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SIMI men had no guns, say witnesses

A visit by The Hindu to the Bhopal Central Jail (in picture) found lapses in the security apparatus on the jail's periphery.  

Scores of people from about a dozen villages ''witnessed'' the alleged encounter between the police and the SIMI undertrials who “escaped” from the Bhopal central jail early on Monday morning, but eyewitnesses The Hindu spoke to did not recall “seeing” the suspects use firearms against the police.

This came even as Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan lashed out at the Opposition for ''playing politics'' on the ''encounter'' killing. He announced compensation of Rs. 15 lakh to the family of the security guard reportedly killed by the SIMI operatives while ''escaping'' from the prison.

The eyewitnesses are sure the suspects threw stones at the police and the public, shouted curses, chanted slogans and challenged them to attack. The eyewitnesses also do not recollect spotting any pistols next to the bodies of the dead men, although many of them claimed that a knife-kind of object was lying near one of the slain persons.

Ram Kumar Soni, a security guard at a construction site in Acharpura village — close to the shooting spot — claimed to be among the first to reach the location. “Some policemen had approached us earlier in the day to ask us if we had spotted eight men in a group. So, when I heard from some villagers about the suspects, I rushed and informed some policemen who were nearby,” Mr. Soni told The Hindu.

The policemen drove their vehicles as far as the hilly terrain allowed them before hurrying on foot, he said.

Suspects were surrounded, say locals

The eight SIMI men had no escape route when the police surrounded them. Soni told The Hindu that the “policemen then began firing.” He saw the suspects “pelt stones at people on both sides of the rock they stood on.”

Pappu Meena, a farmer who lives in a hut close to the spot of the “encounter”, said he too neither saw the SIMI suspects open fire, nor found any pistols next to their bodies. “I saw some of those men waving their hands while others were pelting stones. After that, the police asked us to keep away, citing our safety.”

Meanwhile, similar police action was reported from villages Khejra Dev and Manikhedi Kot, both located way below the hillock (the encounter spot). “I was visiting my fields when some policemen approached me and asked me to guide them to the hillock where the eight men were believed to be present,” said Manoj Meena, a resident of Manikhedi Kot.

Manoj said that as he and the policemen came in for a stone attack by the men standing on the rocks above. “Asking us to lie down, police began firing in the air. But there was no gunfire from the other side,” he claimed.

Most of the locals acknowledged that the SIMI suspects had no escape options. The other side of the rocks they were standing on overlooks a 50-foot drop.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 3:34:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/SIMI-men-had-no-guns-say-witnesses/article16087585.ece

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