and decorated police inspector M C Sharma was also martyred during the incident while head constable Balwinder was injured.

    A snippet from <i>Hindustan Times</i>’ coverage of the encounter of 21 September 2008.
    A snippet from Hindustan Times’ coverage of the encounter of 21 September 2008.
    (Photo courtesy: Kafila Online Blog
    Expand
  3. 3. Who Died During the Encounter?

    1. Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma.

    A decorated officer, Inspector M C Sharma was killed during the Batla House encounter.&nbsp;
    A decorated officer, Inspector M C Sharma was killed during the Batla House encounter. 
    (Photo Courtesy: Proud2IndianGroup’s Blog

    In his 13 years at the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, M C Sharma won several awards for his bravery, including the President of India’s Medal in 2008 and (posthumously) the Ashok Chakra in 2009. An ‘encounter specialist’, Sharma had helped kill at least 35 terrorists and track down over another 80.

    He received two gunshot wounds: one to his left shoulder and another in his abdomen. He was rushed to Holy Family Hospital minutes after the encounter where he was operated upon. Eight hours later, he succumbed to his injuries.

    2. Atif Amin, 24

    He was a pursuing an MA degree in Human Rights from Jamia Milia Islamia (JMI) University and had been living in Delhi since 2006. He was believed to have been a bomb-maker in Indian Mujahideen’s operations.

    Copy of the first page of Atif Amin’s driving license.&nbsp;
    Copy of the first page of Atif Amin’s driving license. 
    (Photo Courtesy: JTSA’s 2008 report

    3. Mohammad Sajid, 17

    He was a student in class 11 in Azamgarh and was in Delhi to seek admission into JMI Senior Secondary School. But he didn’t succeed and instead took a seat in a school back home. Meanwhile, he enrolled in an English speaking class in Delhi to try seeking admission again.

    Copy of Mohd Sajid’s admit card for his entrance examination at Jamia School.
    Copy of Mohd Sajid’s admit card for his entrance examination at Jamia School.
    (Photo Courtesy: JTSA’s 2008 report
    Expand
  4. 4. What was the Aftermath of the Encounter?

    1. Protests: A day after the encounter, on 20 September 2008, activists, journalists and human rights organizations visited the encounter site and raised doubts over the police’s version of the encounter after speaking to locals and eyewitnesses. The Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA) organised several ‘Jan Sunwais’ or People’s Tribunal at Batla House where evidence and independent witness testimonies were recorded by a ‘jury’ of prominent activists to prove the encounter was “fake”. It was attended by prominent civil society members such as Prashant Bhushan, Arundhati Roy and Kavita Krishnan. Teachers, staff and students of the JMI University, Delhi University and JNU also joined in.

    A Citizens’ March to Parliament called by Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Group to demand a Judicial probe into the Batla House ‘Encounter’.&nbsp;
    A Citizens’ March to Parliament called by Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Group to demand a Judicial probe into the Batla House ‘Encounter’. 
    (Photo courtesy: JTSA’s Report) 

    2. Investigation: On 21 May 2009, the Delhi High Court ordered the National Human Rights Commission to probe the authenticity of the encounter on a petition filed by the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and Anhad, an NGO.

    Three months later, the NHRC gave the police a clean chit. The Delhi High Court accepted the report and rejected appeals for another judicial probe. However, it was discovered that the NHRC’s report was dated two days before they were even assigned the probe by the court. This implied that they relied only on police reports and did not conduct their own investigation. They did not interview Mohd Saif in prison or any other witnesses and did not visit Batla House even once to investigate.

    3. Arrests: At least 15 boys went missing, were encountered or are in jail waiting for their trails to begin”, according to a 2017 report by NGO Rihai Manch which tracked the status of those who were “picked up” after the Batla House Encounter. Nine years since then, the trials of these “Indian Mujahideen operatives” are still on

    In February 2011, all charges against one of the key accused, Mohammad Salman, were thrown out for lack of evidence, in all five blasts in Delhi, lending credence to families of boys in Azamgarh crying hoarse about their sons’ innocence.

    Expand
  5. 5. Was It A Planned Shootout or an Encounter?

    Almost immediately after the encounter, many loopholes were pointed out in the official version of events by human rights activists, NGOs and civil society members.

