The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jawan murder cloud on Patna police

Patna, Feb. 5: Amitesh Sharma was on extended leave when he got a call from the headquarters. It was a warrant of attendance for the 24-year-old army jawan. It turned out to be his “death warrant”.

Yesterday, as he raced to make arrangements for the journey back to duty, he was shot by police in what they described as “an encounter”. The incident took place at Balipakar in the Palligunge block of rural Patna, about 40 km from the capital city.

The police said they opened fire when Amitesh whipped out a revolver, but his father, Abdhesh Sharma, has refused to believe it. “It is a murder by a trigger-happy Patna police,” he says.

The incident has triggered a political uproar, with the Opposition BJP sending a team to probe the incident. “Prima facie, we have learnt that it is a cold-blooded murder, but we will announce our political strategy after a probe report is made available,” said Nandkishore Yadav, chief of the BJP’s Bihar unit.

The police are trying to piece together a version to stave off a political backlash. Patna inspector general of police A.C. Verma said a probe has been ordered and the superintendent of rural Patna police would file a report.

The jawan’s body, which was released after a post mortem and is now placed on Kargil Chowk, a memorial for martyrs of the last India-Pakistan skirmish, has been drawing crowds.

About 200 students from B.N. College who had assembled there shouted slogans like “Bharatiya sainik sharminda hai, Bihar police ganda hai (The Indian army is ashamed of the incident because Bihar police are dirty in their operations.)”.

Relatives of the slain jawan have been squatting near the chowk and are refusing to remove the body till the state government declares him a martyr and pays a compensation of Rs 10 lakh. “I would have been proud had my son died in a war,” Sharma says.

The police are sticking to their version. They said that around 12.30 pm, Amitesh, alias Madhukar, who was riding a motorcycle with a pillion rider, ignored their signal to stop near the Palligunge police checkpost. The police said they had information that some miscreants were planning to loot a bank and the motorcyclist was part of the gang.

“Amitesh had a criminal record of being involved in a snatching case,” said one officer of Palligunge police station. The policemen at the check-post, the officer said, chased the motorcycle. The driver fired at his pursuers, forcing the police to retaliate, he added. One of the bullets hit his leg.

Relatives of the jawan said he was in a hurry to return ever since he had got the warrant of attendance from the headquarters at Ganganagar. Amitesh, they added, was on leave, which had to be extended because his mother expired.

The relatives claimed that the police killed him mistaking him for a criminal. They alleged that after shooting the young jawan, who was a tank operator, the police had realised their mistake. So they snatched his identity card to pass him off as a miscreant. Amitesh, they said, was from a respectable family and his elder brother is also an army jawan, now posted in Jammu.

“How can he have a criminal record'” asks the grief-stricken father. “He had reached here only in November. Where is the evidence that he was involved in a snatching incident'”

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