10 Years of Batla House Encounter & the Painful Death of Justice
On 19 September the Batla House encounter turned 10 years while a case related to the alleged “encounter”, in which two Muslim youth and one policeman were killed, still hangs like a sword of Damocles over the head of those who were arrested in relation to the case from the spot and elsewhere later. There has been no impartial enquiry into the case so far and no mainstream political party has ever questioned the state machinery on the contradicting official narrative over the loosely concocted tale of the “encounter”, which almost all impartial and non-state investigations have confirmed as a staged one.
Batla House is a non-descript unauthorised colony, predominantly a Muslim neighbourhood, located in the heart of South Delhi’s Jamia Nagar, where the Muslims of Delhi have fled over the time since 1984 anti-Sikh genocide to build up a secure buffer zone against any sort of majoritarian mob violence targeting the minority community. Until Delhi Police’s former “encounter specialist” (someone who has specialised in extra-judicial state-sponsored murders) Mohan Chand Sharma led a team of Islamophobic upper-caste policemen to Batla House and fired some bullets to kill two students (one of them a minor), the place didn’t exist for the residents of South Delhi’s happening posh and upper-middle-class neighbourhoods.
The Batla House encounter and the subsequent vilification of the Jamia Nagar locality by the Islamophobic corporate-controlled mainstream media actually made the city’s socio-economically dominant section accept that such a place exists in the city, in its very posh southern part. The usual tag of “Mini Pakistan”, which is used by the Brahmanical upper-caste Hindus to identify Muslim neighbourhoods and ghettos in India since partition, was attached to the name of Jamia Nagar and even now, the upper-caste Hindu elites of Delhi and NCR avoid the place out of their sheer hatred for the Muslims. Even cab drivers, auto rickshaw drivers, food delivery outlets, banks, etc. avoid this place and loathe the residents.
Those who live near the famous Khalilullah Mosque on the Sailing Club Road and in the lane behind the mosque where L-18, a non-distinguishable building with a mundane look where the so-called encounter took place, is situated, have always vehemently opposed the police story. Though the neighbourhood of L-18 Batla House has undergone sea change in the last one decade, since Atif Amin and Mohammad Sajid (a minor) were killed, there are still a lot of people who have actually experienced the police action 10 years ago and testify silently about the ostensible encounter that shook their conscience and affected their lives forever.
In the lanes and bylanes of Batla House one can still find the shadow of the so-called “encounter” looming large; over the kohled eyes of a veiled Muslim woman or the stubble chin of the young man sipping a cup of tea with a cigarette firmly gripped between his fingers a question still reigns – what if me? What if they target me next time? What if I am tortured to death and then blamed as a terrorist? The corporate-controlled mainstream media kept milling the stories about Mohan Chand Sharma’s “valour” as an “encounter specialist” and incessantly offered eulogies to their fallen Brahman hero, however, none looked once towards the devastation the so-called “encounter” caused not only to the families of those two who were killed, but also wreaked the lives of those living in Batla House. No one took an initiative to look into the agony of the Muslims living in Batla House and those in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, from where the victims hailed.
India Resists and The Quint have published independent investigation reports and pointed out many loopholes in the police story regarding the Batla House encounter. Their stories narrate how the police conducted the encounter, how the policemen made contradictory statements since the encounter was concluded over their purpose of visit, the firing, the escape of one alleged terrorist from the building, the death of Mohan Chand Sharma and the link between the youth killed by the police and the serial bomb blasts in Delhi.
Apart from these two, many human rights, civil rights, minority rights organisations, the students and teachers of Jamia Millia Islamia and other democratic organisations conducted independent investigations and also held several public hearings on the encounter to allow the people to present their viewpoint. Each of these reports negated the police story and proved that the Batla House encounter was a fake and staged encounter conducted with the sole aim of closing the Delhi serial bomb blast case by sacrificing two culpable youth from the demonised Muslim community at the altar of “national security”.
These investigation reports show how hysteric xenophobia is manufactured by the Indian ruling classes over a purported Islamic terrorist threat looming large over India and how the Muslim community is demonised by the system, the bootlicker media and even the judiciary, to persecute and subjugate the already marginalised and ostracised community. They show how easy it’s to fabricate tales on Muslims joining and promoting Jihadi terrorism and use that propaganda to brutally kill men and women without waiting for the farce of judicial trial. Batla House encounter is a reminder that though the Indian ruling classes have banned hunting to protect wildlife on papers, they have given absolute liberty to their state machine to kill Muslims with sheer impunity.
Even the Bollywood, with its chauvinistic klaxon, is ready to jump into the fray and demonise the Muslim youth who came to study in Delhi from Azamgarh and became victims of police repression due to their immediate identity. Despite the Batla House encounter case being subjudice in the Delhi High Court, and may probably reach the Supreme Court, the Bollywood has decided to shoot a film on the so-called “encounter” to validate the police story and eulogise the dead policeman.
There is no objection raised to this shameless act by the film industry, now sponsored by big corporations owned by foreign monopoly and finance capital, in its endeavour to openly and unabashedly tune public opinion in favour of the police force. The film will be shot everywhere except Batla House, as the crew won’t find the courage to meet the very people who have experienced the encounter and its aftermath. Thanks to Modified India, no mainstream parliamentary organisation will be able to question this sheer mockery of law and justice because of the fear of losing upper-caste Hindu votes.