    Encounter Or Conspiracy? Shoot Out At Batla House Explained 

    At a People’s Tribunal (Jan Sunwai) organised by JTSA in October 2008, a witness–and neighbour–gave his statement which brought the authenticity of the encounter under harsher scrutiny.

    [I] came to know of the police action only when [I] heard the police firing, which [I] initially thought of as bursts of firecrackers. In my opinion, the police should have taken some people from the locality or the building into confidence before beginning the operation. Perhaps this way any untoward accident could have been avoided. The police perhaps consulted just the kooda-wallah and the watchman of the building to build more upon their intelligence lead [...]
    Witness (neighbour) at a Jan Sunwai 
    A police officer sits in front of the gate of Batla House, Jamia Nagar.&nbsp;
    A police officer sits in front of the gate of Batla House, Jamia Nagar. 
    (Photo Courtesy: Twocircles.net)
    Expand
  6. 6. What Did the Post-Mortem Reveal?

    It took JMI journalism student, Afroz Alam Sahil two years and six RTI appeals to access the post mortem reports of the three people killed in the Batla House encounter. Post mortem reports of Inspector MC Sharma and the other two “terrorists” – Atif Amin and Mohd Sajid, raised more questions than putting all doubts to rest.

    Bullet injuries on Sajid’s head lead many to wonder if they had been captured before killed.&nbsp;
    Bullet injuries on Sajid’s head lead many to wonder if they had been captured before killed. 
    (Photo courtesy: JTSA’s 2008 report
    Unexplained injury marks on the back of Atif Amin.&nbsp;
    Unexplained injury marks on the back of Atif Amin. 
    (Photo courtesy: JTSA’s 2008 report

    The reports showed that Atif Amin took ten bullets from behind and the skin on his back was almost peeled off. Mohd Sajid had bullet holes in his skull, neck and shoulders suggesting he was shot at close-range while he was on the floor. In the case of MC Sharma reports said he was shot twice–in the shoulder and abdomen–from the front, “unlikely to be caused by accidental firing of colleague police officer”.

    Encounter Or Conspiracy? Shoot Out At Batla House Explained 
    Encounter Or Conspiracy? Shoot Out At Batla House Explained 
    Expand
  7. 7. The Batla House Trials: Who Shot Inspector MC Sharma?

    What should’ve ideally been a trial to ascertain the authenticity of the encounter, turned into a case to convict the person who shot dead Inspector MC Sharma.

    • A 1100-page chargesheet was filed against Shahzad Ahmad, one of the two alleged terrorists who fled
    • Statements of 57 witnesses were recorded
    • But, none of them could be identified as an “independent witness”
    • Only testimonies of police officers on the site, doctors and “experts” were recorded
    • None of the witnesses who lived around Batla House and were present on the day were called in.

    This is also why the PUDR and JTSA-led Jan Sunwai regularly invited and interviewed witnesses from around Batla House to hear what they saw and heard, as is required of the police to do.

    The police’s version unraveled on its own. Several loopholes were brought to the attention of the court by the defense counsel of the accused, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

    Expand
  8. 8. How did Two ‘Terrorists” Manage to Flee a Guarded House?

    As per the police’s version, two “terrorists”, Shahzad and Junaid, managed to escape on the day of the encounter. On 6 February 2010, Shahzad was arrested from Azamgarh. He was charged with murder, attempt to murder, obstructing and assaulting a public servant, grievously hurting public officers to deter them from performing their duty and destruction of evidence.

    Shahzad Ahmad was charged and later, convicted of of killing M C Sharma during the encounter.
    Shahzad Ahmad was charged and later, convicted of of killing M C Sharma during the encounter.
    (Photo courtesy: In.com

    But, how did the police explain Shahzad and Junaid’s escape from a house they were guarding and streets they had cordoned off completely?

    For this, the Court came to the prosecution’s rescue.

    The defense argued that none of the six eye-witnesses (all police officers) were able to give any description of Shahzad or Junaid, who fled the scene. In fact, during cross-questioning of police witnesses, it came up:

    Encounter Or Conspiracy? Shoot Out At Batla House Explained 
    (Graphic: The Quint)

    However, the court disregarded even the prosecution’s inadequate explanation and arrived at its own conclusion to explain the Shahzad and Junaid’s escape.

