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Shootout or killing' Witness on the run

New Delhi, Nov. 6: The witness against the prosecution has gone into hiding.

A Delhi doctor who claimed to have been present at the time of the shootout with two alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba militants at the Ansal Plaza shopping mall on the eve of Diwali told newspapers that the duo was unarmed and police simply killed them.

Dr H. Krishna has been quoted as saying: “The two young men were unarmed and shot dead by the police.”

After the incident on Sunday night, the special cell of Delhi police had said the militants were heavily armed — carrying AK-47s and pistols — and had planned to stage an Akshardham-type holdup by taking hostages. According to the police, the two opened fire when questioned by a commando team waiting in plainclothes and died in the ensuing gunbattle.

The doctor, on the contrary, told newspapers that he was at the underground parking lot of the shopping plaza when he saw two men — “barely able to walk” — stumble out of a Maruti car.

He said that to him the duo appeared to have not slept for weeks or was under sedation. According to his version, as they got out of the car they were shot by the waiting plainclothes policemen.

He has also been quoted as saying that on the night of the incident when he tried to narrate his version to journalists, he was hustled by policemen.

Krishna is no longer available in his house at Greater Kailash in south Delhi and no one is responding to phone calls. The obvious inference is that fearing police reprisal he has gone into hiding.

The doctor has already moved the National Human Rights Commission, which has issued notices to R.S. Gupta, Delhi’s commissioner of police, Ashok Chand, deputy commissioner, and Rajbir Singh, assistant commissioner, to submit a detailed statement on the shootout.

The police have been asked to provide security to Krishna. The commission has told its director-general of investigations to keep in touch with the police so that no attempt is made to manipulate facts.

Delhi is abuzz with speculation about a staged encounter, a practice the police are known to indulge in, after the doctor’s narration of the incident. Certain questions have arisen independent of his version, though (see chart).

If it was a fake encounter, it was different from other similar ones. Usually such encounters are organised observing high levels of secrecy with a short police announcement about death or deaths in a shootout.

An encounter at a highly public place like Ansal Plaza on the eve of Diwali could only have been staged to draw attention to the seriousness of the terrorist threat and point a finger at Pakistan.

The veils have already come off the “encounter” deaths in the Assam capital of Dispur near the chief minister’s house at the end of last month. It has now come to light that one of the two militants of the United Liberation Front of Asom was shot dead even after he volunteered to surrender.

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