Verdict of the Jan Sunwai JuryMay 24, 2018
Academics and activists seek Judicial probe into the 19th September encounter by a sitting Supreme Court judge;
Demand that investigations be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigations
A Jan Sunwai on the Batla House ‘Encounter’ was organized by the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Group outside Khalilullah Masjid in Jamia Nagar on 12th October (Sunday). The following scholars and activists associated with civil rights movement constituted the jury:
Swami Agnivesh, Member, National Integration Council
John Dayal, Member, National Integration Council
Tanika Sarkar, Professor of History, JNU
Tripta Wahi, Professor of History, Delhi University
Vijay Singh, Professor of History, Delhi University
Nirmalangshu Mukherji, Professor of Philosophy, Delhi University
Harsh Mandar, Social Activist
The need to hold a Public Hearing in the neighbourhood became imperative to counter the increasing communalization of public discourse in relation to the issue of terrorism and its association with the Muslim community. The on-going targeting of the community by the media and the different institutions of the State as well as political parties has increased the sense of alienation and fear. To overcome this situation and to extend solidarity to the community residing in the Jamia Nagar area particularly by members of the liberal, secular, democratic intelligentsia belonging to different communities created a space of dialogue. This act of solidarity was welcomed by the people who attended in thousands to be part of the deliberations.
After hearing over a dozen testimonies given by local residents, the jury observed the following.
A) The people of Jamia Nagar participated overwhelmingly in the Jan Sunwai. The predominant sentiment among the local residents about the ‘encounter’ is one of anger and disbelief. This feeling was articulated by the participants and those who gave testimony. Local residents have taken strong exception to the stereotyping of young Muslim educated youth in this area and also in general as terrorists. The links that the media and the state is making between education, especially professional technical education among the Muslim youth and terrorism has fueled fears that it will inhibit the progress and social advancement of the community.
B) It is noted that prior to moving to L-18, the deceased had verifications proofs in place with the local police. Sajid had appeared for his 11th class examination at Jamia School and all address details were genuine. Atif had enrolled in Jamia Millia islamia. Till date, all identification records submitted by them have been found to be true. The verification details for obtaining their mobile connections are also genuine. These proofs establish the credibility of the boys killed in the encounter as students seeking opportunities and a career in the city.
C) The statement by people who bathed the bodies of the dead boys before their burial was striking: they testified that the skin on Atif’s back was sloughed off; there was smell in his body; there were multiple bullet injuries on Sajid’s head. These cast aspersions on the police version.
D) On the nature of firing, all residents uniformly testified that the firing happened in quick succession punctuated by short intervals for nearly an hour after Inspector Sharma was brought down. People testified that they had seen him coming down with injury – blood was oozing out from the wound. The members of the locality raised questions about the long duration of firing in L-18. The death of Inspector Sharma too is shrouded in mystery.
E) The witnesses also expressed their anguish about the way in which the police kept the community on tenterhooks about the burial of the bodies. The handing over of the bodies was delayed and the entire process was marked by complete lack of sensitivity in relation to the dead. The Jury feels that minimum human sensibilities must be respected regardless of the charges against the dead.
The jury strongly feels that there is ample ground to doubt the veracity of the police version of the sequence of events on 19th September. Following these observations in the jan sunwai, the Jury demands:
A) Judicial probe into the 19th September encounter by a sitting Supreme Court judge
B) The investigations must be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigations.
The jury is of the view that the on-going targeting of the Muslim minority in the country has created an atmosphere of fear and anxiety. The complete disregard and violation of fundamental civil rights in the process of the State’s efforts to control ‘terrorist’ activities has raised questions regarding the secular character of the Indian democracy and the impartiality of its institutions. The widespread sense of alienation among the minorities can only be mitigated by ensuring justice.