There was a little controversy over Amit Shah’s statement made in May 2014 before the Lok Sabha polls, on Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh (which was represented by Mulayam Singh Yadav as the local MP from 2014-2019) being a base for terrorist activities. This controversy of Muslim youth from Azamgarh being part of the Indian Mujahideen and involved in other terrorist activities had arisen since at least September 2008 itself.
There were 5 bomb blasts in Delhi on 13 September 2008, which killed more than 30 people, and injured more than a hundred. After that, the police received information that terrorists were present in Batla House, in Jamia Nagar area of Delhi. On 19 September 2008, the police went to arrest the terrorists, but the terrorists fired on them, killed Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma and injured two other policemen- Head Constables Balwant Singh and Rajbir Singh. In this encounter, 2 terrorists were killed, 2 (Mohammad Saif and Zeeshan Ahmed) were arrested and 1 escaped. The two killed terrorists were Azamgarh residents Atif Amin and Mohammad Sajid, and both the arrested terrorists too were from Azamgarh.
One of the terrorists who was said to be in Batla House and escaped at the time of this encounter was Shahzad Ahmad, who was later arrested from Azamgarh on 31 January 2010, and later found guilty by court on 25 July 2013. He was convicted for the killing of Mohan Chand Sharma and injuries to the other 2 policemen and given life imprisonment on 30 July 2013. The court also found Ahmad guilty of obstructing and assaulting public servants, and grievously injuring the police officers to deter them from performing their duty.
After this encounter, the usual suspects- radical Muslims, political parties and Leftists as usual, started questioning the encounter and called it ‘fake’, specially teachers and students of the Jamia Millia Islamia University. Rashtriya Ulama Council brought a full train of protestors from Azamgarh to Jantar Mantar, Delhi demanding an independent Judicial Inquiry. The Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) demanded a judicial inquiry into the encounter, in Parliament.
Subsequently, on the Delhi High Court’s directive on 21 May 2009, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in its 22 July 2009 report cleared the police of any violations of rights. Despite this, the Leftist-Islamists’ (including people like Arundhati Roy, Harsh Mander, Shabnam Hashmi, Prashant Bhushan, Kavita Krishnan, Colin Gonsalves etc) questioning of this encounter as genuine continued.
Political leaders like former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh too did the same, insulting the sacrifice of Mohan Chand Sharma. They of course, did not answer the simple question- that if it was a ‘fake’ encounter, why on earth would the police kill only 2 out of the 5 people, leave 3 people alive of whom 2 were arrested (who would have been witnesses), let one person escape, and shoot their own Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma (Yes, many among those who called this encounter as ‘fake’ alleged that the police themselves killed M C Sharma) ?
Digvijay Singh continued his lies even after the conviction of the IM terrorist on 25 July 2013, and the court clearly stating that the encounter was genuine! He said talking to reporters in Indore soon after the conviction of Shahzad, “I will never apologise. I still maintain that encounter was fake.” when his own party colleagues like spokesman Abhishek Singhvi and former Home Minister & then Finance Chidambaram called it as ‘genuine’.
The then Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh insulted the martyred M C Sharma by saying that he could have been killed by other policemen in the ‘fake’ encounter and not the terrorists. However, this heartlessness for the sake of vote bank politics was too much for everyone, and hence, to try to not appear disrespectful to the martyred Sharma, while simultaneously calling the encounter as ‘fake’, Amar Singh gave a cheque of Rs 10 lakh to his family on behalf of the Samajwadi Party.
His family refused to accept the cheque, and returned it to him, for his outrageous comments. Amar Singh had also said that “The doubts on the encounter’s credibility arise since I was informed that Inspector Sharma had been transferred out of Delhi police’s special cell five days before the encounter. How then, was he leading the encounter?” This was totally wrong, and he had not been transferred from the special cell. His wife and father condemned Amar Singh.
Let us see what The Indian Express reported on 26 July 2013 on the arrest of the terrorist Shahzad Ahmed from Azamgarh:
“It was around November 2009, more than a year after the Batla House encounter, that the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) reportedly received a tip-off that Shahzad Ahmad, alias Pappu, was hiding in his house in Khalispur village, in Billariaganj area of Azamgarh.