    Encounter Or Conspiracy? Shoot Out At Batla House Explained 
    (Graphic: The Quint)
    Expand
  9. 9. Why Did the Police Fail to Produce any Independent Witnesses?

    The encounter took place in a crowded residential area. The sight of about a dozen cops cordoning off a street from its two ends, was bound to raise some curiosity. How was it that none of these neighbours were interviewed, or their statements recorded by the police?

    The defence argued that Shahzad could not be convicted on the basis of the testimonies of police officers alone. It would’ve been impossible for the police to prepare for an anti-terror reconnaissance exercise without taking a few neighbours into confidence.

    But the prosecution played the controversial religious card. The Additional Public Prosecutor explained that the police was in a hurry to apprehend the suspects and when they asked a few locals to join them, they gave reasons and walked away. Additionally, he said:

    [...] majority of residents of that area are followers of the religion, as was of those suspects. If the police officers tried to involve any such local resident, it would have created social unrest in that area, causing fear to the life of those police persons even.

    Incredulously, the court decided that the absence of independent witnesses was not “fatal to the case of the prosecution”.

    Expand
  10. 10. Why was Mohd Saif, (the Man in the Toilet at the Time of the Encounter) Not Questioned?

    Mohd Saif was one of the five occupants of the flat and the only one who surrendered. He had emerged out of the toilet, with his hands in the air after the first few rounds of shots had been fired. And yet, he was not cited as a prosecution witness in the 2010 trial. (Remember, the NHRC didn’t question him either in its 2009 probe.)

    The Court merely observed that it was perhaps because Saif’s version did not corroborate the police’s version of events. The Court was quite astute in its observation.

    When the defense produced Mohd Saif as their own witness, under oath he confessed  – “[...] The accused, Shahzad Ahmad @ Pappu was not present in that flat, at the time of incident.”

    Curiously, this statement was not considered by the court.

    Expand
  11. 11. Where did Shahzad’s, (Who May or May Not Have Been Present at the Encounter) Gun Go?

    Per the prosecution, Shahzad threw his gun into the Gang Nahar, that flows through Bulandshahr, UP. The chargesheet said: “On 4 February 2010, Shahzad [...] and a team from [the] crime branch [were] taken to the bridge on Gang Nahar where he pointed out the place from where he had thrown the weapon... The current of the water was strong and despite best efforts, the weapon was not found.”

    However, after the encounter, all bullet shells and casings were matched with guns recovered from the encounter, including the two which killed M C Sharma. Ballistic reports too did not suggest the presence of a third “missing” gun.

    Expand
  12. 12. Was Shahzad an IM Operative?

    The police claimed that Shahzad got away despite police surrounding the house and cordoning off the street because they did not know what he looked like, allowing him to mingle with the crowd and flee the scene.

    Over a year later, Shahzad was picked up from Azamgarh. The arrest, police claims, was on the basis of his passport that was found at the encounter location. But, when an RTI sought details of the seizures made from Batla House, it mentioned in great detail, all the “incriminating documents”, but did not mention any passport.

    In court, the police blamed sloppy paper work. They said that the passport was actually found later by the Investigating Officer in the case, ACP Sanjeev Kumar Yadav and yet, not added to the inventory until much later.

    Apart from the purported passport, no other items, not even his finger prints were found at the house. As for his “confession” when he was arrested in Azamgarh, he retracted it in court, claiming he was being framed by the police.

    Encounter Or Conspiracy? Shoot Out At Batla House Explained 
    (Graphic: The Quint)

    As for any evidence of his involvement with the Indian Mujahideen, the Court found none.

    Encounter Or Conspiracy? Shoot Out At Batla House Explained 
    (Graphic: The Quint)

    In 2013, the court found Shahzad guilty and sentenced him to life with a fine of Rs 95,000, of which a part went to MC Sharma’s family. In January 2014, the Delhi High Court accepted Shahzad’s appeal against his conviction. The trial is on.

    Expand
  13. 13. What was the ISIS Connect to Batla House?

    In May 2016, the terror group ISIS released a video in which Indian terrorists of the group were threatening to avenge the violence against Muslims during the Babri Masjid demolition; in Kashmir over the years; and the Muzaffarnagar riots.

