Angry residents mum on encounter

Sep 20, 2011, 07:14 IST | Vatsala Shrangi

People live under a cloud of fear; don't want to talk about the issue

People live under a cloud of fear; don't want to talk about the issue

The third anniversary of the Batla House encounter, in which two alleged terrorists were knocked down and a senior police officer killed, saw a number of protests by various organisations, and students of Jamia Millia Islamia University.

Happy to help: Team Anna members meet Hamid Ali at Batla House on
the third anniversary of the infamous encounter at Jamia Nagar, in
New Delhi, on Monday

The overtly silent and dreaded House number L-18, where the ghastly encounter was given shape, saw some commotion on Monday, as the protestors and media persons gathered at the building to observe its third year. The pink-coloured building labelled with terror has become an attraction for people from far-off areas. 
The residents do not wish to speak a word about the encounter. When pressed further, they answer back in angry tones.

Residents of Batla House Iqbal and Javed Khan. Subhash Barolia

"Yes, this is the building where the encounter took place. As if this is the only thing that describes this once-normal residential colony. But we are normal people like the rest of the population of this city, and not Jehadis," said Shahzad Khan, a resident. The people here live under a cloud of fear and none of the residents of the building is ready to share their views on the matter. However, two Jamia students who put up at the ground floor of the building in a rented flat, felt free to talk.

Normal life a dream
"We just shifted here six months back and do not have any idea what happened then. Police officials do keep coming here for a vigil whenever there is a terror issue in the city. I and my brother and a relative of ours are staying in the house and we have not interacted much with the other residents. The encounter stigma is visible when people get surprised on seeing our address as L-18 on our I-cards in college and cyber cafes," said the M Sc, Bio-Chemistry student at Jamia, on condition of anonymity.

Hamid Ali, one of the active protestors and a resident who has his office in the adjacent building, L-16, said, "I was present at the day of the encounter. The entire area was sealed afterwards. We saw police officer Mohan Chand Sharma, all in blood, injured by a bullet, being walked till the end of the road and no vehicle was called to take him to the hospital for long. This was a pre-planned encounter and Sharma also became a victim of entire scheme."

On the eyewitnesses of the day, he added, "There are a few people who have seen the dreaded incident with their eyes, but they will never speak up. They have no assurance or safety cover by the police, so they will never come out. We just want a judicial inquiry into the case so that the guilty are punished and not the innocent people."  Meanwhile, key members from the Anna Hazare camp came in to inquire about the matter from the residents. They have formed a committee with the help of Ali and a few other active members, believing there is a cause to fight. 

"We just want to dig out the truth and feel that the two boys, who were killed, were not terrorists. Also, there are not enough clues yet to prove anything. Even the flat where the episode took place is not sealed by the government. We want to bring together the suppressed voices of the people through a structured protest," said Rajiv, an Anna team member. The Anna camp has decided to initiate a signature campaign, followed by a mass civil society protest beginning October.

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