Karnal Singh, the police officer who spearheaded the operations in Batla House in September 2008, narrates a minute-by-minute account of the chain of events leading up to the encounter that shook the nation in his book ‘Batla House: An Encounter That Shook The Nation’. Weaving together inputs by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), multiple strands of events in various Indian cities, the labyrinth of information by local intelligence and informers, Singh creates an intriguing tale of an encounter that marked the beginning of the end of the obscure and dreaded Indian Mujahideen (IM). This is a definitive account of the day that ignited a national debate.
We are also sharing excerpts from this book:
“On 14 October, a new dimension was given to the Batla House encounter when a few senior politicians from Minority Department, Indian National Congress, decided to send a delegation to meet Congress president Mrs Sonia Gandhi and PM Dr Manmohan Singh to raise a complaint against ‘the injustice done to Muslims’ and to urge a judicial probe into the encounter. Shri Kapil Sibal, minister for science and technology, along with other political leaders visited the Batla House area before meeting Mrs Gandhi and Dr Singh.
On the same day, Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav, the founderpatron of the Samajwadi Party, and Shri Amar Singh met Dr Singh to ask for a judicial enquiry. Political pressure was building up from all sides. Shri Amar Singh visited the Jamia Nagar area to address a huge gathering on 17 October. He was accompanied by Ms Mamata Banerjee of the All India Trinamool Congress. I watched their speeches in the news. She believed the encounter was fake and the terror accused were targeted because of their religion. She set a 72-hour deadline for the government to direct a judicial enquiry and asserted that she would not give up till the demands were met.
Shri Amar Singh also spoke to the gathering and pointed out that Mohan was not wearing a bullet-proof jacket. ‘Encounter specialist bina bullet-proof jacket aa gaye, hur jagah jacket pahanni thi pur khudkashi karne aa gaye. (The encounter expert came without a bullet-proof jacket, he wore the jacket everywhere, but here he came to commit suicide).’
When he said this, the audience clapped and cheered. How insensitive this statement was! He also mentioned that he had proposed to donate `10 lakh to Mohan’s wife, Maya Sharma. He gave the reason for his proposal, ‘Goli chahe kisi ki lagi ho, mare toh. (The bullet that hit him could have been anyone’s, but he is dead).’ The people could be heard laughing and clapping. ‘Aur unko mera sukraguzar hona chahiye, unki khawind ki maut ka asli katil kaun hain uski taswij karne ki baat kar raha hoon. (And she should be grateful to me for asking to find out the real killer of her husband).’
The roar and laughter of the people was a mockery on the tragedy that had befallen on the family of a slain police officer. What did he mean by finding the real killer of her husband? Mohan was martyred in a mission for his country. I was astonished at the speed at which controversies were being spun out of thin air. On the other side, the BJP was hitting out at Shri Singh and Ms Banerjee for engaging in vote bank politics on an issue of national security. The BJP had decided to make national security its pivotal agenda for the upcoming elections. Pressure was mounting on the government from all fronts. It was being accused of going soft on terror.
The Opposition was advocating stringent action against the terrorists and supporting the police force working in counterterrorism. The government decided to take stock of the evidences available with the Delhi Police Special Cell. The next morning, the LG of Delhi, Shri Khanna, rang me and said that Shri Sibal wanted to discuss the issues related to the encounter. While putting down the phone, he advised me, ‘Come prepared’. I asked Alok to send Ravinder along with the laptop containing all the evidences. Both of us went to Shri Khanna’s residence.
