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HindustanTimes Mon,14 Jul 2014

Residents say they hadn’t expected anything better

Neelam Pandey and Faizan Haider, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 25, 2013
First Published: 22:24 IST(25/7/2013) | Last Updated: 02:26 IST(26/7/2013)
The grey monsoon sky reflected the sombre mood of the residents of Batla House after the sessions court verdict, indicting Shahzad Ahmed for killing inspector MC Sharma, became public.

Anger at the verdict was palpable as the narrow lane outside the L-18 building was packed with people. From school-going children to old men, everyone was discussing the verdict.

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For many residents, the 'denial of justice' seemed to be déjà vu.

On September 19, 2008, during the month of Ramzan, the locals had heard news reports of a police encounter at L-18 in which two men and a police officer were killed. The area had remained tense for months.

Five years have passed. It is the month of Ramzan again and the tension is back. On Thursday, around 3 pm, local residents rushed back home after the afternoon prayers, eager to get an update about the case. Whatever little hope of a favourable judgment was left was shattered as TV channels flashed news of Shahzad's conviction.

Residents said that they hadn't expected anything better and the verdict vindicated their belief that they won't get justice.

"We don't have faith in the police and the political setup. Everything unfolded in front of me. I have forgotten nothing. That day, I saw the police barricading the lane from both the sides. I even saw Mohan Chand Sharma walking outside the house. And despite being immediate neighbours, none of us heard even a single gunshot," said Masih Alam, a lawyer who lives opposite the L-18 building.

"Today, Batla House has become synonymous with L-18 and all of us are viewed suspiciously," Alam added.

"When it comes to seeking our votes, the politicians have always made the encounter a big issue but no proper investigation has ever been conducted. The government should at least agree to a judicial enquiry now," said Firoz Mohammed Alam, a retired lecturer from Jamia polytechnic.

Many residents claimed no one from the National Human Rights Commission ever contacted them despite the fact that many of them were key eyewitnesses in the case.

"Whenever a crime takes place, police and commissions always ask for eyewitness accounts but in this case no one came ever to seek details from us. There are a number of unanswered questions, but no one is willing to ask them," said Jamil Ahmed, a resident of Batla House.


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