Next day, i.e., on June 2, 2006 the newspapers and other media carried the detailed version of the incident. The major source of their information was the Police. Some newspapers however met with a few eye witnesses and used them as sources of additional information.
Sanjay Tiwari, correspondent of the local newspaper, Navbharat- Mahanagar of June 1, 2006 reported that there was a possibility of terrorist attack in city. He cited CBI sources saying that the attack would happen in next 24 hours. This was significant because although the incident in question had taken place in the wee hours of June 1, the newspapers could not carry it on the same day.
About there being advanced information available to the Police, there is subsequent confirmation from the Home Minister- Mr. R. R. Patil himself. The Intelligence Bureau, according to him, knew about the plans for attack since seven months. Even Lokmat of June 2, reported that on Wednesday (the previous day) at around 3 pm Intelligence Bureau at Delhi had informed the Nagpur Police that a terrorist team comprising four terrorists were reaching Nagpur to attack the RSS headquarters within the next 72 hours. On the basis of this secret information, the CP Mr. SSP Yadav enforced ‘high alert’ in the city with ‘nakabandi’ at many places and conduction of searches in hotels and lodges. After 7 hours, i.e., at 10 pm, IB, Delhi again informed the Nagpur Police that ‘Lashkar Terrorists’ have already reached Nagpur to attack the RSS headquarters and other important places. It alerted the police machinery further.
The June 2 newspapers generally carried the following details:
The police had intelligence information that the terrorist may strike some important places in the city and accordingly they had tightened up general security arrangements, particularly around the RSS headquarters situated in the Mahal area of Nagpur. During the night patrol, a special police squad spotted a white Ambassador car no. MH 20 B-8979 with a red beacon atop in the central avenue area near Sona Restaurant Chowk. The police patrolling party comprised two vehicles, Toyota Qualis and Tata Sumo. Qualis had PSI Rajendra Tiwari, without uniform and a policeman -Mithilesh Tripathi. Tata Sumo followed it with PS Arvind Saraf, J A More, Havaldar, Prithviraj Chauhan, Kuldip Petkar, Kishor Mahant, Akhilesh Rai, Gajanana Peshane and Vijay Gaikwad as its occupants. As reported in the Press, (Navbharat Mahanagar of June 4, 2006) the squad was created under the personal supervision of Mr. S.S.P. Yadav, Police Commissioner. The officers were laced with AK-47 whereas the policemen had 9 mm pistols.
The police party was on the way to the RSS headquarters and hence it turned towards the Badkas Chowk. They found the Ambassador car also turning towards the Badkas Chowk. Police suspected something foul and began following it. The Ambassador car fumbled and took turns between Lakda Pul and Gajanan Mandir. The police suspicion strengthened after seeing this. The group leader (Rajendra Tiwari) alerted the police team for the battle and everybody wore bulletproof jackets.
The police vehicles hastened the chase of the suspicious Ambassador car. At Badkas chowk the ambassador car took a left turn towards Junta chowk and again turned right towards the Sangh (RSS) building from the Lakdi pul side. Presuming the car might have gone towards Ayachit Mandir the police stopped the chase for a while. However when the police jeep came back to the same place during their routine patrol, they noticed the same car in a small alley between Lakdi pul and Gajanan Mandir towards the eastern gate of the RSS headquarters. The Police vans then closed in on the Ambassador car. However, without paying heed to the police patrol the car tried to force its way through the temporary barricade erected 50 meters before the main entrance of the RSS headquarters. At this juncture the PSI Tiwari intercepted the ambassador car and challenged it by asking where it was heading. Instantly thereafter the two ultras who were seated on the rear seats came out of the car with a grenade in their left hand and AK56 rifle in the right hand. One of them lobbed the grenade at the police, but since its pin was not fully removed, it failed to explode. Seeing this, the ultras opened indiscriminate fire at the police party. In the melee PSI Saraf who just alighted from the police vehicle got hit at his abdomen. However, since he was wearing a bullet proof vest the bullet did not pierce his body.
Soon after this, the police force and the ultras started exchanging fire in which two of the three militants were killed on the spot. The driver of the car then tried to flee towards the Bhauji Daftari School. However he could not escape the bullets from the police and he too was killed on the spot. The entire shoot out went on for just around 15 minutes between 4.00 and 4.15 AM. The police then informed the control room and the commissioner of Police about the shoot out. The senior police officers immediately reached the spot and shifted the three ultras to the government medical college hospital where they were declared brought dead.
