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Close Encounters

Kolse Patil 01 Jun 2006

On June 1, 2006 news of the aborted attempt by Pakistan-infiltrated terrorists on the RSS headquarters in Nagpur made news headlines nationwide. Even as the chief ministers of three states, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, announced an unprecedented award of Rs 10 lakh each to the police team that was responsible for aborting the attack, the local police announced that the attack was by the ‘Fidayeen’ of Pakistan.

The police version as appearing in the local press gave out basic information that contained inherent contradictions. Intelligence of a possible attack had been received by the Nagpur police as far back as February-March 2006 (see accompanying CC interview with Special IGP, Maharashtra, ATS, KP Raghuvanshi), following which the police had provided heavy security cover at the RSS headquarters. The terrorists were shot dead in the encounter with the police who also claimed that the dead carried details of terrorist groups and links in ‘diaries’. No terrorist group has claimed any credit for this attempt.

Following doubts about the official version raised within the citizenry and the media, several groups came together to form a fact-finding team headed by a former judge of the Mumbai High Court to investigate the incident.

The team visited the site of the encounter and spoke to people residing in the vicinity; they visited the RSS headquarters and the Government Medical College Hospital. The team repeatedly sought appointments with the commissioner of police (CP), SPS Yadav and other police officials. The CP too declined to meet the team. Instead, the CP questioned the credentials of team members, asked who funded the team, what international connections the team had and similar questions with the apparent intention to intimidate the team pursuing its efforts to help society learn the truth. Nonetheless, the team gathered enough information to reach certain conclusions and place them before the people of India. Since that date the harassment of team members and attempts to malign their motives and reputation through the local media have continued unhindered. ‘Church groups’, ‘foreign funded’ and ‘supporters of naxalites’ are terms being deliberately bandied around to damage the team’s credibility.

Excerpts from the report:

According to the police, it was the special squad of the city police who, on high alert following specific input from intelligence agencies, spotted a white Ambassador car with a red beacon light (MH 20 B-8979), moving in a suspicious manner in Lakdi Pul in Mahal area and started tailing it. Two cars, a Tata Sumo and a Qualis were used in the operation. The tailing cars were unmarked and all police personnel in them were wearing plain clothes.

When the Ambassador car with red beacon atop moved towards RSS headquarters, one of the constables in the Tata Sumo casually asked the young occupants about their intentions. Rattled by the enquiry, the militants opened fire on the police vehicle even as they tried to get away. In the process they dashed into the barricade near the eastern side of the RSS HQ. The alert policemen, led by PSI Rajendra Tiwari, PSI Arvind Saraf and PSI JA More, replied to the gunfire. It was their bullet-proof jackets that saved police personnel. The terrorists also threw a hand grenade at the police party but it failed to explode. They threw the grenade without pulling out the pin.

The gun battle lasted about 20 minutes in which the militants fired 76 rounds while the policemen retaliated with 63 rounds. The terrorists had three AK-M automatic weapons, 12 hand grenades and 5.6 kg of highly explosive materials with them. They also had three spare magazines for their firearms, each carrying 30 rounds. They had 120 rounds each, according to CP Nagpur, SPS Yadav.

 

Analyses and findings

According to newspaper reports (Navbharat Mahanagar of June 5, 2006), Shri RR Patil (state home minister) had earlier stated that the government had information about the attack three months prior to the incident. Shri Nitin Gadkari, a prominent BJP leader from Nagpur, was asked to cooperate with police security. Another BJP leader, Shri Eknath Khadse had stated three weeks earlier that there was necessity to increase protection to sangh headquarters. The director general of police had paid two-three visits in this connection. Indeed, police protection around the RSS headquarters was instituted with a three-layered police cordon. Although the headquarters are located in a very congested old city part with only small lanes to approach it, which makes it difficult for any large-scale terrorist attack, there were metallic barricades erected everywhere blocking vehicular traffic towards it from all sides with a police posse guarding them…

How did the lapse in security take place so as to allow the terrorists’ red-beaconed car to get so close? Even after suspecting foul play (indeed there was enough evidence of that at the first sight of the red-beaconed car roaming in the wee hours), why did the police not intercept it at any of the turns after it took a turn towards Badkas Chowk? The police vehicles, after all, were far superior to the 20-year-old Ambassador! 

