The eight members of banned group SIMI that escaped from prison and were then gunned down on Sunday “were planning a huge terror attack,” said Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Bhupinder Singh, adding that a “big network” made their jail break possible.
“If such terrorists had managed to escape, it would have been a great threat to national security. The Madhya Police managed to trace and kill them in a short time,” he said of the members of the Student Islamist Movement of India (SIMI), which was banned in 2001 as a terror group.
The National Human Rights Commission or NHRC has demanded an explanation from the Madhya Pradesh government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan as well as the state police after a series of videos showed the prisoners being killed, apparently in cold blood at close range and without any signs of a shootout. The government has said that while the footage is being examined, it will not be investigated separately from a probe that seeks to determine how the prison break took place at Bhopal’s central jail.
On Sunday, taking advantage of allegedly lighter patrolling because of Diwali, the prisoners strung bedsheets together and then scaled a wall nearly 30-feet high, according to the police. They killed a prison guard before managing to escape. At this time, according to the government and the police, the men were armed with spoons served with their meals.
Hours later, they were found in a forested village about 10 miles south of the state’s capital of Bhopal.
The Inspector General of Bhopal, Yogesh Choudhry, told that when the cops confronted them, the prisoners opened fire using four country-made pistols. However, he ceded, the three policemen who were injured were hit with sharp weapons and not bullets.
Junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju has said that the police action should not be questioned “only on the basis of a video.”
Madhya Pradesh’s Home Minister stressed that the SIMI men were hardened criminals who had been jailed on charges ranging from terrorism to sedition and murder.
“They have been charged with being involved in terrorist activities. They had planned this jailbreak. This is the most secured jail in Madhya Pradesh. It was obvious that a big network is behind this planning,” he said to NDTV.
Kusum Mehdale, the minister in charge of the state’s prisons admitted that the jail break may have been “an insider job” and said lapses in security include CCTVs that were not working.
Important unanswered questions :
It is important for the sake of clarity that the details of the alleged encounter with SIMI activists are presented to the media and to the people of the country.
Logistics of the men, who escaped and who were eventually killed, are confounding.
The alleged encounter in which the men were killed is said to have taken place around eight hours after the jail break and 15 kilometres away from the prison. Did the men have the help of a vehicle after they escaped, or did they travel by foot? The more important question is why the men decided to stick together instead of going in different directions to avoid being caught. The activists, who are all undertrials, were found wearing jeans and sports shoes. How did the men get access to such clothes ?
What are the operative details of the encounter ?
Perhaps the most important thing the police need to do is to make a clear statement on how the ‘encounter’ actually took place. Were the men armed or not? What was the intelligence that led the cops to the SIMI men ? How did the gunfight erupt and were the SIMI men the first to fire? If yes, how did the men have access to the weapons? It is important for the sake of clarity that these details are presented to the media and to the people of the country.
The shocking video that has emerged shows at least one of the inmates being fired upon in cold blood as if it were a premeditated operation. This raises many questions about the state of our police forces and prejudices within.