There is a slight variant narrative in Navbharat of June 2 with regard to encounter of the police with the Ambassador car near Daudkhani’s house. According to Navbharat, when the car took turn from Lakda Pul towards Nagpur Night School, the Police squad followed it. The terrorists in the car broke the barricade near Daudkhani’s house and as they crossed over the barricade their car failed. By that time both the police vehicles reached there. Tiwari and Tripathi got down from Qualis and immediately took position, while the Sumo came little further towards the Ambassador car. One terrorist got down from the right side of the car and threw a hand grenade towards the police. The grenade however failed to burst. The other terrorist began firing from his AK-M gun (as per the Police AK-M is an advanced version of AK-47 and almost equivalent to AK-56). One who was in the PSI uniform in the driver’s seat took out a box with plastic explosive and threw it towards the police. He tried firing at the box so as to explode it but failed. The firing lasted for more than 20 minutes. Two terrorists were killed on the spot by the police bullets. When the firing stopped, the police found one of the terrorists still breathing. Kishor Mahant and Mithilesh Tripathi lifted him and took him to the Medical College Hospital. Second vehicle carried the wounded policemen and the third vehicle carried the dead bodies of the two terrorists.
While this is the version given by one paper – Navbharat Mahanagar, the other papers gave still variant versions of the crucial part of the incident. For instance, Lokmat Samachar of June 2 wrote that the terrorists tried to break the barricade but when they could not they tried to reverse the car. By that time one of the police vehicles (must be Sumo) came and blocked its path. Lokmat cites its sources saying that one policeman asked the identity of the driver but instead of giving straight answers, the driver began taking offence. The terrorists then came out and began firing. Obviously Lokmat had used some ‘sources’ other than the police.
Hitavada of June 2 reported that during the chase the terrorists had opened the window and police saw total three persons wearing uniform of PSI. They knocked down the barricade near Daudkhani’s place.
There are as many versions of the critical aspects of the incident as there are papers. Loksatta of June 2 reported in its story “Thus Happened the Drama”: “…The tailing police vehicle while heading towards Zenda chowk found the Ambassador car turning from Bhosla Ved Shala towards the lane going to the RSS headquarters. The police entered from the right side lane and coming from Tatti’s well caught the car near the Corporation’s Bhauji Daftari school…. Just before two minutes, while the terrorists’ car was going forward after breaking the steel barricade, the two policemen on duty at the barricade shouted at the car for stopping it. At that time the car stopped near the entrance of the Bharat Mahila Vidyalaya and three terrorists in police uniform came out. They hurled a hand grenade at the police vehicle that followed them and had stopped at an approximate distance of 25 steps. Fortunately, there was no loss of life as it failed to explode. When the terrorists realized that their game plan had failed, they opened indiscriminate fire from their AK-56 rifles in the direction of the police. The police also responded with their AK-47. Police squad boldly moved towards the red beacon car while firing. They killed one terrorist who came in front of the Daftari school and moved still further. Around this time one member of the squad intimated the control room about this matter. The armed police at the Sangha headquarters came from the side of Krishnashastri Bapat’s house. The terrorists were thus trapped from both the sides. A terrorist standing at the door of the car began firing in their direction but he was killed in the heavy fire of the policemen who came from the front…”
Lokmat Nagpur of June 2 on its page 2 writes inter alia that “.. the police in Qualis followed the Ambassador car and signaled to stop it. The police tried to stop it when the terrorist car took turn towards the lane entering from behind the RSS headquarters. In order to stop it a dark blue coloured Tata Sumo was parked across the road near the Bhauji Daftari Higher Primary School. The terrorist car dashed this vehicle and rushed forward. They broke the steel barricade and began firing in the direction of the police. ..”
