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Batla House: Whispers of encounter -- 11 years ago

According to occupants of other flats in the building, no one has ever lived in the flat ever since the encounter 11 years ago

Saturday July 13, 2019 3:57 PM, Advitya Bahl, IANS

Batla House Encounter

New Delhi: Nearly 11 years after two suspected terrorists were gunned down by the Special Cell of Delhi Police in an encounter in the Batla House area of Jamia Nagar in Delhi, people in the locality still talk about it in hushed tones.

On a hot, humid Friday afternoon, locals occupied the lanes in front of L-18, the building where five suspected terrorists were holed up inside a flat, to offer the 'jumma namaz'. They talked in whispers, if at all, about the incident.

According to occupants of other flats in the building, no one has ever lived in the flat ever since the encounter 11 years ago.

Apart from two suspected terrorists, an inspector of the Special Cell, Mohan Chand Sharma, was also killed in the crossfire.

During the 'jumma namaz' on Friday, it seemed an entire community had blocked the lane leading to the L-Block near the local Khalilullah Masjid.

L-18, the four-storey building where the encounter took place, has its outer door made of iron grills. It has a huge parking space on the ground floor and towards the left corner on the opposite side is the entrance to the L-shaped staircase leading up to four floors.

Also Read | A Tale of Two Encounters: Dehradun and Batla House

The outer walls on each floor along the staircase leading to the fourth floor had been identically painted - in off-white and yellowish-brown.

The flat in which the five suspected terrorists had been holed up was lying vacant with its gate locked from outside.

A woman living in the opposite flat refused to come out as she spoke peeping through the half-opened grille gate.

"We have heard a lot about this flat since 2008, the year the encounter took place, but we haven't seen anyone living there. We have never seen anyone go inside it in the past three years," said the woman.

Most neighbours, however, avoided any direct conversation about the encounter. A few young men spoke in excited tones when asked about the yet-to-be-released Bollywood flick, "Batla House". They sort of withdrew when enquired about the real encounter that took place.

Many among those who were offering namaz have been living in the Batla House area for generations. A section, however, claimed to be unaware of any encounter. Many others claimed to have witnessed the incident, but refused to speak up preferring to leave the incident in the recesses of their memory.

"There is nothing to talk about that day. Our locality has seen bad days and acquired a bad name due to the incident. They (police) have arranged a medium of propaganda in the form of a movie to polish their image," said Haji Parvez, a local resident.

Delhi Police had claimed that the five men who had been holed up inside the flat were involved in the five serial blasts that had rocked Delhi on September 13, 2008. Apart from the two men who were shot dead, two others were arrested while one managed to escape during the encounter.

(Advitya Bahl can be contacted at advitya.b@ians.in)

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