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PUCL, 16 June 2006

Fake encounter in Nagpur?

A report on the 'attack' on RSS Headquarters on June 01, 2006

[ Also see,

-- Biased reporting by media, June 2006. Click

-- A report on bomb blast at the house of prominent RSS activist in Nanded, Maharashtra, May 2006. Click ]

Constituent member organizations:
People's Union for Civil Liberties, Nagpur
Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, Mumbai
Dharma Nirapeksh Nagarik Manch, Nagpur
Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee, Hyderabad
Indian Association of People's Lawyers Bahujan Sangharsh Samiti

List of Members
Head of the Team, Justice B G Kolse Patil, Rtd Judge of Mumbai High Court, Convenor, Dr Suresh Khairnar,
Members Dr Anand Teltumde, CPDR, Mumbai; Adv. P Suresh Kumar, Andra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee, Hyderabad; Mr Ahmed Latif Khan, Civil Liberty Monitoring Committee, Hyderabad; Dr D John Chelladurai, India Peace Centre, Nagpur; Mr Nagesh Choudhury, Bahujan Sangharsh Samiti, Nagpur; Mr Arvind Ghosh, PUCL, Nagpur; Adv. Anil Kale, Indian Assn of People's Lawyers; Adv. Surendra Gadling, Indian Assn of People's Lawyers; Mr Gaffar Shakir, Dharma Nirapeksha Nagarik Manch, Nagpur; Mr Ashish K Ghosh, PUCL, Nagpur; Mr Arvind Deshmukh, Bahujan Sangharsh Samiti, Nagpur; Mr T V Kathane, Nagpur, Bahujan Sangharsh Samiti,Nagpur; Adv. Anand Gajbhiye, IAPL, Nagpur

The nation awoke on June 01, 2006 hearing the shocking news of an attempted attack on the RSS headquarters building. It was a respite that the news of police foiling the attempt too came along.

The news of attempted attack on the Head Quarters of the RSS reportedly by fidayeens of a Pak based terrorist group, sent a spine chilling fear in the minds of millions of peace loving people in the country. We all know very well, the potential of such a happening to ignite a trail of tragic clashes among the communities. The peace loving masses heaved a sigh of relief as the leaders of every community promptly condemned the heinous act and appealed to the masses to maintain peace, and peace did prevail. In the next twenty four hours quite a lot of information, almost all the information pertaining to the attackers had been published obviously supplied by the police department to the media.

The narrative of the whole encounter as reported on June 02, 2006, instead of clearing the mystery of the attackers, unfortunately confounded the citizens all the more. The reports were conflicting and left innumerable questions on ground zero situation unanswered.

The foiled attempt and the appreciable tranquility maintained by the masses were a great relief. However the deadly weapon and ammunition with which the 'fidayeens' (as told by the Commissioner of Police) appeared, and the ease with which the police claimed to have liquidated them, suggested that the Police team had a 'cake walk' over the deadly terrorists. The very next day a section of the media aired their doubt over the whole happening (as reported by the Police Commissioner), most of them quoting wide sections of the national community, including senior leaders.

The peace loving social activists and campaigners for communal harmony based in Nagpur were at first relieved by the success of the police over the terrorists. However the confounding report that appeared in the media and the doubts aired by masses and leaders prompted them to read between the lines. Particularly, the 'Islamic' terrorist attempting to attack RSS Head Quarters has a larger implication. It has the potential to push the nation into a communal strife. Scuh a thing should not be allowed to happen in any manner, orchestrated by any group. The confounding report of the 'encounter' therefore requires an honest study.

The above stated social organizations, hence constituted a fact finding team comprised of the above mentioned activists. The team is headed by Mr B G Kolse Patil, retired Judge of Mumbai High Court, and Convened by Dr Suresh Khairnar, a renowned social thinker and activist. The team visited the site of the encounter, spoke to the people residing in the vicinity. The team also visited the RSS Head Quarters and met Mr Shirish Wate, the HQ incharge.

The team went to Government Medical College to meet the doctors who carried out the postmortem. Dr Dhavane, who was present gave elementary information but declined to give details. The team spoke to Dr Vibhawari Dani, Dean, Govt Medical Hospital and College on telephone. The Dean also declined to reveal the postmortem report. It was a classified document, she said.

The team repeatedly sought an appointment with the Commissioner of Police. The CP too declined to meet the team. On the contrary the CP asked the respectable members their credentials; who funded the team, what international connections does the team have and similar questions with apparent intention to intimidate the team from their earnest effort to help the society to know the truth.

The Incident as reported by Mr S P S Yadav, the Commissioner of Police, Nagpur
The Special squad of the City police who were on high alert following specific input from intelligence agency spotted a white Ambassador car moving in a suspicious manner in Lakdi Pul in Mahal area and started tailing it. Two cars, a Tata Sumo and a Qualis were used in the operation. The tailing cars were unmarked and all police personal in it were wearing plain clothes.

