Dear Mr P Chidambaram…

In a petition to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, initiated by civil society group Anhad, and signed by several eminent people, the focus has yet again shifted to 'encounter specialists' in the Delhi police, especially a certain police officer with a dubious track record. So much so, a court has come out with scathing observations against him. Indeed, if he and his colleagues' record is so abysmally notorious, and if so many innocent citizens (especially Muslims) have suffered in their hands, why are they protected by the home ministry of the 'secular' UPA regime? Besides, have we not learnt lessons from the sleazy profiles of 'fake encounter specialists' who had been earlier glorified as super-patriots: Daya Naik, Rajbir Singh, DG Vanjara, among other trigger-happy supercops? Excerpts from the petition: 

Dear Shri Chidambaram

It may not have escaped you that there is a tendency in all 'special' agencies entrusted with the task of investigating crimes of terror, to implicate innocent Muslim youth in acts of terrorism. Some of these acts are the blasts at Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Sharif Dargah, Samjhauta Express, Malegaon. There are also numerous other instances, which are entirely fictional - the creation of the minds and geniuses of the members of the investigating agencies. The Special Cell of Delhi Police is particularly afflicted with this syndrome of manufacturing 'encounters', ISI agents and terrorists. This is not an empty accusation being bandied about by civil society activists, but a fact corroborated and commented upon by the premier agency under the Union home ministry - the CBI - and the judiciary. 

'ISI Agents': In July 2005, the Delhi police arrested seven young men, most of them from Kashmir, claiming that they were agents of the ISI, who had been arrested after an encounter on the Delhi-Gurgaon Road. The police maintained that fake currency, AK-47 assault rifles, sketch of Palam airport, army combat uniform and ammunition had been recovered from them in the aftermath of the shootout. Five years after they were presented as terrorists by the Special Cell, Additional Sessions Judge AS Bhatt has ruled that they were innocents sacrificed for awards and promotions. The order says: "The encounter alleged to have been taken place on the intervening night of July 1-2, 2005, did not take place at all and an absolutely fake encounter has been projected. The story of the encounter was carefully scripted in the office of special staff, Delhi Police, Dhaula Kuan, by its main author, Sub-Inspector Ravinder Tyagi, with the assistance of sub-inspectors Nirakar, Charan Singh and Mahender Singh." Accusing the officers of having "acted in advancement of their self-interests in total disregard to the demands of their solemn duty... these four police officers, whose duty was to protect and safeguard citizens, have turned persecutors and tormentors", the court has directed the Police Commissioner to conduct a probe into the incident and submit its report within three months.

Al Badar Case: In December 2005, Md Qamar and Irshad Ali disappeared from their homes, to be produced by the Special Cell in February 2006, as having been arrested while alighting from a J&K bus at Mubarka Chowk, north Delhi. The Special Cell claimed to have recovered pistols and RDX from them. The youth were charged under Secs 121 and 120-B for waging war against the State and under the Explosives Act. The high court on the plea of the duo's lawyer, Sufian Siddiqi, ordered an enquiry. Submitting its closure report in 2008, the CBI told the court that the Special Cell had falsely implicated the two Muslim youths, who were actually police informers. The call records of the two had proved this.  The CBI has recommended severe punishment for the cell's officers Ravinder Kumar Tyagi - the recipient of the President's Gallantry award at the 2008 Republic Day Parade - and Vinay Tyagi and Subhash Vats, who forged and fabricated evidence to prove that Ali and Qamar were 'terrorists'. Days after the closure report was filed, the CBI officer who was investigating the case also moved a petition in the court of Additional Sessions Judge SK Gautam seeking "protection" against threats received from Sub-Inspector Vinay Tyagi of the Special Cell.

No action has been taken against the offenders while many innocent people are still rotting behind bars... Surely, as the home minister, in charge of security agencies and police, you must also ask why your officers see communal witch-hunts, fake encounters, and branding of innocents, as the easiest route to promotions and gallantry medals. Does not the immunity afforded to these officers - no conviction or even suspension despite repeated indictments - embolden them? Does your government feel no responsibility towards those whose lives have been scarred and robbed of all dignity by years of forced incarceration? 

We would like to remind you that a majority of the Special Cell team behind the Al Badar frame up - and most notably, Ravinder Tyagi, also implicated in the fake encounter case of 2005 - also led the charge on L-18, Batla House, on September 19, 2008. Given their now proven past record of indulging in falsehoods, manufacturing evidence where none exists, and framing innocents as terrorists, the need for an enquiry into the Batla House 'encounter' is all the more urgent. We demand:
All officers of the Delhi Police Special Cell, especially Ravinder Tyagi, involved in these frame-ups, be immediately suspended. A thorough probe should be conducted into their activities and that of their superiors who colluded and protected them.
All those arrested on concocted charges be given reparations for mental trauma, social stigma and loss of livelihood.

A probe into the Batla House 'encounter' cannot be termed a 'travesty' (as did the former National Security Advisor)... There is enough evidence already, including the postmortem reports of the deceased, to indicate that the Special Cell version is full of inconsistencies and lies. Notice also that Md Salman, one of those alleged by the Delhi Police to be a conspirator in the Delhi blasts, has been absolved by the session's court last week for lack of evidence... (He is reportedly still in a Gujarat jail, implicated by Gujarat police for Jaipur/Ahmedabad blasts: Editor)

The petition has been signed by Aamir Idrisi, President, Association of Muslim Professionals, Maharashtra; AB Bardhan, CPI leader; Abdul Khaliq, Chairman, Awadh Public Trust; Annie Raja, National Federation of Indian Women; D Raja, MP; KM Sreemali, historian; Father Cedric Prakash; Harsh Mander, member, NAC; Kavita Srivastava, PUCL; Mallika Sarabhai, dancer/actor; Prof Hargopal, Hyderabad Central University; Prof Tilottoma Misra, Guwahati; KN Panikkar, historian; Ram Vilas Paswan, President, Lok Jan Shakti Party, among others.  

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: MARCH 2011