Now, it appears this was a 'story' in more senses than one. M J Akbar in his column in TOI today and Outlook magazine in its latest issue cast doubts on the official version. Akbar and the Outlook make several points.
- Sharma was said to have been shot in the stomach but a photo captures him being helped out of the house where the shoot-out took place, with a heavy patch of blood on his upper arm. He had managed to climb down several flights of stairs, which would have been difficult had been shot in the stomach.
- An official release later clarified that he had died of a heart attack caused by loss of blood. There are also murmurs in the police establishment that he was killed by 'friendly fire'.
- Outlook mentions that Sharma had gone up to the apartment where the terrorists were said to have been holed up, posing as a telecom salesperson. He then asked his colleagues to join him. So, this wasn't exactly the storming of a hide-out. Lastly, the police claim to have killed two terrorists and said the other two had escaped. Escape was difficult considering there was only one exit which was under police watch.
The test of success, I guess, is whether the police are effective in preventing further acts of terrorism. Israel has shown it can do it. So has the US post 9/11. Not to defend the record of these countries in their dealings with Muslims. The point, however, is that unless the Indian police is able to reduce the level of terrorist attacks, we must remain sceptical about encounters and the resulting deaths or capture of 'terrorists'.
While on the subject,it's worth noting that the government case againt SIMI, supposedly a terrorist Muslim organisation, was thrown out by the special CBI court (headed, as I recall, by a lady judge). The judge said the government had failed to produce evidence. The matter is now pending in the Supreme Court where the government has challenged the lower court verdict.