When the ambassador car with red beacon atop moved towards RSS Head Quarters, one for the constables in the Tata Sumo casually asked the young occupants about their intentions. Rattled by the enquiry the militants opened fire on the police vehicle even as they tried to get away. In the process they dashed into the barricade near the eastern side of the RSS HQ. The alert cops led by PSI Rajendra Tiwari, PSI Arvind Saraf and PSI JA More replied to the Gunfire. It was their bulletproof jackets that saved police personnel. The terrorists also threw a hand grenade on the police party. But it failed to explode. They threw the grenade without pulling out the pin.

The gun battle lasted about 20 minutes in which the militants fired 76 rounds while the cops retaliated with 63 rounds. The terrorists had three AK-M automatic weapons, 12 hand grenades and 5.6 Kgs of highly explosive materials with them. They also had three spare magazines for their fire arms each carrying 30 rounds. They had hundred and twenty rounds each, said Mr S P S Yadav. Mr Yadav also reported to have said, looking at their preparation and determination to storm RSS HQ at any cost despite heavy police deployment, indicates that it was a 'fidayeen' attack.

Refusing to divulge the exact identity of the three militants, who were in the age group of 20-22 years, Mr Yadav described them as 'Islamic militants.' At this point of time, he added, it is too premature to associate them with any outfit.

Media reports
As per the details received from the police a white Ambassador car MH 20-8979 with a red beacon and three persons on board dressed as police sub-inspectors, was first spotted by the patrolling police party at the central avenue some time before the incident. The car was heading towards Badkas Chowk. As it emerged form Chitaroli, two police vehicles, a Tata Sumo carrying two PSI and five constables and a Toyoto Qualis with 5 PSI got suspicious about the car. The police vehicles hastened the chase of the suspicious ambassador car. At Badkas chowk the ambassador car took a left turn towards Junta chowk and again turned right towards the Sangh building from the Lakdipul side.

Presuming the car might have gone towards Ayachit mandir the police stopped the chase for a while. However when the police jeep came back to the same place during their routine patrol, they noticed the same car in a small alley between Lakdipul and Gajanan Mandir towards the eastern gate of the RSS Head Quarters. The Police vans then closed in on the ambassador car. However, without paying heed to the police patrol the car tried to force its way through the temporary barricade erected 50 meters before the main entrance of the RSS HQ. At this juncture the PSI Tiwari intercepted the ambassador car and enquired as to where it was heading. Instantly thereafter the two ultras who were seated on the rear seats came out of the car with a grenade in their left hand and AK56 rifle in the right hand. One of them lobbed the grenade at the police, but since the pin was not fully removed it failed to explode. Seeing this the ultras opened indiscriminate fire at the police party. In the melee PSI Saraf who just alighted from the police vehicle got hit at his abdomen. However, since he was wearing a bullet proof vest the bullet did not pierce his body. Soon after this police force and the ultras started exchanging fire in which two of the three militants were killed on the spot. The driver of the car then tried to flee towards the Bhauji Daftari School. However he could not escape the bullets from the police and he too was killed on the spot. The entire shoot out went on for just around 15 minutes between 4.00 and 4.15 AM.

The police then informed the control room and the commissioner of Police about the shoot out. The senior police officers immediately reached the spot and shifted at the three ultras to the government medical college where they were declared brought dead. The members of Dautkhani family along with other neighbours woke up at the sound of the firing and one of his family members opened the door of their house to peep outside.

However alert cops told the family members to shut the door and remain inside the house only. It was to prevent the terrorists from taking shelter in the Dautkani house and taking them as hostages. The operation was carried out by the city police successfully without any loss of life other than that of the militants. The press reported on the 2nd June that, all the three terrorists are said to be Pak nationals. Two of them hailed from Lahore and the third from Gujranwala. The police had seized from the place a dairy which contained email addresses in Urdu, a few phone numbers of Lohare and Gujranwala. Rs 45,000 and maps of the city were recovered from the terrorists.

The names of three terrorists are said to be Afsal Ahmed Bhat, Bilal Ahmed Bhat and Mohammed Usman Habib. Loksatta, (Indian Express Group) Nagpur Marathi edition, dated June 03 2006 carried an article containing the following detail. 'Normally the attacks by the terrorists are preplanned meticulously and they seldom fail in their attempt. This being the public opinion, the recent futile attempt by the terrorists on RSS building and the success gained by the police in thwarting the attempt creates suspicion in public mind as well as among RSS people and their rivals.

