A Little Less Melodrama and a Lot More Forensics

On Looking at a Photograph taken on the Margins of an ‘Encounter’

From page 3, Sunday Hindustan Times, 21 September, 2008


Yesterday’s Hindustan TImes published an interesting photograph of the late Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma of the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, who was killed, allegedly during the course of the recent ‘encounter’ at Jamia Nagar on the morning of Friday, the 19th of September. 

[ See ‘Braveheart Falls’, Page 3, Sunday Hindustan Times, 21 September, 2008 ] 

http://epaper.hindustantimes.com/ArticleImageEx.aspxarticle=21_09_2008_003_002_002&type=2&mode=1 >  

The page is headlined ‘The Hunt for Terror’ and while the other photographs on the page (of the deceased policeman’s grieving relatives) are credited, this particular one is not. 

A number of disturbing questions about this ‘encounter’ are gradually beginning to make themselves known. I do not wish to repeat or reiterate them in this posting  (though I feel that they need to be carefully thought about). I just want to share my doubts about particular thing that I can’t but help noticing while looking at the photograph. 

The photograph shows an injured Mohan Chand Sharma walking, helped by two men, presumably towards a vehicle that would be taking him to hospital.  

The man on his left is bulky, wears a black T Shirt with a red figure of 8 on it. One of Sharma’s arms is slung around his shoulder. The man on his right is tall, balding, wears a blue patterned necktie and a white shirt  (he is also seen on the TV footage from Holy Family Hospital, where Sharma was taken). His shirt appears stained with fresh blood on his left arm and in the chest area. He wears a bag slung across his body. 

Sharma seems to have lost one shoe, appears to be in some pain, and clearly needs support as he walks. He is wearing an off white bush shirt, over a white vest and has what looks like some strong blood stains on his right arm (just below where the man on his right is holding him) and some faint stains, (which could be small quantities of blood, or could be stains from having brushed against a surface on which there is blood) on his right abdomen area. 

Since he is not on a stretcher of any kind, he appears to be in a position where it is plausible that he walked down the four floors from the site of the encounter at L-18 and is seen continuing to walk. He is in pain, but his injuries, at least in this photograph, do not appear to be life-threatening, at least not as yet.  

Crucially, there do not seem to be any visible signs of excessive blood loss. In serious bullet injuries, especially when they have occurred at close range, there is every chance of immediate and large scale blood loss. If he came down the stairs as he must have, we would have seen a lot of blood on the stairs, had there been a lot of bleeding. Having watched the video footage of the staircase repeatedly and carefully on the day of the ‘encounter’ I clearly recall that while the staircase was indeed ‘spotted’ with small patches, skid marks and spots of what looked like blood, the amount of blood did not suggest that a person who was bleeding heavily had walked down, (or even had been carried down) four flights of stairs.  

Reports of the autopsy conducted on Mohan Chand Sharma’s body indicate that he sustained two injuries –  in his right arm and in his adbomen. [See Autopsy Suggests Sharma died of ‘excessive bleeding’ by Teena Thacker, Indian Express, Posted Online, September 21, 2008 at 0017 hours.]

But no bullets were found, either in X Ray or during the autopsy. Suggesting that the bullets would have exited the body. This occurs when a high velocity firearm is used at close range, such that the force of the impact tears right through the body, causing the bullet to be ejected out of the body through an ‘exit wound’. If there are exit wounds, they tend to be larger than entrance wounds, and they are accompanied by profuse bleeding. 

[For a discussion of how bullet injuries impact on soft tissue in human bodies see How a high speed bullet damages an organ – from Gun Shot Wounds (CRC Press, 1985) by Dr. Vincent J.M. DiMaio, Chief Medical Examiner and Director of the Regional Crime Laboratory, County of Vexar, San Antonio, Texas.] 

Sharma died of excessive bleeding. The excessive bleeding seems not to have begun at least till the time that this photograph was taken. The photograph in the Hindustan Times is consistent with the possibility of an injured arm, and the blood stains on his escorts shirt also seem to be in consonance with what would happen if you were helping a person who has been injured on his arm (or if the blood has sprayed on to your shirt at close range from another injured person).  

The ground which the three figures are walking on is clearly visible in the photograph, again, here too, we do not see the kind of marks that should be visible if a severely injured and bleeding person were to be walking.  

If this is so, then some rather disturbing questions seem to begin to raise their heads. 

Was Sharma shot (at least one more time) after this photograph was taken, and before he reached hospital? If so, who shot him?  