    A screenshot of photographs of Sajid (17) when he was killed in the encounter and Mohd Sajid, who featured in the ISIS video.&nbsp;
    A screenshot of photographs of Sajid (17) when he was killed in the encounter and Mohd Sajid, who featured in the ISIS video. 
    (Photo courtesy: Times Now screenshot)

    One of them claimed to be Mohammad Sajid, and claimed to have been at Batla House when the police raided the property; he said he fled the house. But then, what about the Mohd Sajid who was gunned down by the police during the encounter? Could it be yet another case of ‘mistaken identity’? Only the police can answer that.

    Expand
  14. 14. What is the Status of the "Terrorists”At Batla House?

    • Mohammad Sajid: Deceased, Shot dead in encounter
    • Atif Amin: Deceased, Shot dead in ecnounter
    • Shahzad Ahmad: Convicted to lifetime imprisonment for shooting Inspector MC Sharma fatally in encounter. Case under appeal at High Court
    • Mohammad Saif: Surrendered during encounter, in jail undergoing trial for Delhi 2008 blasts
    • Junaid: Absconding

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Why did the Police Raid Batla House?

The story begins six days before Encounter Batla House commenced. On 13 September 2008, a series of five low-intensity bombs ripped through Delhi, killing 30 people and injuring 90. This, within months of similar blasts in Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Bangalore.

The bombs went off within a span of half an hour at popular shopping locations, teeming with people on a weekend. Two exploded in Connaught Place, two in Greater Kailash’s M Block Market and one in the extremely crowded Ghaffar market in Karol Bagh. Three unexploded bombs were defused when people called in, to report unidentified objects. One of them was even meant to explode at a children’s park.

On 13 September 2008, Delhi was struck by serial blasts planned by the Indian Mujahideen (IM).&nbsp;&nbsp;
On 13 September 2008, Delhi was struck by serial blasts planned by the Indian Mujahideen (IM).  
(Photo courtesy: Twitter/HistoryFacts247)

On 13 September 2008, ten minutes after the first bomb went off in Ghaffar Market at 6:10 PM, IM sent out an email taking credit. It was titled “The Message of Death” and said: “In the name of Allah, Indian Mujahideen strikes back once more [...] Do whatever you can. Stop us if you can.”

IM had been pegged as the perpetrators of serial bomb blasts in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Mumbai the same year. The pressure on the states’ police to nab them and bring justice to the victims’ families was real. So, a week later when they received an intelligence lead on the location of IM operatives behind the Delhi blasts, the Delhi police moved urgently and sent an armed raiding party to Batla House.

ADVERTISEMENT

What Is The Official Version of the Encounter?

The official plan was simple: The police officer leading the team, Mohan Chand Sharma would go (with one other) posing as a Vodafone consultant to extract details of the residents, while the rest of the team blocked the sole entry/exit gate and the back lane of the four-storey house, in case things went south.

In the climb upstairs to reach Flat 108, M C Sharma removed his bullet-proof jacket owing to the lingering August heat that morning. He didn’t think the men would be armed since they were just investigating a lead. He was wrong.

Unexpectedly, the alleged terrorists fired first when the two policemen turned the corner of an ‘L-shaped’ bend leading to their door. A 20-minute encounter followed, with several rounds being fired from both sides.

The view as one climbs the steps to the first floor of Batla House. The alleged terrorists fired before the police officers could turn to face the door on their right.&nbsp;
The view as one climbs the steps to the first floor of Batla House. The alleged terrorists fired before the police officers could turn to face the door on their right. 
(Photo Courtesy: SouthLive.in)

Out of the flat’s five occupants, two were killed: Mohammad Sajid and Atif Amin. Mohammad Saif was arrested, while Shahzad and Junaid managed to escape. All five were from Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh. Encounter specialist and decorated police inspector M C Sharma was also martyred during the incident while head constable Balwinder was injured.

A snippet from <i>Hindustan Times</i>’ coverage of the encounter of 21 September 2008.
A snippet from Hindustan Times’ coverage of the encounter of 21 September 2008.
(Photo courtesy: Kafila Online Blog

Who Died During the Encounter?

1. Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma.

