Bhopal: The eight members of SIMI who were shot dead in Bhopal hours after escaping from jail were not armed when they were killed, the chief of Madhya Pradesh's anti-terror squad told NDTV today.
However, Sanjeev Shami added, "It is well settled in law when police can use force and take life. These men were dreaded criminals. If the police sees the possibility that such men can escape, they can use maximum force."
Mr Shami says he is aware that since he first declared the men who were killed were unarmed two days ago, other police and government officers have contradicted him. He says he stands by his account.
The country's top human rights agency has sought an explanation from the Madhya Pradesh Police and the state government on whether the men, who were all members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India or SIMI, were shot in cold blood. That is what is suggested in a series of videos that show the shooting of the men, who all appear unarmed, at close range in the village where they were found after breaking out of Bhopal's maximum-security Central Jail.
"Even if the police are not being fired at, they can use such force," said Mr Shami to NDTV. The encounter with the SIMI men was led by his anti-terror squad.
His statement to NDTV differs vastly from the claims of other cops and Home Minister Bhupinder Singh who have alleged that though the prisoners had no arms when they broke out of jail, they were supplied, by the time the cops confronted them, with four country-made pistols which they used to keep from being taken back into custody.
Post-mortem reports accessed today by NDTV show that the prisoners, who were arrested on charges including murder and terror attacks, were shot in the head, chest, feet and in the back. Forensic experts will determine how close the police was to the prisoners when they were killed.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has derided the opposition for criticising the shooting as a staged encounter, and warned that the men were hardened criminals who were planning a major terror attack.