It is not only Digvijaya Singh and Asaduddin Owaisi who suspect that the encounter in which eight SIMI undertrial terrorists were killed was “fake”.
Anyone who has seen or heard those video or audio clips, springing up in social media in a mysterious manner, may deduce that the killings could have been avoided.
It establishes that had the police tried a little harder it could have captured alive the fugitives who had escaped from Bhopal central jail after slitting the throat of a guard.
But the enraged cops were in no mood to feed more Biryani to these terrorists, who had escaped from jail earlier too and who were accused of murdering several of their colleagues.
Faced with uncomfortable questions and damning revelations propping up with regular frequency, the Madhya Pradesh Government has ordered a judicial enquiry in the jailbreak and the encounter.
Those attacking the BJP Government in MP on this issue may feel that that they have succeeded in cornering it.
But they would do well to remember that over the years, judicial enquiries have emerged as a clever ploy to ward off inconvenient questions and put the issue on the backburner.
Everyone knows what happens to these judicial enquiries and their reports.
Instead of being cowed down by evidences of a “fake” encounter, a belligerent BJP seems to have smelled blood, almost literally this time.
It has launched a frontal attack on the Congress for “siding with the terrorists and forgetting the killing of the policemen”.
It believes that there is a groundswell of support for Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the wake of the encounter killings.
It has started wearing the encounter as a badge of honour. Indeed, if speeches made by BJP leaders over the last few days are any indication, the ruling party has decided to make the encounter an election issue in the ongoing by-elections.
Thundered state BJP chief Nandkumar Singh Chouhan at Anuppur: “The Chief Minister the police that he wanted those terrorist, dead or alive.”
The opposition Congress may be politically correct. But what is politically correct need not be always good enough in the amorphous world of realpolitik.
The harsh reality is that the political fallout of the encounter has been beneficial for the BJP. Why?
The encounter might be “fake”. But the jailbreak was not. Neither was the killing of the poor guard. True, they were all undertrials, their guilt yet to be proven.
But remember that it was not the first time they had escaped from prison. Earlier they had escaped from Khandwa jail in 2013, injuring guards on their way out.
The charges against them ranged from cold blooded murders to bomb explosions at public places.
The staff of the jail was terrified of the 29 SIMI prisoners (now 21 left) because they would often threaten them and their family members; even senior officers would remove their nameplates before going in front of them.
Last time they were in news two years ago when they had shouted pro-Taliban slogans in court premises and announced, “ab Modi ki bari hai”. (Now it is Modi’s turn.)
Their escape had brought Chouhan face to face with one of the gravest crises of his political career.
The terrorists who had escaped from his high-security ISO-certified prison, killing a guard, scaling its double walls and dodging the surveillance cameras, were part of the outlawed Student Islamic Movement of India, a hate symbol for the Sangh parivar to which Chouhan belongs.
The well-planned jailbreak, with apparent inside help, indicated a security failure of gigantic proportions.
Embarrassing was the fact that not only it was the second jailbreak by same group, the modus operandi was also the same in both cases — they used bed sheets to scale walls.
Given MP’s image of a soft Government, Chouhan had become a sitting duck for his opponents, both within and outside the ruling party.
But within eight hours the atmosphere changed drastically, as the police hunted and killed all eight fugitives, barely 13 km from the jail they had escaped.
The humiliation of eight hours ago turned into an occasion for chest-thumping.
The jailbreak and encounter killings are a sombre moment for the MP Government. It must look within.
Prisons all over the world are notorious for corruption. But in MP it has reached an extent where is threatens the very edifice of the system.
The Jail Superintendent during whose tenure Bhopal Central Jail received the ISO tag is in prison on corruption charges. The Lokayukta had found that he has amassed property worth Rs 15 crore.
The Lokayukta had arrested another former Superintendent of this prison on corruption charges and found that he was worth Rs 25 crore. The system needs thorough cleansing.
DB Post 6 November 2016