A decorated officer, Inspector M C Sharma was killed during the Batla House encounter.&nbsp;
A decorated officer, Inspector M C Sharma was killed during the Batla House encounter. 
(Photo Courtesy: Proud2IndianGroup’s Blog

In his 13 years at the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, M C Sharma won several awards for his bravery, including the President of India’s Medal in 2008 and (posthumously) the Ashok Chakra in 2009. An ‘encounter specialist’, Sharma had helped kill at least 35 terrorists and track down over another 80.

He received two gunshot wounds: one to his left shoulder and another in his abdomen. He was rushed to Holy Family Hospital minutes after the encounter where he was operated upon. Eight hours later, he succumbed to his injuries.

2. Atif Amin, 24

He was a pursuing an MA degree in Human Rights from Jamia Milia Islamia (JMI) University and had been living in Delhi since 2006. He was believed to have been a bomb-maker in Indian Mujahideen’s operations.

Copy of the first page of Atif Amin’s driving license.&nbsp;
Copy of the first page of Atif Amin’s driving license. 
(Photo Courtesy: JTSA’s 2008 report

3. Mohammad Sajid, 17

He was a student in class 11 in Azamgarh and was in Delhi to seek admission into JMI Senior Secondary School. But he didn’t succeed and instead took a seat in a school back home. Meanwhile, he enrolled in an English speaking class in Delhi to try seeking admission again.

Copy of Mohd Sajid’s admit card for his entrance examination at Jamia School.
Copy of Mohd Sajid’s admit card for his entrance examination at Jamia School.
(Photo Courtesy: JTSA’s 2008 report
ADVERTISEMENT

What was the Aftermath of the Encounter?

1. Protests: A day after the encounter, on 20 September 2008, activists, journalists and human rights organizations visited the encounter site and raised doubts over the police’s version of the encounter after speaking to locals and eyewitnesses. The Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA) organised several ‘Jan Sunwais’ or People’s Tribunal at Batla House where evidence and independent witness testimonies were recorded by a ‘jury’ of prominent activists to prove the encounter was “fake”. It was attended by prominent civil society members such as Prashant Bhushan, Arundhati Roy and Kavita Krishnan. Teachers, staff and students of the JMI University, Delhi University and JNU also joined in.

A Citizens’ March to Parliament called by Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Group to demand a Judicial probe into the Batla House ‘Encounter’.&nbsp;
A Citizens’ March to Parliament called by Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Group to demand a Judicial probe into the Batla House ‘Encounter’. 
(Photo courtesy: JTSA’s Report) 

2. Investigation: On 21 May 2009, the Delhi High Court ordered the National Human Rights Commission to probe the authenticity of the encounter on a petition filed by the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and Anhad, an NGO.

Three months later, the NHRC gave the police a clean chit. The Delhi High Court accepted the report and rejected appeals for another judicial probe. However, it was discovered that the NHRC’s report was dated two days before they were even assigned the probe by the court. This implied that they relied only on police reports and did not conduct their own investigation. They did not interview Mohd Saif in prison or any other witnesses and did not visit Batla House even once to investigate.

3. Arrests: At least 15 boys went missing, were encountered or are in jail waiting for their trails to begin”, according to a 2017 report by NGO Rihai Manch which tracked the status of those who were “picked up” after the Batla House Encounter. Nine years since then, the trials of these “Indian Mujahideen operatives” are still on

In February 2011, all charges against one of the key accused, Mohammad Salman, were thrown out for lack of evidence, in all five blasts in Delhi, lending credence to families of boys in Azamgarh crying hoarse about their sons’ innocence.

Was It A Planned Shootout or an Encounter?

Almost immediately after the encounter, many loopholes were pointed out in the official version of events by human rights activists, NGOs and civil society members.

Encounter Or Conspiracy? Shoot Out At Batla House Explained 

At a People’s Tribunal (Jan Sunwai) organised by JTSA in October 2008, a witness–and neighbour–gave his statement which brought the authenticity of the encounter under harsher scrutiny.

[I] came to know of the police action only when [I] heard the police firing, which [I] initially thought of as bursts of firecrackers. In my opinion, the police should have taken some people from the locality or the building into confidence before beginning the operation. Perhaps this way any untoward accident could have been avoided. The police perhaps consulted just the kooda-wallah and the watchman of the building to build more upon their intelligence lead [...]
Witness (neighbour) at a Jan Sunwai 
A police officer sits in front of the gate of Batla House, Jamia Nagar.&nbsp;
A police officer sits in front of the gate of Batla House, Jamia Nagar. 
(Photo Courtesy: Twocircles.net)
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What Did the Post-Mortem Reveal?