The only people who can be said to be with him as he travelled from the site of the encounter to the hospital were his other security personnel. There were no armed ‘terrorists’ with him, around him, or facing him, at this time. 

While Mohan Chand Sharma’s career may have been illuminated by several decorations, there is no doubt that not unlike his deceased mentor and colleauge, Rajbir Singh, he had, of late come under a bit of a cloud. The decision to transfer him out of the Special Cell of the Delhi Police to the Police Training College at Jharoda Kalan (which has been interpreted as a punishment posting by some) is well known. He was asked to stay on, or perhaps himself asked to stay on, for this particular operation. It could have been a last attempt at another touch of glory in a career that was beginning to lose its shine.  

We may do well to remember that Mohan Chand Sharma’s erstwhile mentor and colleague,the late Rajbir Singh, too died in somewhat mysterious circumstances,  apparently to do with his somewhat unsavoury sideline as an extortionist and part of a real estate mafia racket (after having a distinguished list of ‘encounters’ and ‘investigations’, including the 13 December case, to his name).  

WIth Rajbir Singh’s and now Mohan Chand Sharma’s deaths, two more people who possibly knew a lot about say, the 13 December case are no longer in the reckoning, and with a steady chorus mounting for the execution of Afzal Guru, the day may not be far when no footsoldier will be left alive to bear witness to what exactly happened on and around the 13th of December, 2001 and several other less than transparent episodes in the recent history of what passes as ‘anti-terrorist operations’.  

While today, Mohan Chand Sharma may be commemorated as a ‘hero’, as ‘braveheart’, as a ‘martyr’ a dispassionate look at his rise may actually reveal different shades. The possibility, that for many people within the deep structures of the security establishment, his ‘neutralization’ may not be an altogether inconvenient thing, cannot be ruled out.  

Incidentally, Mohan Chand Sharma’s funeral was attended amongst others by Sachin Vaze and Pradeep Sharma, both top encounter killings of the Mumbai police, M.C. Sharma’s friends, and both currently undergoing suspension, Vaze because of a case of custodiald death involving him, and Pradeep Sharma, because of suspected links to the Mumbai underworld.  [See Tarnished Cops Seek Meaning in Sharma’s Death by Vikas Shrivastav and Vivek Sinha, Mumbai Mirror, Posted on September 21, 2008.] 

Mohan Chand Sharma may have died a violent death, and every violent death (including possibly many of those that he may himself have authored in his career) is tragic and must be mourned. However, much of what he did, or was made to do, or became habituated to doing, and all that he represented, still needs to be accounted for. His last few hours need accounting for. The ‘Jamia Encounter’ and its link to the Delhi, Gujarat, Jaipur, Bangalore and Varanasi bomb blasts doesn’t quite look like the open and shut case it is being made out to be on prime time television. By Sunday evening, a channel called India TV, (famous for predicting apocalypse on a daily basis) ran a dramatized ‘reconstruction’ with the theme of a 13 headed monster terrorist cell, within two days of Friday’s events. Times Now, another channel, kept saying that they had ‘Exclusive’ Photographs of the so called ‘Terrorists’ at the sites in which they had planted the bombs. What they showed us were black and white close ups of smiling young men. The photographs did not in any way indicate ‘where’ these men happened to be located. 

Perhaps we need a little less melodrama, and a lot more forensics. That could help us understand what exactly happened at Jamia Nagar last Friday, and what is actually going on in the name of the ‘war on terror’ in this country today.

32 thoughts on “A Little Less Melodrama and a Lot More Forensics”

  1. According to today’s Hindustan Times and Malayala Manorama, the post-mortem report of Sharma shows that he died of a heart attack due to excessive bleeding. The bullets themselves may not have been fatal. (May not have been meant to be fatal?)
    Also, didn’t it strike many of us as odd that all the three arrested “terrorists” portrayed in the newspapers had their faces covered in those distinctively Muslim red checked kaffiyeh-type head scarves? The masterminds of the IM walk around in uniform? But guess what. The Delhi police bought it in bulk “long ago”. They started using the cloth when they arrested three associates of the Om Prakash, or Bunty, the alleged kingpin of a gang of criminal bikers, who was later shot dead in a police “encounter”.
    The police bought Muslim-looking scarves in bulk to cover criminals’ faces! Saffron scarves in short supply?
    (Unfortunately, it took “members of the Islamic community” to protest, forcing the cops to confess to the provenance of the scarves. Well, if nobody else protests, they will. Thus gaining more legitmacy within the community, leaving “secular Indians” fulminating about the hold of Islamic orthodoxy on the community and about the “Muslim mind-set”.)