I carried the laptop with me into the room where Shri Khanna and Shri Sibal were sitting. I greeted them and sat across from Shri Sibal. Shri Khanna was seated at the other end, intently observing the deliberations between Shri Sibal and me. Shri Sibal brought out the newspaper clippings one by one and asked me to explain the various issues that were raised. I responded to every issue and shared the information that was available with the police, the topography of the area as well as that of Flat no. 108, L-18, Batla House. I further explained how the teams went in. I drew a blueprint of the flat to explain how the encounter went down. We went into details of the positions of the police officers and the terrorists. Many issues were addressed during this conversation. I explained how Sajid got bullet injuries on the head, and I clarified the controversy raised in the media about the post-mortem reports. ‘Sir, if you permit me, can I show you the materials recovered from L-18, Batla House? This will show their involvement in terrorist activities,’ I requested him. ‘Sure. Please go ahead.’ ‘We have recovered the electronic material from the memory card and mobile phone belonging to Atif. We have also found mobile phones of the others staying at L-18, two pen drives, two laptops and around 40 CDs. They contain video clips and photographs related to the Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Delhi blasts. Please have a look, sir.’ I pointed to a photograph and video of the Ahmedabad blasts. In the photograph, bombs were arranged in letters I and M for ‘India Mujahideen’ and were placed on a bed, while a cloth piece that read ‘Indian Mujahideen Ahmedabad’ was hanging behind them. The same was shown in more details in a video. Three other photographs were of the cars used in the explosion in Ahmedabad, and one photograph was that of a car with the bomb planted in it. There was a video clip of Explosive devices arranged in the form of ‘IM’. These bombs were later planted in Ahmedabad on 26 July 2008 …. bomb on a bicycle with frame no. 129489 placed near Kotwali in Jaipur, one video clip of a dustbin placed in M-Block Market, Greater Kailash-1 in Delhi and one video clip of a dustbin at the children’s park in Delhi. ‘Sir, these video clips and photographs are of bombs before the blasts and cannot be found with anyone but those who were actually involved in these explosions.’ I could see that he was taking an interest in it.
I continued, ‘They were travelling with fake names, sir.’ I showed him the forged identity cards. There was a fake driving licence in the name of Farhat, but the photograph was that of Atif. Another driving licence was in the name of Mohd. Razique with Atif’s photograph. A forged Election Commission card and driving licence, both in the name of Pankaj Sharma, had Sajid’s photograph on them. A forged driving licence and Election Commission card, both in the name Rahul Sharma, were with the photograph of Mohamad Saif. Saif’s photograph was also there on a driving licence found in the name of Sameer Khan.
There were several other identity proofs that were forged for other members of their group. An election card in the name of Ajay with Mohd. Shakeel’s photo, an ID card of Symbiosis University in the name of Amir Talha with Zeeshan’s photo and a driving licence in the name of Abdul Qari with Ariz Khan’s photo were recovered. They were using fake names and identities. It was a false identity maze they had created.
Atif had taken admission in Jamia Millia University based on a forged degree. Evidences pertaining to their travel to Ahmedabad and Jaipur were also shown to Sibal. They also travelled to Jaipur and Ahmedabad with fake names at the time of explosions in these areas. Mohamad Saif travelled with a fake name to Manipal to collect explosives from there. I showed him various other evidences available in the electronic media. I also addressed the issue raised by Sajid’s family and some of the local leaders about his age—he was only 17 years old— and that he could not have been involved in terrorist activities. They were insinuating that an innocent minor had been killed by the Delhi Police in the encounter. Their statement was covered by some of the newspapers. This led to a complaint to the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights, which in turn, asked for a response from the Delhi Police.
A driving licence and an Election Commission card in his name with his photograph were also seized from Batla House. On verification these documents were found to be genuine. They revealed Sajid’s age to be 23, and not 17. I was not done yet. ‘Sir, the recovered electronic data also contains a PowerPoint presentation based on the Gujarat riots, and a few other countries. There are excerpts from jihadi books and Osama Bin Laden’s speech, along with songs and chants motivating people to join jihad.’ I played some of the songs from our digital evidence. All of us listened to the evidence in complete silence. At the end of the discussion, I also shared that the Maharashtra Police had arrested 20 members of IM, while the UP Police had arrested one. All of them had corroborated the findings of the Delhi Police.”
(This book is available at: https://www.hindueshop.com/product/batla-house-encounter/