Brutal fake encounter killing in Bhopal

Condemn the growing state terrorism!

On October 31, the media reported that eight activists of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) had escaped from the high-security Bhopal Central Jail, allegedly using bed sheets, after killing a head constable with plates and spoons used for meals in the prison.

Within 2-3 hours, it was reported in the media that the eight alleged “terrorists” had been killed in an “encounter” with the Madhya Pradesh police at a forest in Eintkhedi village, about eight kilometres from Bhopal. In a press conference, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan declared that he had briefed Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh about the “neutralised SIMI terrorists”, that the National Investigation Agency would be investigating what was the plan of these “terrorists”. The CM also congratulated the policemen involved in the case.

The facts of the case that have so far come to light clearly indicate that this is yet another case of a fake “encounter” killing, a standard operating procedure in the state terrorism routinely practiced by the Indian state. Innocent people are jailed, tortured, then forcibly taken to some remote place and shot dead. Some weapons and other typical “evidence” are planted on them. The media repeatedly flashes the pictures of their dead bodies and declares them to be “dreaded terrorists”, whereas in most such cases they are later proven to be innocent or their guilt is never established. The police and security forces are rewarded with awards and promotions, for “killing the dreaded terrorists”. Persons of specific religious communities are targeted for allegedly organizing terrorist attacks. Communal propaganda, accompanied with much jingoistic hype about “defence of national unity and territorial integrity” and sabre-rattling against Pakistan, is systematically carried out through the media and by ministers and other spokespersons of the government and the armed forces. An atmosphere of communal hatred, suspicion and terror is created.

The incident of October 31, 2016 is characterized by all these features.

The Indian state’s official version of the incident, backed by the corporate media, is full of inconsistencies. For example, how did eight undertrial prisoners manage to escape from such a “high-security” jail as Bhopal jail is reputed to be, even when it has been claimed by the authorities that all security arrangements such as CCTV cameras, electronic alarms, etc. were functioning? How was it that prisoners allegedly just escaped from jail were dressed, not in prison gear, but as if they were about to carry out some “terrorist” activity? What kind of “threat” could they have posed to the police if they were armed with only plates and spoons, that the police had “no option but to shoot them dead in an encounter”? Why were the post-mortem examinations on the bodies of the 8 victims performed in such a hurry, within just a few hours of the incident on October 31 itself, by a single doctor, without any video-recording or the presence of multiple forensic experts as is the norm?

Various persons in authority have also given out different narratives of the incident. For example, while the state Home Minister has said that the undertrials were unarmed, the police office in charge of the incident has claimed that “they were armed and were killed in crossfire”. Such glaring inconsistencies are raising questions in the public mind, and many democratic minded people have valid questions to ask. Neither the police nor any other state authority has been able to satisfactorily explain these and several other inconsistencies and contradictions.

The lawyer representing the 8 victims is reported to have said that the post-mortem reports revealed death from gunshot wounds mostly in the abdomen, head and chest. According to a Supreme Court ruling, in an encounter police officers are supposed to shoot, only in self-defence and only below the waist. A video of the incident, taken by local villagers and posted by an English news channel, shows the police firing at point blank range at the men, who appear to have still been alive at that time. There is no sign of any kind of retaliation by the targeted men, belying the claim of the Madhya Pradesh police that the men were killed in “retaliatory firing”. The video suggests that knives were planted on the dead bodies. An audio circulated over the social media, has a senior police officer issuing orders over the wireless during the "encounter" - to kill all the suspects.

Within a short while after the incident, even before the matter could be investigated, government sources as well as a large number of T.V. channels were brazenly referring to the dead men as “terrorists”. However, news reports indicate that the prisoners who were killed were undertrials, charged with various crimes but not convicted. According to news sources, the cases against them were weak and their defence lawyer is reported to have said that the trials were likely to conclude soon, in their favour. Media channels reporting on the incident were shamelessly competing with one another in comparing the “encounter killing” of the “dreaded terrorists” with the surgical strikes reportedly carried out by the Indian armed forces in Pakistani territory on September 29.

Madhya Pradesh government and police officials have criticised those who have raised questions and doubts about the official version, as “politically motivated”. Junior home minister Kiren Rijiju, when questioned by journalists about the incident, sought to ward them off saying that “we should stop this habit of raising doubts, questioning the authorities and the police. This is not a good culture. … people have developed this habit of raising unnecessary doubts and questions”.

The Indian State has been increasingly ensuring that its police, military and other security personnel are above question by the public, even when they have clearly committed acts of outright murder. In 2009, the Supreme Court stayed an earlier (2007) Andhra Pradesh High Court ruling that it would be mandatory to register an FIR after every encounter death against individual police officers who participated in it. The Supreme Court argued that such provisions would tie the hands of police officers in dealing with “terrorists” or other “subversive elements”. It has also been reported that the government is planning to introduce legal provisions to give police officers carrying out encounter killings immunity from investigations by the CBI and other investigating agencies. This confirms this it is a policy of the state to carry out and sanction such killings.

CGPI condemns the brutal killing of the 8 men in a “fake encounter”. It condemns the lying propaganda of the Indian state and its agencies, aided by the corporate media, to cover up the reality and portray the men as “dreaded terrorists”. It condemns the attempts of the state and the corporate media to spew communal hatred and jingoism once again.

State terrorism in all its forms is a favourite practice of the ruling class and its state, to smash the unity of the working class and toiling people, create confusion about the real source of the problems facing our society and divert the popular opposition to the anti-people, anti-national and anti-social agenda of the bourgeoisie. It is imperative that the working class and all oppressed sections strengthen our unity and step up the struggle to expose and put an end to state terrorism. 


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