  2. many more mohan chand sharmas will be killed by the indian state. the killing of mohan sharma is the indian police mafia finishing off each other. it is a gang-warfare going on – fully democratic, constitutional, secular etc… the jamia shoot-out is completely stage-managed drama. it was all orchestrated to finish off sharma who had become a pain for the establishment. the muslim boys who were killed were totally innocent. if we think that no, the state cannot have stage-managed all of it, maybe there were terrorists, and at least lot of it was genuine – then, I should say that if the full picture of what the Indian state does were to be available to such benign minds, you will still never believe them. even if you were to be provided the evidence about the horrors committed by the state you will be too horrified to believe them. so believe it right now, in anticipation, pre-evidence. there is no other way out…


  3. …Doctors say that since Sharma who was part of “Dirty Harry Squad” of the Special Cell had four gun-shot injuries on his body, “in all probability, he was hit by just two bullets which pierced through the body.” As per the medical bulletin of the Holy Family hospital, the officer had received injuries on his left shoulder, left upper arm, left upper abdomen and right hip.

    When asked to specify from which part of the body did the bullet enter and exit, a senior doctor said, “Study of the passage of bullets show that one could have entered from the left shoulder and exited from the left upper arm and the other from the abdomen and then the hips.

    “At this moment I cannot specifically say what were the entry and exit points of the bullets. It could be the other way round also.” (http://www.ptinews.com/pti%5Cptisite.nsf/0/A99AE5AAA71F1468652574CC004E02CF?OpenDocument)

    …“It was a routine verification which turned into an encounter,” said a member who had gone along with Sharma’s team. Another factor which handicapped the operation was that some of Sharma’s usual team members were not present as they were out of town on other assignments,” said a cop.

    It was sub-inspector Dharmender, the man in the tie, who went up to the flat first posing as a salesman and saw two suspects inside. Thinking that there were only two, he signalled Sharma to come up. However, what the team did not anticipate were the three men who came out from the adjoining room and fired at Sharma, who was holding one of the militants. (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Delhi/Lensman_recounts_Sharmas_last_moments/articleshow/3519967.cms)


  4. you only require some topics for your survival in media. for your food and shelter need you can only write like this otherwise no one is going to read your articles. the articles which only create doubt in the mind of people are your product. are you an investigator or forensic expert to give opinion? peolple like you are only responsible for the fate of cases like Arushi Murder Case.


  5. If sub-inspector dharmendra went up first, before Sharma, then things get even more knotty. The reason offered by Joint Comissioner of Police Karnal Singh to journalists as to why Sharma was the only officer without a bullet proof vest was that wearing one would have tipped the “terrorists” off and blown his disguise. However if sub-inspector Dharmendra entered the flat before him, and he was wearing a vest, then the question remains. Why was he not wearing a vest?


  6. Hey guys,
    If you need to hear a frank and bold comment from me here it is…..these encounter specialists in the police who are glorified are all conmen in uniform…I have handled several stories of enounter specialists in Mumbai while working as a journalist there……they are blood cold-blooded murderers not cops…they might be killing criminals but they are criminals, too. Somehow, all encounters take place after they get wind that a criminal is coming to a particular place and not out of sheer chance (which is the literal meaning of an encounter)….and the police with their thirdclass firearms are always able to shoot down the criminals and recover sophisticated firearms from their possession and….the big deal…one cop always suffers a bullet injury on his left arm in every encounter………………..all BULLSHIT. Its good that these encounter cops are some day gunned down by the underworld………after all, they themselves belong to the underworld. Phew!


  7. Hmm. Bengalis! Bengalis!

    That is an analysis? Building a theory around a fertile speculation, without evidence and throwing a few links is analysis?
    God save you people. What a nation of misguided jokers?

    Hmm. Actually There aren’t much questions in the article deemed as ‘worthy’. But as a Forensic specialist let me answer this: there is a thing as internal bleeding and it happens commonly in abdominal /thoracic injuries. Esp in close range gun shots.

    Some of you might have come across people collapsing or even dying after many hours following resuscitation or Hiemlich’s. The culprit being ruptured vessel or fractured rib impinging on a major vessel leading on to bleeding into peritoneum. Hard to recognize , and still be fatal.

    This is the commenest. There are so many other variables: like, just to make it thrilling- he might be a heavy drinker, which might have affected his liver and therefore the clotting time. I can sit here and speculate all day.

    And of course that doesn’t make the encounter less suspicious( for reasons beyond your simple minds ) but it would make your hopeless, ignorant theory more absurd. And most definitely it wouldnt disprove if the guy on the right beheaded and castrated the man while travelling to the hospital?

