NEW DELHI: The term ‘police encounter’ probably entered the Madhya Pradesh police lexicon in the early 1990s. The then undivided state’s Chambal region was home to dreaded dacoits and many of them were killed in police encounters.
Unlike those days, when the police versions had rarely been contested, authorities are under public scrutiny over Monday’s killing of eight undertrials belonging to the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India who escaped from the high security Bhopal central jail. A video footage purportedly of the encounter shows police pumping bullets into men lying on the ground.
While MP police said the Simi activists were armed, state Home Minister Bhupendra Singh said they were not and in fact were carrying only “spoons and plates”. Despite the claims, counterclaims and allegations of fake encounter, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan did not order any investigation into the matter, but only sought a probe by the National Investigation Agency into the jailbreak.
ET examines the cases against Simi activists in Madhya Pradesh and the involvement of the eight killed in the encounter in those:
According to the MP government, 29 convicts and under-trials — including the eight killed on Monday — with allegiance to Simi were lodged at the Bhopal jail.
Their ringleader, homeopathy doctor Abu Faisal, led the 2013 Khandwa jailbreak along with five others. He was arrested in December 2013 from Karnataka. Among the eight killed on Monday, three more were part of the 2013 escape and they were caught in 2016 from Odisha. Police records accessed by ET show that their association with Simi was mainly due to Faisal. Simi’s hierarchy in Madhya Pradesh has undergone several changes. Faisal recruited youths with a view to use them to commit crime, according to the state police. The money they made were used for the cause of jihad.Faisal’s group, which included seven out of the eight killed on Monday, were allegedly behind several bank robberies, including a Rs 2.5 crore 2010 heist at Manappuram Finance in Bhopal, according to the findings from NIA’s investigations into 2013 Patna blasts.
After Faisal’s arrest in 2011 by the Madhya Pradesh police, a Raipur-based tutor, Umer Siddhqui, took the Simileadership in the state as well as Chattisgarh. Both Siddhqui and Faisal called jailed Simi ideologue Safdar Nagori as their supreme commander, according to the police
PATNA, BODH GAYA BLASTS
Siddhqui was arrested by the NIA in 2014 but before that he masterminded the Patna blast at the venue of a rally that the then BJP PM-designate Narendra Modi was to address, as well as another blast at Bodh Gaya. For these he got help from one Haider Ali, who was based in Ranchi and had links with Indian Mujahideen, according to NIA investigations.
Unlike Faisal, Siddhqui moulded Simi in a different manner, recruiting and motivating youths with an aim to target high-value assets and at the same time maintain a low profile, according to police.
Faisal, who was convicted last year for the murder of an Anti-Terrorist Squad constable, still remained the driving force for the outfit’s activities despite being isolated and lodged inside the jail. When on the run, his gang was behind terror incidents in Chennai, Bijnor, Guwahati and Roorke, police said. They were also allegedly part of several bank robberies in Telangana and Odisha before their arrest. Something which is similar between the 2013 Khandwa escape and the police narration of the Bhopal jailbreak is the way they managed to scale the main boundary wall using bed sheets as rope. In 2013, the group spotted four policemen on night patrolling within a kilometre of the jail after they escaped. Faisal and his gang attacked them and snatched their two motorcycle and two rifles.