BJP targets Congress, Mamata Banerjee after Batla House conviction

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The BJP on Tuesday targeted Opposition parties, including the Congress and the Trinamool Congress, for raising doubts on the 2008 Batla House encounter and asked them to apologise for it.

The comments came a day after Ariz Khan, an Indian Mujahideen terrorist, was convicted of killing Inspector Mahesh Chand Sharma in the gunfight in south Delhi's Batla House locality in September 2008.

Addressing a BJP press conference, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad quoted remarks by Opposition leaders, including Congress' Salman Khurshid and Digvijay Singh and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, to attack them. He also demanded an enquiry to find out the impact the campaign against Delhi Police had had on its morale.

"There was a conscious, deliberate and consistent attempt to cast serious doubt on the authenticity of the Batla House encounter to weaken the morale of Delhi Police and give clear support to terrorist and their design. Why? For pure vote bank politics," Prasad said.

Inspector Sharma of the Special Cell of Delhi Police was killed during the encounter, which took place a week after five serial blasts had hit the national capital on September 13, 2008, killing at least 30 people and injuring over 100. Two terrorists were killed while two others fled.

After the encounter on September 19, 2008, protest rallies were organised against it by teachers and students of Jamia Millia Islamia University.

The National Human Rights Commission(NHRC), which had conducted an inquiry in the case on the direction of the Delhi High Court, gave Delhi Police a clean chit.

However, several leaders of the Congress, which was in power at the Centre then, had voiced doubts on Delhi Police's claims and sought an enquiry even though the party leadership later distanced itself from their campaign.

The BJP, known for its tough line on the issue of national security, has often used Khurshid's remarks that Congress president Sonia Gandhi was in tears looking at the pictures of the encounter.

Prasad also noted that Banerjee had described the encounter as "fake" and had sought a judicial probe, claiming that she will quit politics if proven wrong.

The Samajwadi Party, AAP's Arvind Kejriwal and the Left had echoed similar views, he said.

"Will these parties apologise? Will Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Benerjee apologise," he asked.

"Will the fight against terrorism be weakened because of vote bank politics," Prasad added, asserting that the court verdict has put a closure to the case and is a triumph of the country's judiciary and the police.

The Congress and other opposition parties had stood on the side of terrorists on the issue of national security, he alleged.

He said there was a campaign to vilify Delhi Police at the time.

Prasad said the convicted terrorist was responsible for the death of over 165 people in terror blasts across the country, adding that efforts to nab him received a fillip after the BJP came to power in 2014 and he was arrested from Nepal in 2018.

While terror attacks, including in Mumbai and several other cities, occurred during the UPA rule, the BJP government has given a free hand to security forces to undertake preemptive measures and also launch surgical strikes like the one in Balakot when terrorists hit India's interests, he said. PTI KR

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