    As I heard somewhere, A little less melodrama? And hey perhaps, a bit more forensics, what say?


  8. http://mangalam.com/index.php?page=detail&nid=78545

    Mangalam, a Malayalam daily reports from delhi (25th sept) that the claims of the police are false and fabricated. Quoting the manager of the Union bank Mr R L Dohra and deputy I G of Azamgarh, the report refutes the police and intelligence force’s claims that foreign money in crores were put into Atif’s account. According to the bank records transactions were only for 2000 or 1000 rupees, quite normal for any middle class Indian.

    Citing eye witness account the report says that the police team dragged Atif and sajid out of the room and kept at the down floor. And only after that the shooting happened. People said they heard a policeman saying “sab is shot” . theyr heard more gunshots..the body of two students were brought down after that. Even the doctors of AIIMS have reportedly said that both these students were physically tortured and signs of torture were there in their body.

    Inspector Sharma could have been shot from behind by a tall man from a close range, expert doctors say. Who could be this tall man? Why the bullets that killed Sharma are missing?
    Why the hurry in demonizing Azamgarh as “place of terror”? Why such colonial creation and stereotyping of one particular tribe as “thieves” haunt the 21st century combing operations as well? When will we be blessed with a sensible police force with scientific probing mechanism?

    And last but not least, when will we simple minded Indians emancipate ourselves from brahminical terror mindset that spread the venom of hatred and inequality; that make us kill and rape and yet claim to be nationalists and patriots; that pits neighbour against neighbour; that demonises the OTHER; that never allow us to introspect and ashamedly sits in media houses and propagate the message of hate and terror against one particular community… looking at national newspapers and TV channels these days was a horrible experience as they echoed violence. It was/is indeed the real TERROR.


  9. Would internal haemorrhage be a possibility? An organ could have been damaged by the bullet and he could have bled internally. And this could have been the reason.


  10. The postmortem reports that we read about in the press mention no internal haemorrhage, but they do say he died of “a heart attack due to excessive bleeding.”
    There are two lines of suspicion – one, that in the “encounter”, he was only meant to be honourably wounded, not killed, but his heart couldn’t take it.
    Two, as Hari Kumar suggests, he was intentionally shot in a clean-up operation of the police mafia.


  11. if these brilliant minds are so sure that the whole thing was fake, will they kindly let us know what really happened, rather than speculating?


  12. all that The Hoot report cites is contradictions in stories carried by different sections of the media. does that prove that the encounter was fake? i don’t argue that the encounter was genuine because i am not sure, there are indeed contradictions. just because our police are notorious for fake encounters, does it mean that every encounter is fake? i have heard of fake encounters where alleged terrorists are killed. it is the first time i am hearing about an encounter in which the police get killed. while championing the fake encounter theory, wouldn’t it be appropriate to at least present a convincing hypothesis why such a fake encounter would be stage managed by the police, killing one of their most decorated men? we argue that everyone should be treated innocent until proved guilty. i hold no brief for the police, but i can’t help asking, why jump into pronouncing the police guilty without even knowing the true facts of the case?


  13. Awesome, awesome! “We argue that everyone should be treated innocent until proved guilty” – so now you are urging that we should assume the POLICE to be innocent until they are proved to be guilty, but THEY dont have the same responsibility! We will never know if the two men killed at Batla House were guilty or innocent – they’re dead, right?


  14. “you only require some topics for your survival in media. for your food and shelter need you can only write like this otherwise no one is going to read your articles. the articles which only create doubt in the mind of people are your product.

    People finds and people read also. you are wrong there.

    It is called freedom of press. kafila ROCKS!!!

    The Analytical guy…the strategist didn’t think of wearing a bulletproof jacket?


  15. Sunil…please don’t do bengalis..otherwise we will hear keralites…marathies…punjabies…and more.

    Lets keep it decent.


  16. Nivedita Menon,

    i didn’t know that “freedom of expression” in your dictionary means censoring out posts you don’t like.

    you feel it is ok to jump into pronouncing the police guilty without even knowing the facts of the case, i can only feel sorry for you. so much for responsible journalism!!

    in malayalam, there is a saying which goes like, “it is easy to wake up someone who is asleep, but not someone who is pretending to be asleep”


