Shooting of 'terrorists' leads to Indian inquiry
By Edward Luce in New Delhi
Financial Times; Nov 08, 2002
India's human rights commission launched an investigation yesterday into a shoot-out last weekend in which the Delhi police killed two alleged Pakistani terrorists.
The inquiry, which follows a number of "terrorist" encounters where the integrity of Indian police methods has been called into doubt, has raised suspicions about whether the incident was staged.
New Delhi police said they received intelligence that the two alleged suicide terrorists would spray shoppers with bullets in the city's largest indoor shopping mall on the eve of Monday's Hindu Divali festival.
Following the shooting, L.K. Advani, India's hardline interior minister, announced that police had verified the two dead suspects were from Pakistan. But witness, who has been given armed protection, said the two alleged terrorists were unarmed and appeared to have been beaten up by the police before being shot.
In addition, observers have raised doubts about whether trained suicide terrorists would carry cellphones and diaries on them that divulged their nationality, home addresses and alleged connections to Pakistan's intelligence agency.
"This is yet another example of highly suspicious police methods in apparently foiling terrorist operations at the last minute," said Kuldip Nayar, former Indian high commissioner to the UK, who made the complaint to the commission. "India is a democracy and it is of vital importance that we uphold the rule of law."
Human rights activists say there is strong political pressure on India's police to produce dramatic results in the country's battle against Islamic terrorism. In addition, they allege there is political pressure to make the war on terrorism as prominent as possible, in the light of the Hindu nationalist-led government's deepening unpopularity.
Yesterday's inquiry follows controversy over the police shooting last month of an Indian Muslim who had been accused of plotting to assassinate Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist chief minister of the state of Gujarat, where religious rioting claimed more than 1,000 lives earlier this year.
The suspect, who human rights activists claim was framed, was shot allegedly escaping from police custody. In a similar episode last year, the Gujarat police shot a prominent terrorist suspect who had just given written testimony of Pakistan's alleged involvement in terrorist incidents.