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HindustanTimes Wed,16 Apr 2014

Batla house incident set to return as election issue

Neelam Pandey and Faizan Haidar, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 25, 2013
First Published: 22:56 IST(25/7/2013) | Last Updated: 02:38 IST(26/7/2013)

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The verdict in the Batla House encounter has led residents of adjacent areas to believe that politicians may rake up the issue again for electoral benefits.

The 2008 encounter, during which a Delhi police inspector and two suspected militants were killed, triggered waves of sympathy among voters, leading to Mohammed Asif's victory from the Okhla constituency in a by-election later in the year. The poll had followed Congress's Parvez Hashmi election to the Rajya Sabha.

Thursday's verdict, holding Shahzad Ahmad responsible for the death of inspector MC Sharma, may have opened old wounds among voters in the constituency. Several of them talked of raising the matter in the run-up to the Assembly elections later this year

Angry residents said a judicial probe into the encounter would be a key demand in the future.

"Mohammed Asif had made claims that he will push for a judicial probe. But he seemed to have forgotten his promise after his election victory," said Irfan Ahmad, a resident of the area.

"Today, when the verdict was to be announced, he was nowhere to be seen near Batla House. When we called him and asked him to come here, he said he was busy," he added. Attempts to reach Mohammed Asif were unsuccessful.

The residents claim that their identity has been linked to the encounter. Only a judicial enquiry will be able to ensure that the stigma is no longer attached to the area, they feel.

"The Congress had in the past demanded probes into the Gujarat riots. But they completely ignore our demands for a judicial probe," said Jamil Ahmad, a resident of Batla House.

The residents said the encounter would remain an election issue till justice is delivered.

"Nowhere will you find an entire community supporting the accused. The defeat of Ziya-ur-Rehman, another accused in the case, by merely 500 votes in the municipal elections shows how strongly the residents felt about the slain men," Amanatullah Khan, of the Lok Jan Shakti Party, said.

"I had campaigned for Ziya-ur-Rehman, who fought the municipal election and almost won. For us they will always remain innocent and this time, I will fight the election so that the fight for justice is not lost," he added.

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