Though normally terrorists claim the responsibility of the attack, no terrorist group has claimed any responsibility to this attempt. Therefore the question arises, whether they were hardcore Islamic terrorists or just any other newcomers. According to police statement, threat of attack on RSS head quarters loomed large for the last one year and there was security cordon around the building. Yet the attackers seemed to have no idea of any of them, neither did they seem to know the roads leading to RSS building. And no map of the building and its surrounding could be found with them.

During the whole encounter with the police the terrorists got only one chance to lob a grenade and that too did not explode. That not a single policeman was injured by the bullets of the attackers, puts a question mark on the ability of the terrorists. The attackers could bring a car load of guns and bullets, hand grenades, powerful explosives like RDX from places thousands of kilometers away without being detected or checked by any police or civic authorities, is a matter of surprise even in the RSS circles.

The RSS which usually take such attack on them seriously and go for nationwide protest, unusually kept extraordinary silence and the morning shaka at the headquarters went on with more people attending it. It was a surprise even among the cadres of RSS. This also has created among their functionaries doubt over the bona fide of the attackers. However, they speak in a low voice.

' Mahanayak, a Marathi news paper from Mumbai, published a title page news from its special correspondent from Nagpur, with the caption: "Mahanayak's Special Story on the Attack on RSS Head Quarters." The news goes like this: There is a talk among the Nagpur police that, of the 11 police who conducted the encounter, 6 police did not even know how to handle a carbine. Some of them were under demotion on account of departmental disciplinary action, and they were given this 'chance' to prove their 'worthiness.' Sources close to the police circle say, none of the eleven cops had special commando training. The authorities punished two of them, for they extorted from a 'gutka' merchant a huge amount (Rs 3.5 lakhs) five months ago, in the Panchpoli police station area. At the orders of the CP they were shifted to another 'punishment' section. Police inner circle is surprised at the composition of the squad for most of them do not know to handle guns properly.

The reporter gives details of many indisciplines of the eleven police personals and wonders how and on what basis they were selected for Special Squad to handle such an important assignment in the RSS HQ.

Observations of the fact team
1. When the police had prior information about possible attack on RSS Head Quarters and the police were prepared, as stated by the Commissioner of Police (CP), to handle possible attack, why did they allow the attackers to go close to the RSS HQ? Why did the Police not stop them at first sight?

2. We hear from the residents, that the police had a kind of rehearsal to the 'encounter' few days back on the same spot. Police even fired in the air on the occasion, they claim. And when the actual encounter took place, these residents said, they first thought that it was yet another demonstration. Why did the police take a demo a few days ago?

3. The CP has said, "when the ambassador car with red beacon atop moved towards RSS HQ, one of the constables in the Tata Sumo casually asked the young occupants about their intentions. Rattled by the inquiry the militants opened fire on the police vehicle even as they tried to get away." For the constable to ask casually, either he must have brought his car (the police vehicle) side by side to the terrorist vehicle or he (the constable) must have come by foot close to terrorist vehicle (and asked them). In either case the constable must have been exposed to the terrorist attack at close quarter. How did the constable escape unhurt? The narration of the incident doesn't have any detail to clarify this.

4. There is no eyewitness to the whole happening. The encounter took place according to the police at 4.15 AM. The bodies of the assailants were removed even before the press reporters (who were the first people other than the Police) reached the spot, close to 5.00 AM. Why this hurry?

5. Day one media report says, Deputy Commissioner Mr Prabhat Kumar was in the patrolling team and he smelled foul and started tailing it in their unmarked blue Tata Sumo. Why did the CP not bring him (Mr P Kumar) in his (CP) narration of the encounter? Why did CP hide the DCP?

6. Another report says that the patrolling police that tailed the ambassador at one point "presumed the car might have gone towards Ayachit mandir the police stopped the chase for a while. However when the police jeep came back to the same place during their routine patrol, they noticed the same car in a small alley between Lakdipul and Gajanand Mandir towards the eastern gate of the RSS Head Quarters. As the point where the police missed the ambassador car and the place where they saw them again are the same small alley, do the police mean to say that the attackers were waiting over there until then?

7. It is said that the attackers' car tried to force its way through the barricade. The said barricade was installed a couple of weeks before June 01 2006, in the aftermath of weapon seizure from antisocial elements in the State. When the attackers came where were the sentries posted at the barricade? They must have been the first one to stop the terrorists or get attacked by the terrorists. Where were they?

8. The exchange of fire took place for twenty minutes, it was reported. Can anyone explain how the police disabled the terrorists from using the dozen hand grenades and the 360 rounds of bullets?

9. That the terrorists had 12 hand grenade, 360 rounds of bullets, 5.6 Kgs of highly explosive material which was later stated to be RDX, and they battled for twenty minutes 'hopelessly' not using any of them, is a narration that fails to convince common sense.

