Interview: Parvez Alam

‘They were killed in cold blood’

Print edition : November 25, 2016

Parvez Alam. Photo: A.M. FARUQI

Interview with Parvez Alam, lawyer of the Bhopal accused.

PARVEZ ALAM is a Bhopal-based senior lawyer who represented the undertrials who were killed in the Bhopal jailbreak and encounter incident. He says their association with the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) has not yet been proved and dubs the police action a “fake encounter”. “They were merely undertrials, not terrorists,” he insists in this interview with Frontline. Excerpts:

Following the death of eight undertrials in the Bhopal encounter, the police have floated a jailbreak theory. Do you believe this?

No, not at all. The police version, in fact the official version, is full of holes. The police claim sheets of cloth were used to scale the 32-foot-high [10 metre] wall. For that one person would have had to climb such a high wall. It is not possible for an individual to climb 32 feet without support. There were eight undertrials. So, normally, they would have had eight sheets between them. If you include the sheets which they might have been given to spread on the floor, it still makes only 16 sheets. [The police claimed that the prisoners had 32 sheets.] From where did they procure the rest of the sheets? There is no answer to that.

Also, I believe there is CCTV footage in every nook and corner of the jail. Why has it not been disclosed? It has to be shared with the public. It will reveal it all.

Is it not true that the accused first killed Ramashankar and then fled?

There are questions that the police need to answer. Did they [the alleged SIMI activists] really kill Ramashankar or did somebody else kill him and they were blamed? Remember, there were other prisoners, too, in the jail. You cannot rule out that possibility. If the police had room for suspicion that they [alleged SIMI activists] killed him, they could have started a case under Section 302 and we would have fought that in court. You cannot kill an undertrial in a fake encounter.

You call it a fake encounter, but the official version is that it was a well-planned one.

As I said, the official version is full of inconsistencies. The policemen claim they climbed a 32-foot-high wall with the help of bedsheets. After that high wall, there was another wall 10 feet high, which they climbed. But when it came to climbing the gate, which was merely five feet high, they preferred to break it. If a prisoner can climb 32 feet, can he not climb over a 10-foot-high gate? If the gate was broken, that too with a toothbrush, where were the police?

When the accused were finally killed by the police some eight hours after they escaped, they were all smartly dressed. Is it not possible they had outside sources to help them?

The first statement from the State government said they had no weapons on them when they were killed. Later, they said the accused had fired first. If they had indeed fired, why was not any weapon discovered from them? Even the local villagers denied seeing any weapon with any of the men killed. And if, going by the official version, they could procure weapons, new clothes, jeans, T-shirts, sneakers, as also pista [pistachio], badam [almond] and kishmish [raisins], why could not the outside aide get them a vehicle to travel in after the jailbreak? Why did they have to walk 10 kilometres in eight hours and wait for the police.

Usually, in any jailbreak, the prisoners run in different directions and assemble at one place after the din dies down. Here, we are being sold the implausible story of prisoners sticking together in a group after fleeing from jail. The fact of the matter is they were killed in cold blood. The policemen probably dumped them into a van and killed them altogether.

Does not the fact that all the men were shot above the waist raise suspicion?

It does. Justice Santosh Hegde says in an encounter a person or an accused has to be shot below the waist. How come my clients were all shot above the waist, some in the chest too. The police did not shoot them in the foot because then they would have survived to tell the truth. It is a planned murder. However, the police maintain that the accused had resorted to stone-throwing, which forced them to shoot.No policeman was injured in the claimed attack. If they had thrown stones, they were at a height and they could not have run away further because there was a deep trench beyond. The video which has gone viral since clearly shows a policeman shooting a dead body, while another [policeman] is heard shouting that he was not dead yet. Even if he was not dead, he had collapsed and could have easily been captured. Earlier, Inspector General [of Police] Yogesh Choudhary said a toothbrush had been used to make keys, with which the lock was opened. Is it really possible? Have you heard of a jail that can be opened with a toothbrush? He also said they used firearms. The ATS [Anti-Terrorism Squad] said they did not use arms. So, one of them is lying. It is for the investigators to find out who.

But Ramashankar’s hand was broken. Probably the men who fled had a fight with him before he was killed?

It is true Ramashankar's hand was broken. but who fought with him? His subordinate was not killed. Maybe he fought with him. This is just within the realm of possibilities. It is important to remember that the prisoners had no mark of struggle on their bodies.

A section of the media has gone into overdrive about the possible causes of the encounter, fake or otherwise. Some have claimed that the prisoners were subjected to sexual assaults in jail and were about to testify in court. Did they share this with you?

I have not heard of any sexual assault, any incident of attempted sodomy from my clients. For four months they were not required in court, there were only video conferences.

Their cases had been dragging on for long. They could possibly have been acquitted also. Then why the jailbreak?

This is the question the police should answer. But yes, as a lawyer, I can say there was a possibility that they would have been acquitted. There was no proof that they were SIMI members. In Khandwa too, there was a similar case against 18 individuals and they were all acquitted. The court said they were not SIMI members. This is a question which needs to be answered for these eight men too. Mujeeb [one of the men killed] had a court hearing scheduled two days after the killing. Why would he flee?

The State government has asked for an inquiry by the National Investigation Agency. Will this help bring out the truth?

I cannot say that, but the principle of natural justice says a doctor cannot operate upon himself. So why bring in the NIA? Why is the BJP worried about a judicial inquiry?

The accused were given burials due to martyrs. As a lawyer, do you think that despite the suspicious circumstances of their death they were not guilty?

Well, Khandwa witnessed a flag march and around 2,000 people attended the burial. The villagers were obviously disturbed. In the court, it was not proved that they were part of any unlawful organisation. It is wrong to dub them terrorists, they are innocent until proven guilty.

There is a feeling of anger among Muslims that the accused were denied justice and falsely dubbed terrorists.

Muslims feel there is cruelty and injustice. The judicial system of the country understands that. However, such encounters are a part of the planning of the Hindutva forces. They want to tell the right wing that they have killed eight Muslims. They dub them terrorists, too, despite the fact that they had not been convicted.

This is in stark contrast to how they behaved with Sadhvi Pragya Singh when she was in jail. She used to sit on a sofa. She was an accused too. This is not justice. This is Hindutva, not the government of India or of Madhya Pradesh. I will move the High Court. I demand a fair investigation by the CBI.

A letter from the Editor


Dear reader,

The COVID-19-induced lockdown and the absolute necessity for human beings to maintain a physical distance from one another in order to contain the pandemic has changed our lives in unimaginable ways. The print medium all over the world is no exception.

As the distribution of printed copies is unlikely to resume any time soon, Frontline will come to you only through the digital platform until the return of normality. The resources needed to keep up the good work that Frontline has been doing for the past 35 years and more are immense. It is a long journey indeed. Readers who have been part of this journey are our source of strength.

Subscribing to the online edition, I am confident, will make it mutually beneficial.

Sincerely,

R. Vijaya Sankar

Editor, Frontline

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
×