The biggest question mark of the Batla House encounter was that it was lead by and conducted by a man, who was known for his trigger-happy character and was accused of killing numerous youth in fake encounters. These so-called encounters appease the bloodlust of the upper-caste Hindu elites and middle-class, who are in turn tempted by the Bollywood propaganda to endorse extra-judicial methods of resolving problems like crime, terrorism, etc. Mohan Chand Sharma was indeed a champion of the upper-caste ruling classes, who would take no route of legality but use the gun instead to wipe out anyone the system considered expendable.
Yes, indeed, these “braveheart” “encounter specialists”, manufactured in huge volume by the system, will never train the gun against the powerful criminal-turned-politicians, corrupt ministers, Hindutva fascist genociders, underworld ganglords or big corporate sharks who loot, plunder and kill the people. Their guns and bullets are reserved for a certain category of targets- members of marginalised communities and poor people only. Because, these are the people whom the Indian state can consider expendable en masse, and hence their extra-judicial killings are justified by the system, its press and the politically crucial privileged sections of the society.
The power of such “encounter specialists” is so immense that they can get away with any crime as they don the khaki uniform while committing them. In the case of Batla House encounter, even the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which was entrusted with the task of investigating the so-called encounter, didn’t bother to pay heed to the people’s narrative, the version of the eyewitnesses and local residents of Batla House, rather it simply endorsed the police story by meeting and talking only to the policemen. The NHRC report shows how fragile the state of human rights has been in India, even at the time when the Hindutva fascist camp wasn’t driving the country’s political cavalcade.
Mohan Chand Sharma’s postmortem report found a 630-word-long mention in the NHRC report, but the postmortem reports of Sajid and Atif didn’t cross more than 100 words in total, even when their postmortem report showed injury marks on their bodies, bullets sprayed through back, head and shoulders, which wouldn’t be possible if there was a genuine gunfight between them and the Delhi Police. The NHRC report didn’t even raise a single question over several loopholes in the police doctrine and uncritically accepted the police version as truth.
Following the same pattern, a Delhi Sessions Court punished the Batla House encounter accused even though the prosecution failed to present any substantial evidence to nail them, including the evidence of their presence in the encounter location. The court relied heavily on the prosecution’s loosely concocted deceitful story and its communal claim that the testimony of the people of Batla House can’t be relied upon because they share a religious affinity with the accused.
Even after so much goof-up and eradication of evidence, the Delhi Police Special Cell, one of the most notorious government killer machines in the country, couldn’t earn itself a confident clean chit. The reason of the Batla House encounter came out to be a hasty effort by the Delhi Police to jerk off the burden of investigating the serial blasts in Delhi and nabbing its perpetrators.
An easy game was planned to do away with the tedious task of investigating a crime using evidence and following treacherous trails, something for which the Brahmanical police force of India lacks merit. It was easy to put all the blame on few students from Azamgarh living in a Muslim neighbourhood like Batla House and shoot them to build-up xenophobic hysteria. The Delhi Police knew that such staged “encounters”, targeting the Muslim community, will, of course, be justified by the hyper-chauvinist tv anchors, Hindutva fanatics and Islamophobic entities from each party, which will eventually shield the cops from any accusation of misdeed and injustice.
Since the last 10 years, the Batla House encounter case is constantly taking new turns as the perpetrators of the crime of state violence – the Delhi Police have to bring in new characters and expand the plot to justify the killings. The corporate-controlled mainstream media houses have extended their support to this heinous attempt by the Indian state to cover up its ghastly crime in the capital city itself. From showing pictures of alleged ISIS operatives in Syria as those of Batla House accused and by carrying out a large-scale propaganda against those who have been vocal about minority rights and equating them with terrorists, the Indian ruling classes and their lackeys have done almost everything possible for them to justify their crime in Batla House.
This prolonging of the reign of injustice, notorious propaganda, which got a shot-in-the-arm due to the rise of Narendra Modi-led Hindutva fascist kingdom and the open hostility shown by the police and administration towards the people of Batla House in particular and Muslims in general throughout the country, resulted into justice dying a painful death in the crowded lanes and bylanes of Batla House. Justice to the victims of Batla House encounter and demolition of communalism, both look quite distant at this point in time, however, in the long run, the truth can’t be covered with the satin of lies.
Like numerous other cases of gory atrocity committed against the Muslims and marginalised people of India, the Batla House encounter case will also expose the Brahmanical ruling classes. However, for justice and truth to emerge as victorious and prevail, it’s important that all sections of India’s secular, democratic, progressive and anti-fascist forces join their hands today so that a massive people’s movement against the Hindutva fascist ruling camp and an unapologetically Brahmanical establishment can be waged by people of all religion, race, colour, creed and sects. It’s only the people’s united struggle that has the potential to deliver justice to the victims of Batla House encounter and prevent any such gory acts from recurring in the future.
An avid reader and a merciless political analyst. When not writing then either reading something, debating something or sipping espresso with a dash of cream. Street photographer. Tweets as @la_muckraker