Ø This incident fits well in the pattern formed by a few previous incidents like an incident in Ahmedabad wherein three terrorists, including a college student from Mumbra, were killed. The incident occurred in the wee hours when there is hardly any possibility of any eyewitness other than the police. In the encounter the terrorists open fire first but get killed without causing even a scratch to the police. The police possess intelligence information but still end up in a fight to the finish with the terrorists. They always recover a diary on their person with all information of their plan, telephone numbers, some bills, etc.

Ø A terrorist suicide attack will normally aim at inflicting maximum damage to the enemy in exchange for their own lives. The sangh headquarters surprisingly did not have even its usual occupants, all the important leaders being away. It is not acceptable that the execution of such an act will be indulged without certain basic information as this. From this viewpoint the Dr Hedgewar Smruti Bhavan in Reshambag would perhaps have been a preferred target as it had a congregation of 1,200 RSS cadre from all over the country at the time.

Ø The team heard from the eyewitnesses that the police had a rehearsal of the encounter a fortnight ago on the same spot and hence they [the eyewitnesses] continued to think it was another such until after the end when they saw actual dead bodies being taken away by the police. The police corroborated the version of people that they had drills at the spot.

Ø There are conflicting versions of how the car approached the ill-fated spot. One version says that the car knocked down the barricade and crossed it but stopped at the spot. Another version says that the car stopped at the barricade, its inmates were interrogated by police and firing ensued. According to this version, firing began before crossing the barricade but actually it did on the other side. How the car went past the barricade is the mystery. The version of knocking down the barricade and the car passing over it is not plausible because the fallen barricade would make a wedge of more than five inches’ height at the end of which the base support would turn into a spike of the same height. It is not possible for a car to negotiate this hurdle from a small distance. How then did the car go past the barricade?

Ø Unfortunately, the mystery does not end there. If the car was past the barricade, why did it stop at the spot? One version explains this by saying it simply failed. Another version says that the police party reached there and the terrorists had to stop and begin firing.

Ø How exactly did the firing begin? There is one version that there was a policeman at the barricade (the police official who spoke with us on the spot denied that there was any police at the barricade at that moment) or another police version saying that a policeman from the Qualis interrogated the inmates of the car about their identity and firing began. In either case, it is unlikely that the policeman involved would escape the volley of bullets from the AK-M assault rifle of the terrorists, which sprays nearly 10 rounds per second.

Ø In the context of this confusion, we find the testimony of the eyewitness Nitin Daudkhani and his parents far more plausible than anything that is being officially circulated. This testimony must be respected because it is a direct witness to the incident. According to this testimony, the barricades fell with a thud (which woke the Daudkhanis up); some people shifted them aside and drove the car past it and stopped. The driver got down and ran behind to disappear from the Daudkhanis’ sight. Immediately, a volley of bullets followed from behind and lasted for about 15 minutes with some pause in between. There was no firing from the car. During this exchange, two dead bodies fell out of the two doors of the car. This testimony at least removes the doubt as to how the car went past the barricade. It is also an eyewitness testimony that basically contradicts the official account.

Ø This throws up some more questions. Why did the car stop? The answer could be because of the dense firing from behind. Why was there no firing from the car? Either the men were killed or immobilised in the first round of fire. But what happened to the driver? He may have dropped dead. These logical questions need to be answered and their answers could have far-reaching possibilities.

Ø Why did the Maruti Omni van parked in the Daudkhanis’ courtyard not have any bullet mark? The car could have escaped the bullet mark only in the event of orderly or controlled firing. How the firing could have been orderly or controlled is a question not within the power of the fact-finding committee to answer.

Ø There are many other major and minor loopholes in the versions dished out by the police: the spot at which the police claimed to have first spotted the terrorists’ vehicle and thereafter saw it, after some time gap, is one and the same… do the police mean to say that the attackers were waiting over there until then?

Ø The police version says that the car was being used between Jammu and Srinagar. Would deadly terrorists drive a 20-year-old car over 3,000 km to reach Nagpur? According to the police they had not travelled straight to Nagpur and came via Patna where they bought their shoes.