10. It was reported that the police recovered from the terrorists' vehicle a sealed case containing 12 hand grenades. The terrorists coming on a deadly mission carrying their munitions in sealed cases does not comply the logic of terrorist attack. They did not even open them when they were fighting for 20 minutes in a losing battle makes the narration all the more unconvincing.

11. That the terrorists, reported to be 'fidayeen' who chose to travel on white ambassador car with red beacon atop, not knowing what is the official protocol but chose to wear PSI dress, does not comply with the statement of the CP that the terrorists were a trained fidayeens.

12. The reported information that the police recovered wet underwear and soaked bathing soap from the white ambassador car suggests that they could not have been 'terrorists' on a mission involving their very life.

13. The police declared them as 'Islamic' terrorist and Pak based 'fidayeens'. The stated seizure of a diary containing all their names and their own telephone numbers sounds farce. Usually we do not write our own telephone numbers in our dairy. Terrorists of deadly mission carrying a dairy with their own identities when they were on an attack, do not appeal common sense.

14. Even if the police had found a dairy belonging to the attackers, how did they decipher the code names and codified messages in so short a time that in less than 10 hours the CP could reveal their identity as 'Islamic' terrorist and 'fidayeens'? (the history of terrorist attack tells clearly that the terrorists do not carry written documents. If they have to write anything they choose to write in codes and false names.)

15. What authentication did the police possess to finally declare them as Muslims and bury them according to Islamic rituals? What was the hurry to bury the dead bodies of the terrorists without establishing their identity?

16. Few holes on the walls (opposite to Bharat Mahila Vidyalay) are, said by the CID official present at the site, as bullet marks. Two of the six marks found to be marks of bullets fired from right across, at 90 degrees. One bullet mark, as marked by the police on the Bharat Mahila Vidyalay wall too clearly indicates that the bullet was fired at 90 degrees. Were the police and their vehicle come side by side the terrorists? It was amusing, that the police officer present at the time of the team's visit to the spot, told that bullets fired by the policemen down the lane from behind the terrorist vehicle possibly took an aerial curve and hit the wall at 90 degree.

17. There is hardly any mark of terrorist bullets on the other side, except on the Police vehicle.

18. The blue Tata Sumo vehicle that was tailing behind the terrorist vehicle had six bullet marks. Two of them were at least apparently pistol bullet marks. The police report did not mention terrorists having used pistols. How did pistol bullet marks appear on the police vehicle?

19. The terrorists were reported to have fired from AK-M automatic guns. The bullet marks on the blue Tata Sumo of the police bear bullet marks that are all single shot marks. There is no series of bullet marks (which is expected if the opponents were using automatic guns) that raises the doubt over nature of the exchange of fire.

20. One bullet hole was found (in the police blue Tata Sumo vehicle) on the right side front door from inside. The point of hit was almost at the hip of the driver. Had the driver been on his seat he should have been hit. There was no such report. It is clear that the driver was not in the seat at the time of firing. We found bullet marks on the same police vehicle hit from three angles on the left side of the vehicle. Three bullets were 45 degrees from behind, two bullets 90 degrees on the left and one bullet 130 degree further that hit just below the front windshield. The question is, if the vehicle is not on the move during the attack, (as the bullet did not hit the driver), then how did the bullet mark appear from three angles? This question assumes significance as it was not possible for the terrorists to move to such wide range and fire from all three angles, for they were caught in their vehicle that was trapped in a narrow alley and they were immobilized.

21. Mr S P S Yadav, Commissioner of Police is reported to have said, "Looking at their preparation and determination to storm RSS HQ at any cost despite heavy police deployment, indicates that it was a 'fidayeen' attack." This conclusion of the CP amounts to be hasty in his decision; or the terrorists were in his hands prior to the encounter, for him to know about them in detail.

22. On the site of the encounter was parked a white Maruti Omni car at the premises of Mr Jopat, the compound wall being fenced by barbed wire. As the house is the first one in the lane (in front of which raised the barricade) and the attackers were inside the lane, if the police wanted to target the attackers, they should have gone some where behind this Maruti Omni car. When there was over 140 rounds of fire, there is not a single bullet mark on the vehicle.

This creates strong doubts over the nature of reported encounter.

The official version of events raises scores of doubts. The team wanted simple clarifications from the Commissioner of Police, Nagpur and approached him continuously for five days. That the CP persistently declined to meet the team and answer these simple queries, reveal his unwillingness / inability to face these fair queries.

It also suggests that he chose to hide certain facts. And this lead the team to question the veracity of the Commissioner of Police's narration of the encounter. The Cock and Bull story of the encounter thus compels the team to infer that the encounter appears to be fake and requires, in the interest of the nation, a fair probing.

The team therefore, calls upon the Central government to appoint a judicial enquiry committee headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court and probe the whole episode.

People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014