It took JMI journalism student, Afroz Alam Sahil two years and six RTI appeals to access the post mortem reports of the three people killed in the Batla House encounter. Post mortem reports of Inspector MC Sharma and the other two “terrorists” – Atif Amin and Mohd Sajid, raised more questions than putting all doubts to rest.

Bullet injuries on Sajid’s head lead many to wonder if they had been captured before killed.&nbsp;
Bullet injuries on Sajid’s head lead many to wonder if they had been captured before killed. 
(Photo courtesy: JTSA’s 2008 report
Unexplained injury marks on the back of Atif Amin.&nbsp;
Unexplained injury marks on the back of Atif Amin. 
(Photo courtesy: JTSA’s 2008 report

The reports showed that Atif Amin took ten bullets from behind and the skin on his back was almost peeled off. Mohd Sajid had bullet holes in his skull, neck and shoulders suggesting he was shot at close-range while he was on the floor. In the case of MC Sharma reports said he was shot twice–in the shoulder and abdomen–from the front, “unlikely to be caused by accidental firing of colleague police officer”.

Encounter Or Conspiracy? Shoot Out At Batla House Explained 
Encounter Or Conspiracy? Shoot Out At Batla House Explained 

The Batla House Trials: Who Shot Inspector MC Sharma?

What should’ve ideally been a trial to ascertain the authenticity of the encounter, turned into a case to convict the person who shot dead Inspector MC Sharma.

  • A 1100-page chargesheet was filed against Shahzad Ahmad, one of the two alleged terrorists who fled
  • Statements of 57 witnesses were recorded
  • But, none of them could be identified as an “independent witness”
  • Only testimonies of police officers on the site, doctors and “experts” were recorded
  • None of the witnesses who lived around Batla House and were present on the day were called in.

This is also why the PUDR and JTSA-led Jan Sunwai regularly invited and interviewed witnesses from around Batla House to hear what they saw and heard, as is required of the police to do.

The police’s version unraveled on its own. Several loopholes were brought to the attention of the court by the defense counsel of the accused, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

ADVERTISEMENT

How did Two ‘Terrorists” Manage to Flee a Guarded House?

As per the police’s version, two “terrorists”, Shahzad and Junaid, managed to escape on the day of the encounter. On 6 February 2010, Shahzad was arrested from Azamgarh. He was charged with murder, attempt to murder, obstructing and assaulting a public servant, grievously hurting public officers to deter them from performing their duty and destruction of evidence.

Shahzad Ahmad was charged and later, convicted of of killing M C Sharma during the encounter.
Shahzad Ahmad was charged and later, convicted of of killing M C Sharma during the encounter.
(Photo courtesy: In.com

But, how did the police explain Shahzad and Junaid’s escape from a house they were guarding and streets they had cordoned off completely?

For this, the Court came to the prosecution’s rescue.

The defense argued that none of the six eye-witnesses (all police officers) were able to give any description of Shahzad or Junaid, who fled the scene. In fact, during cross-questioning of police witnesses, it came up:

Encounter Or Conspiracy? Shoot Out At Batla House Explained 
(Graphic: The Quint)

However, the court disregarded even the prosecution’s inadequate explanation and arrived at its own conclusion to explain the Shahzad and Junaid’s escape.

Encounter Or Conspiracy? Shoot Out At Batla House Explained 
(Graphic: The Quint)

Why Did the Police Fail to Produce any Independent Witnesses?

The encounter took place in a crowded residential area. The sight of about a dozen cops cordoning off a street from its two ends, was bound to raise some curiosity. How was it that none of these neighbours were interviewed, or their statements recorded by the police?

The defence argued that Shahzad could not be convicted on the basis of the testimonies of police officers alone. It would’ve been impossible for the police to prepare for an anti-terror reconnaissance exercise without taking a few neighbours into confidence.

But the prosecution played the controversial religious card. The Additional Public Prosecutor explained that the police was in a hurry to apprehend the suspects and when they asked a few locals to join them, they gave reasons and walked away. Additionally, he said:

[...] majority of residents of that area are followers of the religion, as was of those suspects. If the police officers tried to involve any such local resident, it would have created social unrest in that area, causing fear to the life of those police persons even.

