“He was lying dead handcuffed. How can a man with his hands cuffed try to snatch the gun?” asks Mohammad Ahmed three years after his son was killed in an encounter by Telangana Police.
By Raqib Hameed Naik, TwoCircles.net
Hyderabad: Three years ago, on the morning of April 7, 2015, Syed Imtiaz Ali, 34 received a phone call from one of his cousins, asking him to check news about his brother being aired on the news channels. As he turned to a local channel, the news being aired shocked and numbed him.
The news said that his brother, Syed Amjad Ali, then 27 who along with four other under trials, had been gunned down by police in Nalgonda district when a 17-member escort police team of Warangal prison was taking them to Nampally court in Hyderabad for hearing.
“I was totally devastated by the news,” recalls Imtiaz. “The arguments (in the ongoing case) were almost complete and the evidence presented by the police was very weak… we were expecting his release in few days,” he adds.
That day along with Amjad, four other undertrials Mohammad Viqaruddin, Izhar Khan, Dr. Mohammad Haneef and Mohammad Zakir were killed in the encounter. All were arrested by Andhra Pradesh, Octopus- the anti-terrorist agency, and the Counter Intelligence Cell back in July, 2010 from different localities of Hyderabad for their alleged role in the killing of two policemen and firing at intelligence agents as a retribution for the dubious role played by Andhra police against Muslim youth post May 2007, Makkah Masjid blasts in Hyderabad.
Amjad and Viqaruddin were accused by the police of forming Tehreek-e-Ghalba-e-Islam (TGI), the alleged militant outfit which had claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Policemen while others were arrested on alleged charges of aiding, abetting and providing them logistic support.
Encounter in question
On the day of the encounter, Amjad along with four other undertrials was being transferred from Warangal central jail to Hyderabad Nampally court in a police van, escorted by 17 police personnel. The police alleged that while they were on their way, Viqaruddin asked them to stop the vehicle for attending the nature’s call on the outskirts of Tangatur Village in Aler. After he got back into the bus, the Police claim he attempted to snatch weapons from the policemen in which the other four undertrials also joined him prompting police in escort to open fire in ‘Self defense’ thus killing them all.
“After entering the vehicle, he snatched the Insas weapon of the escort police constable and opened fire. The remaining four accused also tried to snatch weapons, shouting slogans. It is learned the escort party fired in self defense resulting in the death of Viquar and other four accused,” says the statement issued by police.
However, on the same day, a photograph of all five youths dead in the police van with their hands cuffed to their seats started circulating on social networking websites, which raised a serious question over the authenticity of police claims of ‘self-defense’ and ‘retaliatory exchange of fire’.
According to Mohammad Ahmed, 70, a retired civil engineer from Saudi Arabia, charges were fabricated against his son, Viquarddin and then killed in a ‘fake’ encounter along with four other undertrials.
“He was made a scapegoat first and then killed in cold blood,”Ahmed told TwoCircles.net.“He was lying dead handcuffed. How can a man with his hands cuffed try to snatch the gun?” he asks.
He says that on the very same day the court was going to pass the jail transfer order and police might have thought that it was last chance for them to neutralize the five undertrials.
“Policemen must have felt that it was their last chance to Kill them,” he said.
Imtiaz says that each dead body had minimum 6-7 bullets and bruises all over their bodies. “This was a clear case of an extrajudicial killing.”
Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee (CLMC), a human rights organization based in Hyderabad, in its fact-finding report had also observed that there was a conspiracy behind the killings and carried out in a well-planned manner. It had also alleged the top brass of Telangana police of hatching the conspiracy.
“It seems that the top brass of Telangana police hatched the conspiracy and got permission from the head of the government to execute the plan,” reads the CLMC fact-finding report.
A threat to the life of undertrials
Days before the police encounter, Dr. Mohammad Haneef had asked Syed Amjad’s father who used to visit his son frequently in the Warangal prison to convey a message to his wife Ishrat Banoo, 34 that he was feeling the danger to his life.
On March 11, 2015, almost a month before the encounter, Haneef was shifted to Warangal Prison where four other accused were lodged.
“He was scared because police used to take them through a forest route for hearing in Nampally court in Hyderabad,” recalls Ishrat. Haneef has asked her to meet the lawyer and file a petition before the court to shift him to another prison.
Back in April 2012, Viqaruddin had also complained to his father about the frequent beatings, when police escort used to take him from Warangal Prison to Hyderabad Court for hearing.
Fearing for the worst, his father had sent a letter to Chief Justice of then united Andhra Pradesh and chairman of AP State Human Rights Commissions seeking their intervention in the transfer of his son from Warangal Jail but no action was taken by the concerned authorities.
“On the way, they (policemen) used to remove his handcuffs and ask him to run, but he didn’t because he knew that they wanted to kill him in a fake encounter, “recalls Ahmed.
Justice delayed and denied
On April 29, 2015, the Executive Magistrate of Nalgonda District under whose territorial Jurisdiction the encounter had taken place was appointed by Telangana government to preside over the Magisterial Inquiry despite the fact that government order was issued in the clear violation of 176(1)(A) of CrPC that only authorizes Judicial magistrate to inquire into custodial death.
The Telangana government had also constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) on April 13, 2017, comprising of six police officials which is yet to submit its report.
“Those who killed our children were asked to preside over the investigation. What kind of logic was it?” Ahmed asks.
Ahmed in May 2015 along with three other victim families filed a writ petition in state High Court for seeking intervention in lodging FIR under section 302 against the escort Police party besides scrapping the SIT and handing over the case to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
“Judiciary was our last resort from where we could expect justice,” he says.
According to advocate Khalid Saifullah who is representing the victim families in High court, the state government doesn’t want the matter to go ahead.“In last three years, the matter was only heard twice by the High Court and both times on the request of public prosecutor it was adjourned. No hearing was granted by the high court in 2017. It seems that state government doesn’t want the matter to be heard so that no order is passed,” he told TwoCircles.net.
Ishrat who lives with her three children in a single-room rented accommodation in Mushirabad locality of Hyderabad is determined to fight for justice even if she has to continue living in poverty.
“My children have grown without the shadow of their father and they only have his letters from jail. They usually read them and cry. They are also taking interest in how he died and want justice for their father, “ Ishrat says.
But Imtiaz is feeling betrayed by the judiciary and feels that government will do everything possible in its control to deny justice to the victim families. “We don’t trust the state government. They have left us helpless, “he says.
“We have left everything on God now,” he adds after a deep silence.