The police killing of eight prisoners who escaped from a high security Indian jail, has been called into question by human rights activists, politicians and the media following the release of controversial videos of the incident.
The eight members of the outlawed Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), killed a guard before scaling a wall using knotted bedsheets in their escape from Bhopal Central Prison on Monday.
They were shot shortly after the breakout, resulting in accusations that the incident had been staged. This has been exacerbated by release of the video footage and contradictory statements made by the Madhya Pradesh government and police.
State Home Ministker Bhupendra Singh told reporters on Monday that the escaped prisoners, armed with sharpened spoons and steel plates, had attacked the police.
But Bhopal’s Inspector General of Police Yogesh Chaudhury said the fugitives had opened fire on them forcing them to retaliate.
He said three police personnel suffered pellet injuries and four crude guns and three sharp weapons were recovered from the scene of the encounter.
Two video clips further deepen doubts over the police encounter. One clip shows a policeman shooting a prisoner, who seems to be injured and lying on a rock. Another clip shows prisoners waving to the police as if they were ready to surrender, then cuts to security forces opening fire on them.
Congress leader Digvijay Singh wondered whether the prisoners “escaped” or they were “made to escape.”
But the ruling BJP said the Opposition parties were supporting suspected terrorists in their attempt to politicize the issue.
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director for Human Rights Watch, told the Hindustan Times it was hard to believe police claims that the prisoners were armed and demanded an official inquiry.