Slain SIMI Activists’ Lawyer Asks Why Jail CCTV Footage Not Seized

SIMI activists’ lawyer is not buying MP police’s explanation that jail CCTVs were not functional.

4 min read
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Over 24 hours after the 31 October ‘encounter’ in which the Madhya Pradesh police killed eight so-called Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) activists about 15 kms outside Bhopal, doubts are being expressed over why the authorities have shied away from seizing footage of CCTV cameras installed in the city jail.

Speaking to The Quint over phone, the lawyer for some of the eight alleged SIMI cadres, Parvez Alam, said, “I do not buy the police’s explanation that the CCTV cameras were not functioning the night when a brawl took place between a jail warder Ramashankar and some of the undertrials.

“The Bhopal central jail is an ISO 9001 certified prison, which makes it mandatory to have well-functioning CCTV cameras. The jail authorities’ and the state Anti-Terrorist Cell’s activities within the jail must have been captured by the CCTV cameras.”

He demanded release of the CCTV footage.

SIMI activists’ lawyer is not buying MP police’s explanation that jail CCTVs were not functional.
Bhopal Central Jail’s ISO certificate. (Photo: Central Jail Bhopal)

‘Questionable Encounter’

The Bhopal central jail was awarded the certification for “administrative control and functional management by the state government of Madhya Pradesh, to keep the inmates of the jail as per the provisions of applicable laws, regulations and appropriate orders”.

Claiming that the details of the autopsies performed late last night on the eight bodies “is being kept a closely guarded secret and their copies were yet to be given to the next of kin of those killed,” Alam said the circumstances leading to the “questionable encounter” call for a probe by the CBI and “not the NIA”.

Interestingly, Jaleel, the 18-year-old son of one of the alleged SIMI activists, Akeel Khilji, was picked up by two Anti-Terror Squad men as early as 6am on 31 October, the day of the so-called encounter. Highly-placed police sources questioned the necessity to “pick up” Jaleel from Khandwa at dawn when the encounter is said to have occurred between 10:30am and 11am on 31 October. This suggests that the eight SIMI men, including Khilji, were long dead before the police “broke” the news of the encounter.

SIMI activists’ lawyer is not buying MP police’s explanation that jail CCTVs were not functional.
The eight SIMI members who escaped from the prison. (Photo: The Quint/Anant Maheshwari)

Javed Chauhan, the Khandwa-based former lawyer of some of the slain SIMI activists, said that the sequence of events, beginning within the jail premises and ending at Manikhedi Patthar about 15 kms from Bhopal city, indicate that the eight men “did not escape by scaling the very high walls of the prison but were taken out in a vehicle” after the warder collapsed and died because of the grievous injuries he sustained in a fight on the intervening night of 30 and 31 November.

This was seconded by Alam who said that “unhe jail se nikaal ke le jaya gaya tha (they were taken out of the jail).”

“The undertrials could not have covered 15 kms in a span of a few hours and that too with no vehicle at their disposal. Conventional wisdom suggests that escaped prisons usually do not bunch together after a jail break. Each goes his own way,” Chauhan said.


SC and NHRC Guidelines Violated

Both Alam and Chauhan pointed to the following grave inconsistencies in the police version of the events leading up to the encounter which the Madhya Pradesh Congress has described as “staged” and “fake”:

  • Some of the video clips suggested that all the bullets fired at the eight men hit them above their waists, indicating that the Supreme Court and the National Human Rights Commission’s guidelines, which state that in an encounter the police must fire below the waist, were violated. Both lawyers claimed that most of the 46 bullets fired at the eight men hit either their heads or their chests.
  • The police made no arrests of the so-called facilitators in a nearby village who provided the eight men with three country-made revolvers or kattas.
  • There were only two warders, including Ramashankar, who were on guard the night that the fight between him and some – not all – of the alleged SIMI activists took place. What happened to the rest of the warders and guards?
SIMI activists’ lawyer is not buying MP police’s explanation that jail CCTVs were not functional.
Police at the encounter site at the hillocks of Acharpura village after the STF killed 8 SIMI activists. (Photo: PTI)
  • The undertrials had new clothes, sports shoes and wrist watches on, besides “being in the possession” of dry fruits and three country-made revolvers. If these were provided by facilitators from outside the jail, why was a getaway vehicle not arranged as well?
  • Five of the eight men were seen on a grassy knoll at Manikhedi Patthar from where they waved at the police. Alam said no opportunity was given to the five to surrender even though the place had been surrounded by heavily armed ATS personnel.
  • Scaling the 30-feet-high perimeter wall would have been impossible with a few bedsheets. Besides, what did the SIMI activists tie the bedsheets on to the other end to secure sufficient traction to climb up and then descend the wall?
  • Using pieces of wood and toothbrush as keys to unlock the cell gate is impossible, if not laughable.
  • “Intentional” delay caused to thwart the relatives of the slain men from reaching Bhopal from Khandwa.

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