On 20th May,the Delhi High Court,acting on a petition filed by the People's Union for Democratic Rights and Anhad, had asked the National Human Rights Commission to conduct their own inquiry into the alleged Batla House encounter of September 2008 and give a report upon it. This order of the High Court was made after the High Court was shown reports of four independent organisations into the encounter, including the report of PUDR, the Delhi union of journalists, the Jamia Teachers Solidarity group, all of which seriously questioned the version of the Delhi police regarding the encounter. These reports and the petition filed by the PUDR had pointed out several specific problems with the version of the Delhi police. In particular, the following questions were raised about the version of the Delhi police.
1. If these boys were killed in a genuine encounter, how did the 17-year-old boy Sajid have four bullet holes on the top of his head, which could only happen if the boy was made to sit down and shot from above.
2. How is the skin peeled off from Atif's back? This was clearly visible in the photograph taken before his burial which is annexed to the PUDR petition. Obviously Atif had been tortured before being killed.
3. How are the other blunt injuries on the bodies of the boys explained by the police version of the encounter?
4. If the police knew in advance (as they claimed) that these boys in the flat were the terrorists involved in the Delhi and other bomb blasts, why did Inspector Sharma go in without a bullet proof vest?
5. How could 2 of the boys escape from the flat which had only one exit (two doors next to each other) and from a building which had only one exit?
It was expected that in these circumstances, the NHRC, would conduct its own investigation into the matter. The report dated 20th July 2009 of the NHRC given to the High Court on 22nd July, however shows that far from conducting any investigation into the matter, the NHRC has merely relied upon the Police reports for their report. They have not even examined or investigated the above questions which were squarely raised in the PUDR petition on which the High Court order was issued to the NHRC. They have not even examined Saif, the third boy picked up by the police from the flat, nor even any of the witnesses of the Batla house area who had deposed before the People's Tribunal. They have just swallowed the police version hook, line and sinker. And this is despite the fact that there has been no independent police investigation or even a Magisterial enquiry into the encounter as mandated by the NHRC's own guidelines.
It is extremely unfortunate that the premier Human Rights Body set up to investigate Human Rights violations is becoming a rubber stamp for the police. The same attitude of the NHRC was evident when the Supreme Court asked the NHRC to investigate allegations of Rape and Murder against the Salwa Judum. The NHRC sent a team of essentially police officers who spoke mainly to the local police and other officials and gave a white washing report.
The time has come to seriously reexamine the manner of appointment of members of the NHRC and its powers. The present system of appointment by a committee of Prime Minister, Home Minister, Speaker and Leader of Opposition etc. is not working satisfactorily. All of them seem to want a toothless and tame body which will not question those in power.
Since the NHRC report does not address or answer the disquieting questions raised by the several independent fact finding reports about encounter, it is therefore essential that there be an investigation into the "encounter" by an SIT appointed by the Delhi High Court.
Shabnam Hashmi (Anhad)
Moushumi Basu (Secretary, PUDR)
Dr. Anoop Saraya (Jan Hastakshep)
Harsh Mander (Director, Center for Equity Studies)
Sreerekha & Tanvir Fazar (Jamia Teachers Solidarity Group)
Colin Gonsalves (Director, Human Rights Law Network)
Arundhati Roy (Writer)
Kavita Krishnan (CPI ML Liberation)
Kamini Jaiswal (Advocate)
Mehtab Alam (Association for the protection of democratic rights)
Prashant Bhushan (Advocate)
[The NHRC Report on Batla House encounter is available on its site]