Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has announced a distribution of cash reward of Rs 40 lakh among many residents of Acharpura, the hamlet near the site of SIMI operatives’ encounter — a statement that has drawn criticism.
This statement has been questioned by local leaders who termed it an attempt to shut eyewitnesses’ mouth and affect the probe into the encounter.
“The chief minister has announced this reward to those residents who helped police during the encounter. The money would be equally distributed among the citizens”, said an MP government official press release.
Local leaders said that when probe into the jailbreak hasn’t even taken off, such an announcement is wrong and would affect the inquiry.
All India Milli Council state president Arif Masood has also condemned the announcement of cash reward. “This is clearly planned with the motive to save themselves from uncomfortable situation”, said Masood, who is also a senior Congress leader.
“There are major contradictions in the statements of villagers about whether the SIMI operatives were armed or not, and other circumstances surrounding this encounter”, Mohammad Mahir, a Bhopal-based leader who leads MP Muslim Vikas Parishad, a social organisation.
“This is a clear signal to the villagers that they should keep their mouth shut and the dole is for the purpose”, said Mahir.
Some villagers had earlier told media persons that SIMI operatives didn’t carry weapons. MP government officials including Home Minister, IG Bhopal and ATS chief also have a difference of opinion on it. They had also contradicted each other on whether the absconders were armed or not.
The sarpanch of Acharpura and some other villagers were felicitated at a programme in Bhopal on Tuesday where Chouhan made the statement, which was later released to media too.
“The government is trying to save its face as there is evidence including videos that puncture official claims about the encounter," said a senior lawyer.
"The announcement of cash reward so promptly, even before any magisterial inquiry has begun is wrong. Naturally, offering money is nothing but asking people to parrot the official line and save them from impending trouble”, added the lawyer who is planning to approach High Court.
Meanwhile, Arif Masood has also said that preparations have been made and a petition is being filed in High Court. He has handed over a memorandum to Governor, alleging that the encounter was fake and judicial inquiry is needed.