After a jailbreak in Madhya Pradesh in October 2013 by seven Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) members, eight SIMI insiders escaped from behind the bars yet again and were killed on October 31, 2016. A nationwide high alert has been issued after the incident that is raising questions and accusations.
After another set of prisoners escaped from the central jail in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, the Indian state now stands at the second position with most number of jailbreaks.
Eight alleged members of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) were shot dead by the police on October 31 near a village in Bhopal, hours after they escaped from the city’s central jail by killing a security guard between 12 midnight and 3 am. According to the police, they used sharp pieces of steel plates to slit the throat of the head constable.
They made an escape route by allegedly scaling the prison walls with the help of bed-sheets and wooden pieces.
SIMI was formed in Uttar Pradesh in 1977 to work for the welfare of Muslim youth by letting the Muslim society in India to live according to the Muslim code of conduct. However, the Indian government banned it in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks as SIMI was accused of executing several attacks and having links with Pakistan-based terror groups.
The eight escapees killed have been identified as Zakir Hussain, Mehboob Guddu, Mohammad Aqeel Khilji, Mohammad Saliq, Amjad Khan, Mujeeb Sheikh, Mohammad Khalid Ahmad and Abdul Majid, who were facing trials for terroristic activities, defiance and robbery.
Zakir Hussain Sheikh, Mehboob Guddu and Amjad Khan were also a part of a similar incident that took place in October 2013, where seven suspects and SIMI members led by SIMI’s MP chief Abu Faisal used iron rods to break free from a jail in Khandwa, Uttar Pradesh. They also used bed sheets to scale the 20 feet high boundary wall.
A regional news channel aired a video of the encounter on October 31, where a policeman is seen shooting an injured man and a person is heard asking not to shoot, while another is heard saying, “fire one more”, which has raised questions on its genuineness.
A wave of questions and accusations
A nationwide alert has been announced after the incident as most of the prisoners were charged with terror and other outrageous crimes.
Bhupendra Singh, the state home minister said that it was an unfortunate event and suspended five officers for negligence in duty.
Yogesh Choudhary, Inspector General (IG) of Bhopal, said that the armed SIMI members fired at the police when confronted and were killed in retaliatory firing.
As a reaction to the statement, Arun Yadav, MP president of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a centrist nationalist political party in India, demanded an answer as to how did the escapees get weapons and why did they remain in the vicinity of Bhopal for eight-nine hours after the jailbreak. “As per the jail manual, not more than eight hardened criminals are to be kept in a single prison. But here, 35 were lodged together,” he said.
“The activists’ disappearance from the prison and subsequent appearance in forests with pistols and knives raise many questions,” said PM leader Badal Saroj, in a similar concern.
Apart from Congress, other political parties in opposition have also raised questioned in regarding the escape, their killing in an encounter by MP police and why only ex-SIMI people escape in jailbreaks.
D Raja, senior leader of Communist Party of India (CPI), demanded a high-level judicial probe. “It has raised several questions about security in jails. And even about the jail administration. It cannot happen just like that. They say there was an encounter. The question is whether those who had escaped from the jail were in possession of fire arms. All this raises very serious questions. And unless there is a high-level judicial probe, which should go into all these aspects, there will be questions. Whatever the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh is saying is not enough,” he said.