As a controversial video of the Bhopal encounter started doing the rounds on social media and was played out on television channels through the day yesterday, questions have been raised on what exactly happened during the hunt for the group of men from the banned Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) who escaped from the Bhopal Central Jail and were shot to death by the police.
The video purportedly showed policemen shooting to death in cold blood an unarmed man as people around egged them on to pump more bullets into the bodies of men lying on the ground. The authenticity of the video has not been confirmed, but it has prompted social media users and activists to question the police and state authorities. Police have maintained that the prisoners, who are said to have killed a prison guard by slitting his throat, were heavily armed and that there was counter fire.
"First of all, we should stop this habit of raising doubts, questioning the authorities and the police. This is not a good culture."Kiren Rijiju
However, junior home minister Kiren Rijiju has expressed his dissatisfaction at the "habit of questioning authorities and police" and said that it was "not a good culture".
"First of all, we should stop this habit of raising doubts, questioning the authorities and the police. This is not a good culture. But what we have been observing in India is that people have developed this habit of raising unnecessary doubts and questions," Rijiju told reporters.
"It is not good to raise questions on security forces dealing with terrorists just on the basis of videos. We are facing challenges on the border with ceasefire violation, and our forces are responding," he said.
Backing him was Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who appealed for a system of quick trials.
"Let the whole world know. Were they (policemen) right or wrong," the Indian Express quoted Chouhan as saying during his state foundation day speech. "We will have to evolve a system for quick trials. How long can you keep them under trial? Some people even get chicken biryani in jail. We should seriously consider setting up fast-track courts." He is referring to Ajmal Kasab, who was said to have been served biryani in jail, a story public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam confessed to have planted to cement public opinion against the terrorist.
State Home Minister Bhupendra Singh have said criminal cases will be filed against jail officials because the SIMI activists allegedly got inside help to escape.
"It is a serious security lapse and amounts to sedition. They were getting VIP treatment in their cells and enjoyed more facilities than other undertrials, probably because they were plied with cash. It's not possible unless someone was funding them from outside," Singh told Express.
Bodies of seven of the eight SIMI activists were laid to rest in different parts of Madhya Pradesh amid tight security. Bodies of five deceased - Amjad Khan, Zakir Hussain, Mohammad Salik, Sheikh Mehboob and Aqueel Khilji - were buried in their home district - Khandwa. The five bodies were kept at Khilji's residence at Gulmohar locality before being laid to rest at Bada Cemetery close to Abana river around 11 PM.
सरकार से सवाल पूछना एक अधिकार हैं लेकिन असली सवाल यह है कि शहीदों के बजाए आतंकवादियों की ज़्यादा चिंता क्यों की जा रही है?— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) November 1, 2016
Over 2,000 people took part in the funeral procession. At some places, to avoid any stampede-like situation, police had to drive people away, who had come to take a glimpse of the deceased.
Around 700 police personnel, some of them in plain clothes, kept a watch on the funeral procession, sources said. Meanwhile, one slain SIMI operative, Mohammad Khalid, who hailed from Maharashtra, was laid to rest in Bhopal.
Another deceased, Abdul Majid, was buried at his hometown at Mahidpur in Ujjain district. The body of Sheikh Mujeeb was taken to Ahmedabad by his family members, his lawyer Parvez Alam said.
The bodies were handed over to the family members after the post-mortem in Bhopal. While taking custody of the bodies, the relatives questioned the genuineness of the police encounter.
(With PTI inputs)