Ø If the terrorists were smart and brazen enough to procure and use the PSI uniform in a red-beaconed car, they would obviously have known how such cars are used and that such a car could not have had, as all of its normal occupants, PSIs. Would any organised terrorist commit such a blunder when instead they could have disguised a man in plain clothes, a man as a VIP?

Ø The police commissioner in his first public statement after the incident described them as ‘Islamic’ terrorists and Pak-based ‘Fidayeen’. The fact remains that their identities are still not established. Although the papers have carried their names and places in Pakistan, the Nagpur police have yet not confirmed them. If so, on what basis has the CP declared them Islamic terrorists and Pakistani Fidayeen?

Ø If the terrorists had fired an approximately equal number of bullets, there would be some marks on the walls on the side of the police. There is hardly any mark of terrorist bullets to be seen on the other side, except on one police vehicle – the Tata Sumo. The other vehicle, we were told, did not have any damage. The location and number of bullet marks on the blue Tata Sumo (police vehicle) that was behind the Qualis, carrying 9 police personnel, and stood closer to the Ambassador car and hence was expected to have more bullet hits: this also raises serious questions that need to be answered.

Demands

1. A judicial enquiry committee headed by a retired judge of the Supreme/High Court be ordered into the incident to reach the truth.

2. The reward declared by several states to the police personnel involved in the action should be withheld until the truth is established by the above committee.

3. The identity of the slain youth be determined and be made public.

(Justice BG Kolse Patil, retd., headed the team and Suresh Khairnar of Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Nagpur is its convenor. Other participants and their organisations included Arvind Ghosh, AK Ghosh, PUCL Nagpur, Anil Kale, Surendra Gadling, Indian Association of People’s Lawyers, Nagpur, Gaffar Shakir, Dharm Nirpeksh Nagrik Manch, Nagpur and Arvind Deshmukh, TV Kathane, Bahujan Sangarsh Samiti, Nagpur, among others.)

Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2006 Year 12    No.116, Investigation 1

 

Close Encounters

On June 1, 2006 news of the aborted attempt by Pakistan-infiltrated terrorists on the RSS headquarters in Nagpur made news headlines nationwide. Even as the chief ministers of three states, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, announced an unprecedented award of Rs 10 lakh each to the police team that was responsible for aborting the attack, the local police announced that the attack was by the ‘Fidayeen’ of Pakistan.

The police version as appearing in the local press gave out basic information that contained inherent contradictions. Intelligence of a possible attack had been received by the Nagpur police as far back as February-March 2006 (see accompanying CC interview with Special IGP, Maharashtra, ATS, KP Raghuvanshi), following which the police had provided heavy security cover at the RSS headquarters. The terrorists were shot dead in the encounter with the police who also claimed that the dead carried details of terrorist groups and links in ‘diaries’. No terrorist group has claimed any credit for this attempt.

Following doubts about the official version raised within the citizenry and the media, several groups came together to form a fact-finding team headed by a former judge of the Mumbai High Court to investigate the incident.

The team visited the site of the encounter and spoke to people residing in the vicinity; they visited the RSS headquarters and the Government Medical College Hospital. The team repeatedly sought appointments with the commissioner of police (CP), SPS Yadav and other police officials. The CP too declined to meet the team. Instead, the CP questioned the credentials of team members, asked who funded the team, what international connections the team had and similar questions with the apparent intention to intimidate the team pursuing its efforts to help society learn the truth. Nonetheless, the team gathered enough information to reach certain conclusions and place them before the people of India. Since that date the harassment of team members and attempts to malign their motives and reputation through the local media have continued unhindered. ‘Church groups’, ‘foreign funded’ and ‘supporters of naxalites’ are terms being deliberately bandied around to damage the team’s credibility.

Excerpts from the report:

According to the police, it was the special squad of the city police who, on high alert following specific input from intelligence agencies, spotted a white Ambassador car with a red beacon light (MH 20 B-8979), moving in a suspicious manner in Lakdi Pul in Mahal area and started tailing it. Two cars, a Tata Sumo and a Qualis were used in the operation. The tailing cars were unmarked and all police personnel in them were wearing plain clothes.

