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The Sirpurkar commission has found that the encounter in the 2019 Disha rape and murder case in Hyderabad, Telangana, was likely staged and fake. Its revelations make us wonder if the recent Malayalam film Jana Gana Mana said the unsaid in the Disha case.

While justice delayed is justice denied, instant justice is often plain injustice. When the Telangana police killed the four alleged rapists in the Disha case in an encounter, many supported the summary justice handed out. But the Justice Sirpurkar Commission is now indicating that the police deliberately fired on the alleged perpetrators with intent to kill them.

The film Jana Gana Mana had a similar fake encounter orchestrated by powerful people to deflect people’s attention away from the suicide of a dalit student such as in the Rohith Vemula case that happened in 2016. The film connected the dots between the two apparently unrelated cases.

The four who were shot dead in the Disha case had been remanded to police custody for 10 days for investigation. Two days later, as they were being taken to the scene of the crime for investigation, the four allegedly snatched the guns that the policemen had and tried to shoot at the policemen in an escape bid. In this fracas, the four were shot dead, the police said.

The film Jana Gana Mana had a similar fake encounter orchestrated by powerful people to deflect people’s attention away from the suicide of a dalit student such as in the Rohith Vemula case that happened in 2016

The Supreme Court ordered a commission of inquiry with Justice Sirpurkar, Mumbai high court judge Rekha Sondur Baldota, former CBI director D R Karthikeyan serving in the panel. The commission’s term was extended three times.

The commission’s submission to the Supreme Court late last week shows that what happened at the Hyderabad toll gate was a staged encounter by the Telangana police. What is also emerging is that the four likely did not have anything to do with the Disha murder case. Jana Gana Mana’s storyline has a similar case as a pivot.

The four killed had been arrested three days after Disha’s murder. Following police custody remand, they were taken to a safe house where they were interrogated by assistant commissioner V Surendar, as per police accounts. But the commission found that Surendar questioned them only a day later. Police said another investigating officer Venkata Reddy had questioned them meanwhile.

While V C Sajjanar, the then Cyberabad police commissioner, said that Disha’s cell phone and other belongings were recovered from a shrub near the scene of crime, the police had recorded that they were found in a polythene bag. In addition, the belongings were not given to forensics to lift fingerprints which would have helped establish that the accused’s fingerprints were on them.

The commission had found it beyond belief that the four could have easily tried to get away from ten policemen who were escorting them. The police said that Jollu Siva and Jolly Naveen had attacked two policemen with sticks and stones. But the commission found that hospital records on the treatment given to the two policemen had been tampered with.

The police version was that two of the accused, Mohammed Arif and Chennakesavulu, snatched the guns of policemen and shot at the policemen while they were escaping. Their bullets hit the other two accused by mistake and they died, the police said. The commission wondered why the escaping convicts would want to shoot at policemen when their intent was to escape. Further, it was established that the bullets had entered from the front and exited from the back of the bodies of those who had died.

On top of all this was the age of the dead. While Mohammed Arif was 27 years old, Jollu Siva was 17. Naveen and Chennakesavulu were only 15 years old. The police did not record that three of the four were less than 18 years old though the police had gone to their schools for inquiry. The confessions of the accused seemed tutored and they were recorded in the police station after arrest.

The exact time of the encounter had not been recorded. Sajjanar had said it likely happened at around 6am. The question of why the accused were taken to the crime scene so early in the morning was never answered.

In Jana Gana Mana, Saba Mariam, a member of the faculty at a central university, is murdered by a professor who runs his vehicle over her. Her murder is then portrayed as a case of rape.

Though the events happen in Bengaluru, as per the film, there are many pointers that the film is actually referring to Hyderabad. Only Hyderabad, among the four south Indian cities, has a central university.

Telangana police said Disha was fed liquor, raped and then murdered. Jana Gana Mana murder case is similar. In the film, though the accused had committed offenses in the past, they had no connection with the Disha case.

Just as there was a public outcry following Disha’s murder and the media showed common people welcoming the encounter, Jana Gana Mana too portrayed the encounter as one that the media celebrated.

Though the events happen in Bengaluru, as per the film, there are many pointers that the film is actually referring to Hyderabad. Only Hyderabad, among the four south Indian cities, has a central university.

Though Jana Gana Mana is a Malayalam film, the characters converse in Kannada and Tamil too. Telugu, through its absence, is present in the film.

The role played by Suraj Venjaramoodu is that of assistant commissioner Sajjan Kumar, echoing the name Sajjanar. The similarities show that Jana Gana Mana is based on real life incidents and research by film crew.

So who really killed Disha? How and why?

Many facts in crimes don’t come to light in media. They are told off the record or given as background to journalists, and come to the surface as stories, films and essays. The Sirpurkar commission makes us wonder if the truth of the Telangana encounter case is to be found in Jana Gana Mana, and if it’s based on off-the-record information.

 


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