Delhi Police Special Cell had to convince then PM Dr Manmohan Singh that Batla House encounter was genuine
Karnal Singh, former Joint Commissioner of Police (JCP), Delhi Police, who led the operation, claimed that the incident was bedevilled by vote-bank politics, news channels’ obsessive competition over TRPs and conspiracy theoristsUpdated: Sep 08, 2020, 11:59 IST
In his tell-all book about the Batla House encounter in Delhi on September 19, 2008, Karnal Singh, former Joint Commissioner of Police (JCP), Delhi Police, who had led the operation, has written that the incident was bedevilled by vote-bank politics, news channels’ obsessive competition over television rating points (TRPs) and conspiracy theorists.
The 1984-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, who had retired as the chief of Enforcement Directorate (ED) in 2018, wrote: “the lack of a political consensus on how to deal with terrorism had made it difficult to have stringent policies to tackle it”.
“It seemed like we were living in a world with divided media and public opinion. In one realm, our department, Special Cell, was the biggest villain, compromising human rights. In their eyes, we were doing everything wrong. The other realm, comprising public and media persons, was deeply appreciative and supportive of our work,” Singh wrote in his book, “Batla House: An encounter that shook the nation”.
Asserting that the encounter was put on a public trial, Singh wrote that on October 12, 2008, a group of teachers of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) University had set up a Jan Sunwai, or public hearing. The jury comprised politician and activist Swami Agnivesh, human rights and political activist John Dayal, and Delhi University (DU) Professors Tripta Wahi, Vijay Singh and Nirmalangshu Mukherji.
A dozen of residents of Jamia also gave testimonies at that meeting. “Later, the jury gave its findings, which were basically a repetition of what had appeared in some sections of the media and were already addressed and answered by us”.
He wrote that the findings of the Jan Sunwai were “devoid” of merit and none of the people who deposed in it had firsthand knowledge of the incident. “That is the reason why none of them subsequently came forward to share these testimonies or gave any affidavit in the (Delhi) high court (HC) or the Supreme Court (SC)”.
On October 14, a new dimension was given to the encounter, when a few senior politicians from the minority cell of the Indian National Congress (INC) decided to send a delegation to meet the then Congress president Mrs Sonia Gandhi and the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to raise a complaint against “the injustice done to Muslims” and to order a judicial probe into the encounter, Singh wrote.
“Kapil Sibal, Union minister for science and technology, along with other leaders visited the Batla House area before meeting Mrs Gandhi and Dr Singh. On the same day, Mulayam Singh Yadav, the founder patron of the Samajwadi Party, and Amar Singh met Dr Singh to ask for a judicial enquiry. Political pressure was building up from all sides,” he added.
Singh wrote that it was only after he showed the evidence to Sibal at the residence of the then Delhi Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) Tejinder Khanna, the government was convinced that it was not a fake encounter.
“In the end, Sibal admitted that he was convinced of the genuineness of the encounter and of the accused being involved in terrorist activities. He agreed to convey the same to Dr Singh ( the then PM). He took my number and true to his words, he rang me in the evening to confirm that he had conveyed what he found during discussions to the PM,” Singh wrote.
Singh recalled that during the February 22, 2009, At Home function of the Delhi Police, Dr Singh had lauded him. You have done a good job, Dr Singh had told Singh.
The retired IPS officer said the Delhi Police presented the truth before the Delhi HC, the SC and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
The SC, the apex court of the country, gave its verdict and cleared the Special Cell of all charges that Batla House encounter was fake, he added.
“Although the NHRC report and the HC and SC verdicts were very comprehensive, the Batla House encounter continues to be referenced in political speeches during elections and TV debates till date,” Singh wrote alluding to the conspiracy theories that took a life of their own in the name of vote-bank politics.