When the Ambassador car with red beacon atop moved towards RSS headquarters, one of the constables in the Tata Sumo casually asked the young occupants about their intentions. Rattled by the enquiry, the militants opened fire on the police vehicle even as they tried to get away. In the process they dashed into the barricade near the eastern side of the RSS HQ. The alert policemen, led by PSI Rajendra Tiwari, PSI Arvind Saraf and PSI JA More, replied to the gunfire. It was their bullet-proof jackets that saved police personnel. The terrorists also threw a hand grenade at the police party but it failed to explode. They threw the grenade without pulling out the pin.

The gun battle lasted about 20 minutes in which the militants fired 76 rounds while the policemen retaliated with 63 rounds. The terrorists had three AK-M automatic weapons, 12 hand grenades and 5.6 kg of highly explosive materials with them. They also had three spare magazines for their firearms, each carrying 30 rounds. They had 120 rounds each, according to CP Nagpur, SPS Yadav.

 

Analyses and findings

According to newspaper reports (Navbharat Mahanagar of June 5, 2006), Shri RR Patil (state home minister) had earlier stated that the government had information about the attack three months prior to the incident. Shri Nitin Gadkari, a prominent BJP leader from Nagpur, was asked to cooperate with police security. Another BJP leader, Shri Eknath Khadse had stated three weeks earlier that there was necessity to increase protection to sangh headquarters. The director general of police had paid two-three visits in this connection. Indeed, police protection around the RSS headquarters was instituted with a three-layered police cordon. Although the headquarters are located in a very congested old city part with only small lanes to approach it, which makes it difficult for any large-scale terrorist attack, there were metallic barricades erected everywhere blocking vehicular traffic towards it from all sides with a police posse guarding them…

How did the lapse in security take place so as to allow the terrorists’ red-beaconed car to get so close? Even after suspecting foul play (indeed there was enough evidence of that at the first sight of the red-beaconed car roaming in the wee hours), why did the police not intercept it at any of the turns after it took a turn towards Badkas Chowk? The police vehicles, after all, were far superior to the 20-year-old Ambassador! 

Ø This incident fits well in the pattern formed by a few previous incidents like an incident in Ahmedabad wherein three terrorists, including a college student from Mumbra, were killed. The incident occurred in the wee hours when there is hardly any possibility of any eyewitness other than the police. In the encounter the terrorists open fire first but get killed without causing even a scratch to the police. The police possess intelligence information but still end up in a fight to the finish with the terrorists. They always recover a diary on their person with all information of their plan, telephone numbers, some bills, etc.

Ø A terrorist suicide attack will normally aim at inflicting maximum damage to the enemy in exchange for their own lives. The sangh headquarters surprisingly did not have even its usual occupants, all the important leaders being away. It is not acceptable that the execution of such an act will be indulged without certain basic information as this. From this viewpoint the Dr Hedgewar Smruti Bhavan in Reshambag would perhaps have been a preferred target as it had a congregation of 1,200 RSS cadre from all over the country at the time.

Ø The team heard from the eyewitnesses that the police had a rehearsal of the encounter a fortnight ago on the same spot and hence they [the eyewitnesses] continued to think it was another such until after the end when they saw actual dead bodies being taken away by the police. The police corroborated the version of people that they had drills at the spot.

Ø There are conflicting versions of how the car approached the ill-fated spot. One version says that the car knocked down the barricade and crossed it but stopped at the spot. Another version says that the car stopped at the barricade, its inmates were interrogated by police and firing ensued. According to this version, firing began before crossing the barricade but actually it did on the other side. How the car went past the barricade is the mystery. The version of knocking down the barricade and the car passing over it is not plausible because the fallen barricade would make a wedge of more than five inches’ height at the end of which the base support would turn into a spike of the same height. It is not possible for a car to negotiate this hurdle from a small distance. How then did the car go past the barricade?

Ø Unfortunately, the mystery does not end there. If the car was past the barricade, why did it stop at the spot? One version explains this by saying it simply failed. Another version says that the police party reached there and the terrorists had to stop and begin firing.

