Saturday’s shootout at a restaurant in central Delhi’s Rajender Nagar has raised several unanswered questions.
As per police records, Manoj Vashisht had seven cases of cheating against him. He was a proclaimed offender but there were no cases of heinous crimes such as murder, robbery or assault against him. Yet, the special cell — the police wing that deals in anti-terror operations — was tasked to nab him.
Again, even though the police was on his tail, Vashisht — as long as his Facebook profile suggests — does not appear to be a man in hiding. His family has alleged that it was a fake encounter, a charge squarely rubbished by the police.
Vashisht’s family claims that he was a social worker. His Facebook profile, updated till last month, has several photos of him attending social functions, some showing him addressing a gathering, some with high-profile politicians such as Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, Union minister Nitin Gadkari and BJP MP Udit Raj. There has been nothing to suggest that he was in anyway associated with them. Udit Raj said, “I had met him once last year at the house of a religious guru in Mumbai. He was one of the followers. I do not know him or heard anything about him.”
The police said Vashisht was carrying a pistol with which he fired at them. They said Vashisht had been asked to surrender but he shot at an inspector, prompting a sub-inspector to open fire “in self defence”.
The police also said that the shootout took place inside a restaurant in front of a sizeable gathering, suggesting that there could not have been any foul play.
Vashisht had set up different companies under the banner of RCS group with its registered office at Barakhamba Road and Tilak Nagar. In Delhi, there are four cases registered against him. Other cases have been registered in Chandigarh and Haryana. Vashist has been booked under charges of duping people by promising to sell them flats, which were not constructed by his company.
Police said he was a conman but Vashisht’s wife Priyanka, a zila panchayat member from Baghpat, UP, said her husband ran an NGO — Deshbhakti Sena Trust, to help the poor.
“My husband has been photographed with politicians because he was a social worker. Our NGO used to arrange mass weddings for people who cannot afford to get their daughters married. In many villages, we provided people with water connections,” she said.
She also accused the special cell of harassing her husband for extortion money. Priyanka said that in the first week of May, she had filed a complaint in the court against the special cell officers. But she could not produce documents to substantiate her claim.
“The court had sought a clarification from the special cell about the cases they were investigating against my husband. The special cell in its reply said that they were not investigating any cases against him. Why were they following him on Saturday when they had nothing on him? The papers are there in Baghpat and I will produce them on Monday,” she said when asked about copies of the court complaint.
Special cell chief SN Shrivastava, however, rejected it outright. “We got no such notice. The claims are baseless. We acted on a tip-off. He was asked to surrender in front of everyone,” he said.