The Opposition attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government on Monday over the killing of eight suspected activists of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in an alleged encounter in Bhopal.
The Congress, CPI-M and AIMIM among others questioned the veracity of the government and police’s claims, and sought a judicial probe into the encounter.
“I am demanding a judicial probe because even the government must know under what circumstances they escaped. People of the state and country must know how terrorists with such a record were able to escape from such a high security jail and within hours caught and shot dead,” Congress leader Kamal Nath, a Lok Sabha MP from Madhya Pradesh, said.
Congress leader Digvijay Singh alleged that the eight were killed over fears that they would make some revelations.
“If all had been caught alive they would have given information about the whole incident, but would have also revealed the sequence of events. Perhaps, that is why they were gunned down,” Singh was quoted as saying by PTI.
The eight undertrials reportedly escaped from a high-security prison in the Madhya Pradesh capital after murdering a guard on Monday morning, and were subsequently tracked and shot dead in an encounter by the state police later in the day.
From robbing banks to making bombs: Click here for details about what they were accused of.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi noted the discrepancies in the accounts of the state home minister and police on the weapons allegedly used by the escapees.
“The people who ran away from prison after assassinating a guard had only spoons in their possession. So, this is unbelievable to any normal person,” he said. “That is why I am of the opinion that a proper and independent investigation has to be done to find out how did these accused flee from a high security central prison.
“I feel an enquiry by the Supreme Court would unravel all the weaknesses and any steps which have been taken to not to bring the whole facts out of it. It is high time that all terrorist-related cases are dealt with in a time-bound manner.”
Undermining morale of forces
The BJP defended the police action and accused the Opposition of “undermining the morale of our security forces”.
“Like they questioned the cross-LoC surgical strike, they are doing the same again, for vote-bank politics,” BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said. “Looking at the way Congress is politicising the encounter, and that too concerning the particular group or organisation, is a matter of concern. Congress seems to raise concern only when LeT terrorists are killed and when SIMI activists who are convicted and involved in jailbreak.”
Click here to learn about everything we know and don’t know about the encounter.
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan expressed relief “after the neutralisation of all the escaped SIMI terrorists,” lauding his state’s police for prompt action. He also assured that any lapses in security will be investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
“The escaping of the SIMI terrorists is a serious issue and strict action will be taken against those responsible after a thorough probe,” Chouhan said.
State home minister Bhupendra Singh too supported his government’s claim, saying the police had no choice but to respond with gunfire.
“Our Madhya Pradesh police have achieved a great success by foiling a possible terror threat to the nation. When there is an encounter, the police have no other option but to open fire. Which is why this case has been handed over to the NIA so that a proper probe can be conducted,” Singh said.
However, CPI-M’s Brinda Karat termed the official version of the incident as “highly dubious and suspicious”.
“Therefore, to get to the truth, it is essential to have an independent probe under a high court judge and should be time-bound because nobody can believe what seems to be a highly manufactured version,” she said.
Karat said those killed were undertrials and dubbing them as “terrorists” amounted to “subverting the law”.
There must be a time-bound Judicial Inquiry into their killings, and disturbing inconsistencies in versions of the state govt & the police. pic.twitter.com/WVXizXtc70— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) October 31, 2016
Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party convener too joined the chorus demanding an apex court-monitored probe into the incident.
With inputs from agencies