Ø How exactly did the firing begin? There is one version that there was a policeman at the barricade (the police official who spoke with us on the spot denied that there was any police at the barricade at that moment) or another police version saying that a policeman from the Qualis interrogated the inmates of the car about their identity and firing began. In either case, it is unlikely that the policeman involved would escape the volley of bullets from the AK-M assault rifle of the terrorists, which sprays nearly 10 rounds per second.

Ø In the context of this confusion, we find the testimony of the eyewitness Nitin Daudkhani and his parents far more plausible than anything that is being officially circulated. This testimony must be respected because it is a direct witness to the incident. According to this testimony, the barricades fell with a thud (which woke the Daudkhanis up); some people shifted them aside and drove the car past it and stopped. The driver got down and ran behind to disappear from the Daudkhanis’ sight. Immediately, a volley of bullets followed from behind and lasted for about 15 minutes with some pause in between. There was no firing from the car. During this exchange, two dead bodies fell out of the two doors of the car. This testimony at least removes the doubt as to how the car went past the barricade. It is also an eyewitness testimony that basically contradicts the official account.

Ø This throws up some more questions. Why did the car stop? The answer could be because of the dense firing from behind. Why was there no firing from the car? Either the men were killed or immobilised in the first round of fire. But what happened to the driver? He may have dropped dead. These logical questions need to be answered and their answers could have far-reaching possibilities.

Ø Why did the Maruti Omni van parked in the Daudkhanis’ courtyard not have any bullet mark? The car could have escaped the bullet mark only in the event of orderly or controlled firing. How the firing could have been orderly or controlled is a question not within the power of the fact-finding committee to answer.

Ø There are many other major and minor loopholes in the versions dished out by the police: the spot at which the police claimed to have first spotted the terrorists’ vehicle and thereafter saw it, after some time gap, is one and the same… do the police mean to say that the attackers were waiting over there until then?

Ø The police version says that the car was being used between Jammu and Srinagar. Would deadly terrorists drive a 20-year-old car over 3,000 km to reach Nagpur? According to the police they had not travelled straight to Nagpur and came via Patna where they bought their shoes.

Ø If the terrorists were smart and brazen enough to procure and use the PSI uniform in a red-beaconed car, they would obviously have known how such cars are used and that such a car could not have had, as all of its normal occupants, PSIs. Would any organised terrorist commit such a blunder when instead they could have disguised a man in plain clothes, a man as a VIP?

Ø The police commissioner in his first public statement after the incident described them as ‘Islamic’ terrorists and Pak-based ‘Fidayeen’. The fact remains that their identities are still not established. Although the papers have carried their names and places in Pakistan, the Nagpur police have yet not confirmed them. If so, on what basis has the CP declared them Islamic terrorists and Pakistani Fidayeen?

Ø If the terrorists had fired an approximately equal number of bullets, there would be some marks on the walls on the side of the police. There is hardly any mark of terrorist bullets to be seen on the other side, except on one police vehicle – the Tata Sumo. The other vehicle, we were told, did not have any damage. The location and number of bullet marks on the blue Tata Sumo (police vehicle) that was behind the Qualis, carrying 9 police personnel, and stood closer to the Ambassador car and hence was expected to have more bullet hits: this also raises serious questions that need to be answered.

Demands

1. A judicial enquiry committee headed by a retired judge of the Supreme/High Court be ordered into the incident to reach the truth.

2. The reward declared by several states to the police personnel involved in the action should be withheld until the truth is established by the above committee.

3. The identity of the slain youth be determined and be made public.

(Justice BG Kolse Patil, retd., headed the team and Suresh Khairnar of Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Nagpur is its convenor. Other participants and their organisations included Arvind Ghosh, AK Ghosh, PUCL Nagpur, Anil Kale, Surendra Gadling, Indian Association of People’s Lawyers, Nagpur, Gaffar Shakir, Dharm Nirpeksh Nagrik Manch, Nagpur and Arvind Deshmukh, TV Kathane, Bahujan Sangarsh Samiti, Nagpur, among others.)

Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2006 Year 12    No.116, Investigation 1

 

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