  17. Awesome,we approved two comments from you. The last one we did not approve because it simply repeated your doubts as expressed in the previous two. In kafila, we try to ensure a substantive debate, so that there is not an endless string of comments effectively not saying anything new. As our policy explains, is is our editorial prerogative to decide when a debate or a comment has reached the end of its utility in fostering meaningful debate.
    As you know if you read the other posts, there is ample space for oppositional views on kafila, including yours, as we approved both your previous comments.
    You might like to think about the reasons why you are so ready to believe police versions of what happened without any corroborating evidence, but when we express doubts about the episode based on eye-witness accounts, you demand incontrovertible prrof, complete alternative accounts etc. As you can see, we do not claim to know the truth of what happened, but feel we have enough evidence to doubt the truth of police accounts. And it is also clear that we believe this was a fake encounter in which innocent people have been killed and targeted so that the police can claim they have “done something” about terrorism. That is our alternative account, which you seem to find so difficult to grasp.
    I find it very revealing that you use all the principles of democratic functioning (“innocent until proved guilty”, “freedom of expression” etc.) to beat us on the head with and to protect precisely those systems that deprive large sections of Indian citizens from ever realizing those principles.
    It seems to me that it is you who are in a deep comfortable sleep and resent being awakened to the realities of politics in India. Unfortunately, most Indians do not have the luxury either to sleep, or to pretend to be asleep. Reality jolts them awake, or jolts them dead.


  18. Dear Sunil,

    Unfortunately, my genetic inheritance and ethnic identity are not the kind of things that I can either change to suit your prejudices. Bengalis, alas, will be bengalis.

    There is something that I can do though, which is to take your claim of being a Forensic Specialist seriously.

    You write:

    “But as a Forensic specialist let me answer this: there is a thing as internal bleeding and it happens commonly in abdominal /thoracic injuries. Esp in close range gun shots.”

    True. Very true. Just one problem. Bleeding may be contained within the body if there is no outlet, or channel for the blood to seep or gush out through. This would be the case if the bullet that caused the wound stayed in the body and blocked a passage that would ordinarily led to heavy external bleeding as opposed to internal haemorrhage (which is what happens when people collapse due to ruptured organs even after being revived with a Heimlich Maneouvre)

    In this case, we have been asked to believe that there no bullet stayed within the body. if this is so, there must be an exit wound, (and exit wounds are appreciably larger in diameter than entrance wounds). And then there would certainly be heavy external bleeding.

    It is possible, that the bullet stayed within the body, at least until such time as Inspector Sharma reached the Hospital. But that it was a bullet that the police could not for some reason or another afford to admit to. Because the identity of that bullet, (which gun it would have been fired from) was not convenient to admit to.

    Or, he has been shot at least once, afterwards.

    Either way, the photograph we see, and eyewitness accounts of Sharma walking that I have recently heard, raise more questions than are answered by your forensic expertise.

    I regret to say that the questions are not being asked by misguided Bengalis like myself alone




  19. Awesome, the world is not as simple as you think. You dont have to be “saffron” to to uphold state terrorism – statists come in many colours of the political spectrum, ranging from left to right. Didn’t you ever wonder how the BJP and the CPI(M) both opposed the nuclear deal with the US on grounds of “national sovereignty”?
    (Many of us at kafila and leftists elsewhere have non-nationalist, pacifist and ecological reasons to be opposed to the deal – see for instance, Shuddhabrata’s post and Aniket Alam’s article in EPW)


  20. Shuddhabrata Sengupta

    Sorry for the awkwardly delayed response. I was only referred back here again today and I have no means to reply to you apart from this forum.

    I dont know about you but I pray you are not a Forensic expert in your area. FYI Forensics is building a theory around facts and evidence . You seem to have theory and want to impose on everyone my supporting yourself with speculations. ( Things like police don’t want to admit to this or that etc) See my comment before about – a theory that the inspector was castrated on his way to the hospital and no one can disprove it. That’s how absurd it is – your comical bigoted claims.

    And as per specialities go – well, clearly your idea of ballistics is just as good as Sarah Palins. Look around some forensic journals for case studies.

    Here’s a watered down example I’ll throw at you. 9mm shot – moderate perforation misses aorta splinters into n pieces without exit wound. One or many splinters punctures medium sized artery say Superior Mesenteric Artery, spillage starts late as the splinter is dislodged enroute to hospital, voila hypovolemic shock, cardiac failure – and arrest? Eh?

    But no!

    Your idea of bullet injuries is — entry bullet – bleed – exit bullet intact. Wow. Therefore he was shot again and again and was killed. Brilliant.

    You can’t change any regional ethnic status, But, in my experience it’s mostly the bengalis who insist on their own delusional absurdities as sole rightful reality. May be not all bengalis, but most compared to others. May be I’m wrong but of course I am entitled to my prejudices.
    Have an easy day.


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