Not unexpectedly, a commission of enquiry has absolved the Indian police in the infamous murky Bhopal encounter wherein eight alleged SIMI activists were gunned down 12 kilometer from Bhopal city after they allegedly escaped from the high-security Bhopal Central Jail.
The lawyer of the slain Muslim prisoners, Parvez Alam, said that it was hardly an inquiry. "There was no probe. We were not given any documents, not even a copy of the FIR registered with the Gunga police station after the encounter though it is a public document. The copies of the post-mortem reports were not given to us either."
According to the attorney, the Commission didn't give them an opportunity to present the facts and tell their side of the story, which, he said, would have punctured the police's narrative.
"There were so many loopholes. Even the ATS chief said that these youths were not armed, though the IG claimed they were -- a major contradiction," Alam said.
There was an uproar in India on the murky police encounter that kicked up a raging controversy with the government and the opposition parties locked in a war of words over the issue.
Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge had told Asian News International (ANI), "I saw the photographs on television and they do bring suspicion. They make us think that was the encounter fake? Because it seems quite difficult to imagine that eight people at a time were killed by the police at the same place together. This matter should be investigated and the Supreme Court should assign this matter to a retired Supreme Court judge to probe the matter and clear all doubts."
The government appointed a commission of inquiry on November 7, 2016 under retired High Court Judge SK Pandey.
The inquiry was nothing but an attempt to whitewash the truth, said attorney Parvez Alam,
According to former Madhya Pradesh chief minister and Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh, the repeated instance of prisoners escaping from jails across the country suggested a larger 'conspiracy'.
"Why do only Muslims break out of jail and not Hindus," said the congress leader. "It is a serious issue. First Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) activists fled the Khandwa jail. Now, they have fled from the Bhopal jail. I have been reiterating that RSS activists and other similar organizations are behind the anti-Muslim riots in the country. It should be probed whether there is someone behind this or not," he said earlier.
The apparent extra-judicial killing of eight escaped Muslim prisoners came amid lynching of Muslims by "cow protection" vigilantes.
To borrow Supriya Nair of the Atlantic "Across India, the BJP's victory seemed to embolden "cow protection" vigilantes, bands of men who claim to be motivated by their reverence for the animal. In the wake of "the Modi wave," BJP-ruled states enacted legislation tightening existing anti-beef laws, clamping down on cattle sales and even the possession of beef."
Soon after seven Dalits (from India's marginalized castes) were flogged and humiliated for skinning a dead cow--a primary occupation for some of the victims--in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat last year.
According to Nair, "these days, the specter of mob violence sparked by accusations that the victims slaughtered or smuggled cows or ate beef haunts India with morbid regularity. News of these killings usually proliferates through amateur videos, often filmed by members of the mob themselves. The phenomenon confirms, and perhaps even exceeds, the fears expressed by many critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party's nationalist agenda, which they say is grounded not in bold economic reform, but in polarizing social conflict between Hindus and Muslims."
It may be recalled, that in June last , towards the end of Ramadan, two young Muslim brothers on a visit to Delhi to buy new clothes for Eid boarded a train to return home, three hours away. Soon, they became embroiled in a disagreement over seating with fellow passengers, which escalated into an argument over their religion. The other passengers taunted the boys, calling them "beef-eaters," and pulling at their beards, one of the brothers later said. Eventually, the knives came out. By the time the train had passed the boys' village, the assault was underway. Fifteen-year-old Junaid Khan was thrown out of the carriage one station past the boys' stop; he had been stabbed multiple times, and was later declared dead at Hospital.