Tarun Bharat of June 3 gives salient description thus: “.. When the red beacon Ambassador car started going ahead of Badkas chowk, the police followed it…After some distance the Ambassador car stopped. One person in the police uniform came out. How could there be a policeman in the red beacon car, Saraf was puzzled. After going towards Lakdi Pul it again turned back and started coming towards Badkas chowk. Saraf had informed the police control room that a red beacon Ambassador car with three policemen in it was roaming in the city in a suspicious manner. After getting this information the PSI in charge of Traffic Mr. Rajendra Tiwari rushed with his colleagues from the road in front of the RSS head quarters. .. As the car entered a lane on the road from Lakdi Pul to Badkas Chowk, the police car also followed it. The car stopped at the steel barricade near the Bharat Mahila Vidyalaya. Immediately Saraf and his colleagues got down from the Tata Sumo with their arms. As Saraf challenged the terrorists and asked them to stop, the terrorists tried to dash against the barricade to run away. At that moment Saraf and his team members opened fire on the Ambassador car. PSI Tiwari and his colleagues reached in Qualis from the other side of the Bharat Mahila Vidyalaya. In response to the police firing, all the three terrorists came out of the car and began firing in the direction of Saraf and his colleagues. … As the firing began, the policemen belonging to the State Reserve Police on duty at the Bharat Mahila Vidyalaya also opened fire on the terrorists. Thus in the firing from all the four side the terrorists were killed on spot.”
Yet another version from Sakal of June 2! It reported inter alia that the terrorist car dashed against the steel barricade but got stuck in it. Two terrorists came out to push the barricade aside but just at that moment the police reached there. The terrorists opened fire. There is no mention of the other police party. It reported that the car driver wanted to run away but police could gun him down.
These are but the illustrations. For the space constraint, we cannot provide version of all the papers. But we sincerely think these versions are good enough to impress upon the basic point that there are significantly varying versions of the crucial aspect of the incident afloat. Not only they differ from each other but also each of them is fraught with serious contradictions. Even after making reasonable concession for journalistic fantasy, the critical question regarding the veracity of the incident cannot be ignored.
About the identity of the alleged terrorists all the local newspapers reported that they were the Pakistan nationals. Tarun Bharat of June 2 reported the PTI news quoting a senior officer from the Crime Branch as its source that the three slain terrorists were Pakistanis and their names were: Afzal Ahmad Bhat, Abdul Kalam Aladi and Usman Habib. While the former two were the residents of Lahore the third person was from Gujaranwala in Pakistan. The diary that the police claimed to have recovered from the car also had their names and telephone numbers in Urdu. Lokmat of June 2 published their names along with their telephone numbers. Curiously it mentions Bilal Ahmad Bhat instead of Abdul Kalam Aladi in tarun Bharat. The Hitvada of June 2 also reported the names of the slain terrorists and that that they were camping in the city for the previous 2-3 days.
There are stories about how they reached Nagpur. They appear to have been constructed from the things police recovered from the car. From a receipt for shoes purchased from a shop –Bharat Chappal Bhandar, Dak Bangla Chowk, Patna dated May 26, it was surmised that they may have entered the country via Nepal. At Patna they were met with a person from Delhi as they found a Delhi newspaper in the car. It is speculated that this person must have supplied them weapons, ammunitions and all other materials. They must have reached Nagpur via UP and MP in the red beacon car on May 29. As the owner of the Patna shop dismissed that the receipt for shoes was from his shop to the Nagpur police team that specially visited him, this version gets invalidated. The police failed to establish identity of the car owner also as the car number actually turned out to be that of a scooty in Aurangabad. Tarun Bharat of June 5 reported that the car had reached Nagpur before 15-20 days and that its colour was changed in Nagpur. Indian Express of June 4 reported that a man who had painted the number plate of the car had turned up before the Nagpur Police and subsequently identified the dead bodies giving description of a person who accompanied the terrorist but was not among the dead. On the basis of his description a computer sketch was done and published in newspapers as “Most Wanted”. Some other papers reported in variant manner about this man (painter) and what he did. Some said that he was arrested and interrogated by the Police and that he changed the colour as well as the number plates. Dainik Bhaskar of June 6 reported that the terrorists had stitched the police uniform in Nagpur itself and had bought all the accessories such as badges, belt, etc. from a shop in Sitaburdi.