But the ATS team was told to carry out a raid only if they were absolutely certain about his presence, since the naming of Azamgarh youth in Indian Mujahideen (IM) modules had become a touchy political issue.
According to sources, the ATS personnel made frequent rounds of the area, first posing as health workers administering polio drops, and later as revenue department workers. But they were not able to gather much information.
In January 2010, some ATS men, posing as government mechanics, visited the area on the pretext of installing hand-pumps. They even demanded a “bribe” for installing a hand-pump at Shahzad’s house. A senior ATS official, posing as the head of the mechanics, visited Shahzad’s house to collect the “bribe”. He spotted Shahzad inside. On January 31, 2010, the ATS team reportedly went to Shahzad’s house at around 7 pm, saying they wanted to keep their tools there for starting work the next morning. The team got lucky, as Shahzad himself walked to the door to take the tools. The ATS personnel grabbed him before he could raise an alarm.
Shahzad’s arrest was announced the next morning, after the ATS squad brought him to Lucknow. He was handed over to the Delhi Police the same day. The Azamgarh police later picked up his laptop and other belongings from the family.”
This is more than enough to prove what political interference can do in anti-terrorist operations. In any normal country, the anti-terrorist police do not need to ‘depend on luck’ and be fortunate to find the terrorist in the house. See the line of The Indian Express: “But the ATS team was told to carry out a raid only if they were absolutely certain about his presence, since the naming of Azamgarh youth in Indian Mujahideen (IM) modules had become a touchy political issue.” The ATS team was told so by whom? Obviously by politicians, who thrive on Muslim votebank and were ruling at that time, most likely by the then UPA Government.
If the ATS team had any suspicions, it should have had full freedom to cordon off the area and search for a dreaded Indian Mujahideen terrorist. If a raid was conducted and he was not found, it would have caused no damage. But if a raid had not been conducted with he being there and he then escaped, it would have caused huge damage. For fear of ‘offending Muslims’ in light of ‘political controversies’ over involvement of Muslim youth of Azamgarh in terrorist activities, there was political hindrance in the working of ATS. The fact that India’s own ATS was very hesitant, had to resort to posing as mechanics and depend on fate, shows that the truth was even more bitter than what Amit Shah had claimed.
Even before his arrest, there was a report in The Indian Express dated 13 June 2009 that the Azamgarh police had been asked to coordinate with the Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) to trace the whereabouts of 8 Indian Mujahideen operatives (which included Shahzad Ahmed) from the Azamgarh district who were wanted by the Delhi police. All eight were allegedly involved in the serial bomb blasts in Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. Each of them carried a reward of Rs 1 lakh on their head. That report also gave a list of terrorists already arrested from Azamgarh, which included Zeeshan Ahmed and Mohammad Saif, who were arrested in the Batla House encounter.
Besides, it took the ATS more than 2 months to arrest him after getting the tip-off. It got the tip-off in November 2009, but managed to arrest him only on 31 January 2010. What if he had escaped in disguise or in any other way in these two months? What if he had managed to reach Nepal in those two months, and from there fled to Pakistan, or any other country?
This shows how alarming and appalling the situation of anti-terrorist operations in India is under ‘secular’ parties. Political parties like Samajwadi Party, Congress and AAP are particularly guilty of hindering ATS operations, since leaders of these parties called the September 2008 Batla House encounter as ‘fake’. The mercy here is that the ATS was allowed to arrest the terrorist, or some people would have wanted to let the accused go scot-free, since his arrest and subsequent conviction would expose their false claims of the encounter being ‘fake’.
However, this interference in Azamgarh is nothing as compared to what the DMK Government and then the DMK-Congress combine did in Tamil Nadu in 1997-98 and 2006 onwards on the issue of the 1998 Coimbatore blasts. They actually allowed the blasts to occur, despite being fully aware of the terrorists’ presence, plans and activities, later withdrew cases against terrorists, did not appeal against the acquittal of dreaded terrorist Madani, supported & got bail for Al Umma terrorists, and released terror convicts pre-maturely. Congress stooped to an unimaginably low level even after the blasts, blaming RSS/BJP for them!
(The writer is the author of book “Gujarat Riots: The True Story” which gives all details about the 2002 riots- Godhra and after, one of the admins of www.gujaratriots.com and one of the admins of the Twitter handle @gujaratriotscom)