Five years after the Batla House shootout, residents of Jamia Nagar are still living under the shadow of the incident that changed their lives forever.
Most tony restaurants don’t deliver food in the locality and people hardly get bank loans or even consumer products on installments. Auto-rickshaws refuse passengers if they mention their address as Jamia Nagar.
It has been five years since inspector Mohan Chand Sharma led 17 of his special cell officers to arrest alleged Indian Mujahideen militants holed up in the L-18 flat of Batla House. Inspector Sharma and two terrorists were killed in the shootout that ensued soon after the police tried to enter the flat.
Hundreds of conspiracy theories are still doing the rounds regarding the encounter even as a court is set to deliver its verdict against one of the alleged militants for killing inspector Sharma. But for residents of Jamia Nagar, the incident has become a plot that refuses to go.
“The moment you take the name of Jamia Nagar, there is a certain uneasiness among people. No bank or shop is ready to extend loans to the people of the locality. They have all been blacklisted, painted with one brush for no fault of theirs,” said Firoz Bakht Ahmed, a resident of nearby Zakir Nagar.
Since the area is situated close to Jamia Millia Islamia, hundreds of students live there in rented accommodations. The moment they mention Batla House or Jamia Nagar in their address, they are looked at with suspicion. “It has become a sort of hurdle in our lives. When we go for job interviews, our talent and qualification takes a backseat the moment employers read our address,” said Mudasser, who was pursuing his masters from Jamia Millia Islamia when the encounter took place. Residents said the entire population of the area has become a suspect.
“Every time there is some terrorist activity, police teams come to our locality and question young men,” said a resident.“Last February, a police team conducted a midnight search and detained several residents. The detainees had to later submit documents to prove that they are Indian nationals,” said Rashid Khan, a resident of Ghaffar Manzil.
Batla House verdict today
A city court will on Thursday pronounce its final verdict in the five-year-old controversial Batla House encounter case, in which suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Shahzad is charged with killing Delhi Police’s special cell inspector Mohan Chand Sharma.
Additional sessions judge Rajender Kumar Shastri had reserved the verdict on July 20 after the police and defence concluded its arguments. Seventy prosecution witnesses and two defence witnesses were examined during the trial. The trial court had declared Shahzad’s accomplice Junaid a proclaimed offender. Junaid had allegedly fled with Shahzad during the encounter and remained untraceable until the trial ended.
The shootout between the special cell team and the alleged IM terrorists took place six days after serial blasts hit the Capital on September 13, 2008, leaving 30 dead and over 100 injured.
Acting on a tip-off regarding some terrorists involved in the blasts, the police team led by Inspector Sharma went to Batla House on September 19. Dressed in civils, Sharma and his colleague went to flat number 108 in L-18 block where the alleged terrorists were living.According to the crime branch chargesheet, the team was caught off-guard after Shahzad and his accomplices shot at Sharma.
Two suspected IM operatives, Atif Amin (the alleged mastermind behind the blasts) and Mohd Sajid were killed as the police fired back. In the midst of a heavy exchange of fire, one terrorist, Junaid. managed to escape. The police later arrested Mohd Saif, Zeeshan Ahmed, Saqib Nisar, Mohammad Shakeel and Zia-ur-Rehman. However, only Shahzad was accused of killing Sharma, says the police chargesheet.
The prosecution contended before the court it had sufficient circumstantial evidence and phone records to prove Shahzad was present in the Jamia Nagar flat. It said that he was among those who had fired at the police, leading to the death of Inspector Sharma.
Shahzad’s counsel challenged the police theory. He denied his client was present in the flat. He contended that as per ballistic reports, the bullets found in Sharma’s body matched with the gun seized from the spot and not from the weapon allegedly used by Shahzad to shoot at the slain inspector. It was contended on his behalf that none of the witnesses had given any description of the occupants of the flat.