SIMI Activists Controversy
On Monday, the Madhya Pradesh government claimed that eight undertrial activists from the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), who had escaped the Bhopal Central Jail in the early hours, were gunned down in an ‘encounter’ on the outskirts of the city. The eight of them allegedly slit the throat of a prison guard named Ramshankar Yadav and carried out a daring jailbreak.
What Is SIMI?
Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) is a banned Islamist student organisation that was formed in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, in April 1977. The stated mission of SIMI is the “liberation of India” from Western materialistic cultural influence and to convert its Muslim society to live according to the Muslim code of conduct. The Indian government describes it as a terrorist organisation, and banned it in 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks.The ban was lifted in August 2008 by a special tribunal, but banned again by K.G. Balakrishnan, then Chief Justice, on 6 August 2008 on the ground of national security.
Who were these eight SIMI activists?
The slain prisoners were identified as Amzad, Zakir Hussain Sadiq, Mohammad Salik, Mujeeb Shaikh, Mehbood Guddu, Mohammad Kalid Ahmed, Aqeel and Majid. They were facing charges of murder of ATS constables, bank robberies and sedition. Three out of the eight activists killed on Monday had fled from a jail in Khandwa three years ago.
How did they manage a jailbreak?
As reported by The Hindu, the eight suspects allegedly used wooden logs and bed sheets to make a ladder, using which they scaled a 35-foot wall. The undertrials also formed “human pyramids” to help each other climb over the walls. They are also suspected to have fashioned daggers out of steel spoons to attack the guards.
Chief Minister’s action
After the news broke on Monday morning, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, suspended several officials of the Bhopal Central Jail for their escape. He also commended the security forces for the strong action. He announced a compensation of Rs 15 lakh to the family of the security guard reportedly killed by the SIMI operatives.
Controversy following the incident
The operation which the state police was taking pride in, suddenly got embroiled in controversy after a video footage that purportedly showed a policeman showering bullets into a man from close range surfaced. In the video, a policeman is also seen retrieving a knife from an activist’s body. Opposition parties including the CPI(M) and the Congress have demanded a judicial probe into the matter raising questions about whether the encounter was staged. In the video, cop says: Chaati par maar, zinda hai, mar jayega (Shoot him on the chest, he’s alive, he’ll die)
A big question remains on how the eight managed to break-out from such a high-security ISO certified prison. Previous experience from break-outs at the same prison should have been an indication to beef up the security measures. The manner in which the activists escaped is intriguing.
There have been a lot of discrepancies in the statements given by the Ministry, the police and the eyewitnesses.
A sarpanch of a village gave an eye-witness testimony to the media that the men emerged from the water one by one and they had lathis in their hands. Scores of others who witnessed the incident said that the suspects threw stones at the police and the public, shouted curses, chanted slogans and challenged them to attack. The eyewitnesses also told The Hindu that the eight SIMI men had no escape route when the police surrounded them.
The police, however, maintained that the encounters happened following a heavy exchange of fire. And four country guns and sharp-edged weapons were recovered from the escapees, as reported by Bhopal IG Yogesh Chaudhury. But it was contradicted by ATS Chief Sanjeev Shami, who told television news channels that the men could not have fired as they did not possess arms.
The alleged encounter took place close to eight hours after the activists broke free and at a place 15 km away from the jail. It is not clear whether they chose to travel by foot or by car. Despite knowing that they would be traced by the police, the eight of them chose to stick together without dispersing in other directions. Also, the men were found wearing jeans and sports shoes. It’s unknown where those came from.
According to post-mortem reports, the eight men were each shot at least twice, some of them in the back,
There still requires a lot of clarity on what exactly happened, how it happened. and how the cops got the tip-off about the SIMI activists?
The story is still developing and we shall keep updating our community members with the information.