Hitvada of June 2 reported that the police recovered 3 AK-M assault rifles; 13 hand grenades, 9 loaded magazines of cartridges, a sealed box containing high explosives, cash of about Rs. 1 lakh and a bag containing incriminating documents. A timer and material for making an improvised explosive device also were seized from the car. Some other papers reported exact quantity of explosives (5.6 Kg) and total rounds (120) seized form the car. The Police also recovered a diary that contained names, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses of Lahore and Gujrangwala and also a map that was later identified as that of Nagpur city. Mr. S.S.P. Yadav informed the Press that the grenades were made by Arges, an Australian company and were of the same make as used by the Lashkar-i-Toiba terrorists in the previous attacks, such as attack on Parliament and Akshardham. The Police had also recovered a receipt for the purchase of shoes from a shop in Patna and also a document, which indicated that the vehicle was being used between Jammu and Shrinagar. Janatecha Mahanagar (June 2) lists one number plate, three hand bags containing clothes, chappals, wrist watch, etc. in addition to the above.
Loksatta, (Indian Express Group) Nagpur Marathi edition, dated June 03 2006 carried a comment titled as “Clouds of Suspicion over the Attack on the RSS Headquarters”. It had raised the following salient points:
·Normally the terrorist attacks are well planned and hence they seldom meet with failure. However, the ease with which the police foiled this attack has created suspicion in public mind. Such a reaction has emerged from the Sangh Pariwar itself and also from their opponents.
·Normally, terrorist organizations promptly come forward claiming the responsibility of important attacks, particularly when they are ambitious ones. This one was certainly one of the most important, being potentially the most calamitous. However, no terrorist group has claimed any responsibility of this incident. As such the question arises, whether they were hardcore Islamic terrorists or just the foolhardy novices.
·According to police statement, the threat of attack on the RSS headquarters loomed large over the last one year or so and therefore it had provided an elaborate security cordon around the building. Yet the attackers seemed to have no idea of this; neither did they seem to know the roads leading to the RSS building. Even no map of the building or its surrounding could be found with them. They used the red beacon car for camouflaging their operation but did not know even the basics of how it operates.
· During the entire encounter with the police the terrorists got only one chance to lob a hand grenade and that too did not explode. Moreover the fact that not a single policeman was injured by the bullets of the attackers puts a question mark on the ability of the terrorists.
· The attackers could bring a car load of guns and bullets, hand grenades, powerful explosives like RDX from places thousands of kilometers away without being detected or checked by any police or civic authorities, is a matter of surprise even in the RSS circle.
· The RSS which usually takes even minor matters seriously and go for nationwide protest. This one was publicized as the big planned attack. However, none of their big leaders visited the place even two days after the incident.
· The RSS kept extraordinary silence over this incident and the next morning shakha at the headquarters went on with unusually more people attending it. It was a surprise even among the cadres of the RSS.
· Narendra Modi declaring immediately an award of Rs. 10 lakhs to the police team that foiled the terrorist attack also confused many people. It appeared that Modi was just waiting for the incident to happen.
· All the above facts have created a thick cloud of suspicion among the local people including those belonging to the Sangh Pariwar, who murmured their disbelief in a muffled voice.
Mahanayak, a Marathi news paper from Mumbai, (June 2, 2006) provided the following version of the crucial aspect of this incident:
“.. .the car entered the eastward lane to the Sangh headquarter from the Lakdi Pul in front of Ayachit Mandir. It reached the front of Bharat Mahila Vidyalaya in the lane. It was stopped by the metallic barricade raised by the Police. One police constable on duty there went up to the car and tried to see the important person seated in the car but when he saw three PSIs inside he suspected something foul. When the police constable requested the officials to come out for identification, one terrorist aimed his gun at him. With great presence of mind he signaled t his colleagues. At the same time the police vehicles chasing the car also reached there. As the police readied with their weapons, the terrorists opened indiscriminate fire from the car. While responding to them, police disabled the terrorists. They were taken immediately to the hospital for treatment but before any treatment the medical doctors declared them dead.”
It published a title page news from its special correspondent from Nagpur, with the caption “Mahanayak's Special Story (June 5) on the Attack on RSS Head Quarters.” The news goes like this:
“There is a talk among the Nagpur police that, of the 11 police who conducted the encounter, 6 police did not even know how to handle a carbine. Some of them were under demotion on account of departmental disciplinary action, and they were given this 'chance' to prove their 'worthiness.' Sources close to the police circle say, none of the eleven cops had special Commando training. The authorities had punished two of them, for they extorted from a 'gutka' merchant a huge amount (Rs 3.5 lakhs) five months ago, in the Panchpauli police station area. At the orders of the CP they were shifted to another 'punishment' section. Police inner circle is surprised at the composition of the squad for most of them do not know how to handle guns properly.”