Incredulously, the court decided that the absence of independent witnesses was not “fatal to the case of the prosecution”.

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Why was Mohd Saif, (the Man in the Toilet at the Time of the Encounter) Not Questioned?

Mohd Saif was one of the five occupants of the flat and the only one who surrendered. He had emerged out of the toilet, with his hands in the air after the first few rounds of shots had been fired. And yet, he was not cited as a prosecution witness in the 2010 trial. (Remember, the NHRC didn’t question him either in its 2009 probe.)

The Court merely observed that it was perhaps because Saif’s version did not corroborate the police’s version of events. The Court was quite astute in its observation.

When the defense produced Mohd Saif as their own witness, under oath he confessed  – “[...] The accused, Shahzad Ahmad @ Pappu was not present in that flat, at the time of incident.”

Curiously, this statement was not considered by the court.

Where did Shahzad’s, (Who May or May Not Have Been Present at the Encounter) Gun Go?

Per the prosecution, Shahzad threw his gun into the Gang Nahar, that flows through Bulandshahr, UP. The chargesheet said: “On 4 February 2010, Shahzad [...] and a team from [the] crime branch [were] taken to the bridge on Gang Nahar where he pointed out the place from where he had thrown the weapon... The current of the water was strong and despite best efforts, the weapon was not found.”

However, after the encounter, all bullet shells and casings were matched with guns recovered from the encounter, including the two which killed M C Sharma. Ballistic reports too did not suggest the presence of a third “missing” gun.

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Was Shahzad an IM Operative?

The police claimed that Shahzad got away despite police surrounding the house and cordoning off the street because they did not know what he looked like, allowing him to mingle with the crowd and flee the scene.

Over a year later, Shahzad was picked up from Azamgarh. The arrest, police claims, was on the basis of his passport that was found at the encounter location. But, when an RTI sought details of the seizures made from Batla House, it mentioned in great detail, all the “incriminating documents”, but did not mention any passport.

In court, the police blamed sloppy paper work. They said that the passport was actually found later by the Investigating Officer in the case, ACP Sanjeev Kumar Yadav and yet, not added to the inventory until much later.

Apart from the purported passport, no other items, not even his finger prints were found at the house. As for his “confession” when he was arrested in Azamgarh, he retracted it in court, claiming he was being framed by the police.

Encounter Or Conspiracy? Shoot Out At Batla House Explained 
(Graphic: The Quint)

As for any evidence of his involvement with the Indian Mujahideen, the Court found none.

Encounter Or Conspiracy? Shoot Out At Batla House Explained 
(Graphic: The Quint)

In 2013, the court found Shahzad guilty and sentenced him to life with a fine of Rs 95,000, of which a part went to MC Sharma’s family. In January 2014, the Delhi High Court accepted Shahzad’s appeal against his conviction. The trial is on.

What was the ISIS Connect to Batla House?

In May 2016, the terror group ISIS released a video in which Indian terrorists of the group were threatening to avenge the violence against Muslims during the Babri Masjid demolition; in Kashmir over the years; and the Muzaffarnagar riots.

A screenshot of photographs of Sajid (17) when he was killed in the encounter and Mohd Sajid, who featured in the ISIS video.&nbsp;
A screenshot of photographs of Sajid (17) when he was killed in the encounter and Mohd Sajid, who featured in the ISIS video. 
(Photo courtesy: Times Now screenshot)

One of them claimed to be Mohammad Sajid, and claimed to have been at Batla House when the police raided the property; he said he fled the house. But then, what about the Mohd Sajid who was gunned down by the police during the encounter? Could it be yet another case of ‘mistaken identity’? Only the police can answer that.

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What is the Status of the "Terrorists”At Batla House?

  • Mohammad Sajid: Deceased, Shot dead in encounter
  • Atif Amin: Deceased, Shot dead in ecnounter
  • Shahzad Ahmad: Convicted to lifetime imprisonment for shooting Inspector MC Sharma fatally in encounter. Case under appeal at High Court
  • Mohammad Saif: Surrendered during encounter, in jail undergoing trial for Delhi 2008 blasts
  • Junaid: Absconding

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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