One year after shootout, Jamia Nagar demands justice

By Khalid Akhter, IANS,

New Delhi : It has been a year since policemen stormed the narrow lanes of Delhi’s Jamia Nagar and gunned down two terror suspects while arresting five youth. But the anger still rages and even the ongoing Eid festivities have done little to blunt the memory of that fateful morning.

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Family members of the two alleged terrorists Mohammad Sajid and Mohammad Atif and of the five who continue to be behind bars at the high security Sabarmati prison in Ahmedabad are determined to continue their fight for justice. They say they won’t leave the struggle even to Allah.

Saquib Nisaar, Zeeshan Ahmad, Zia-ur-Rahman, Shakeel Ahmad and Mohammad Saif were arrested Sep 20, a day after police shot dead Sajid and Atif in L-18 building in the congested Batla House locality. Delhi Police Inspector M.C. Sharma was also killed in the shootout that police said was part of an operation to unravel the conspiracy behind the Sep 13 serial blasts in Delhi, six days earlier, that killed 24 people.

The grieving families say their children had nothing to do with the blasts.

“I want justice for my son and those killed by the police. My son is in jail for a year and there has been no proper enquiry; even after a year the trial is yet to begin. Is this justice?” asked Nisaar Ahmad, the father of Saquib Nisaar.

The 60-year-old from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh has met his son nearly twice a month in the last year and says the sight of his weeping son has only strengthened his resolve to fight for justice.

“This, I will not leave to Allah. I will take his blessings but will fight it on my own.”

The delay in the trial of the Sep 13, 2008 blasts has prolonged the agony of the kin of the deceased and the injured.

So far, police have filed a chargesheet against 30 people for the serial attacks. Of them, 12 have been arrested while two suspects were killed in the Batla House gunfight. Sixteen are absconding.

It was a refrain then but locals and civil liberties activists still allege that police had staged the “encounter” to ward off pressure after the blasts.

“If their claim that these boys were actually terrorists is true, what was the problem in setting up a judicial enquiry into the incident? Let the truth come out,” said Mohammad Ajmal, 42, a resident of Batla House.

Echoed Manisha Sethy, activist and member of the Jamia Teachers Association: “The government is responsible for delivering justice to its people, but in this case it seems to be otherwise. The government seems to be adamant on denying justice by not even setting up a judicial enquiry.”

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that gave a clean chit to the Delhi Police after being ordered to probe the shootout by Delhi High Court has also come in for flak.

According to Sethy, the NHRC did not visit the area or speak to any of the witnesses.

Zeba, a homemaker who lives on the first floor of L-18, says she is witness to the fact that no official from NHRC even visited the building.

“The incident happened three floors above. But why did NHRC officials not want to ask me questions? Isn’t it strange?”

The memories of the day are vivid and residents of Jamia Nagar, which falls in the Okhla assembly constituency, vented their anger in the assembly by-election Thursday by voting out the ruling Congress and bringing in Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Asif Mohhamed Khan as their legislator.

“We want to teach the party a lesson. Votebank politics is a dangerous game and people have seen through this,” said Adnan Farooqui, 30, a software engineer.

“The issue has not died. It is very much in our minds and will continue to remain,” said Jamal Ahmad, 64, while selling fruits in his shop at the corner of the crowded Batla main road where shoppers mingled ahead of Eid next week.

As Batla House readies for Eid three days away and a torchlight procession to highlight the demand for justice Friday evening, residents of the predominantly Muslim locality remember the two among them who died a year ago and the five behind bars still awaiting trial.

(Khalid Akhter can be contacted at [email protected])