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HC blast: Hasty sketches embarrassing Delhi police

By Sahim Salim
September 13, 2011 20:59 IST
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It looks like the Delhi police may have rushed into releasing sketches of the suspects of the Delhi high court blast.

Sources in the National Investigative Agency have told that they have prepared a fresh sketch, this time using their own artists.

NIA sleuths personally interviewed eyewitnesses to the blast and came up with a single sketch, which looks nothing like what the Delhi police had prepared.

Even the Delhi police themselves are not happy with the two sketches they prepared, which they circulated all over the country and released to media houses hours after a powerful blast exploded outside the Delhi high court on Wednesday last, in which 13 people have been killed so far.

They are in the process of preparing a fresh sketch after the NIA expressed displeasure over the two sketches prepared by the Delhi police.

"The sketch prepared by the NIA probably resembles one of the Delhi police sketches only on one point -- the age. The one prepared by us is in his late 20s, is clean shaven, has short hair, wears spectacles and was dressed in a white shirt," a NIA officer said.

One of the witnesses even told the NIA that the man was wearing a black lawyer's coat, but this was not corroborated by other witnesses.

This is actually a far-cry from the sketch issued by the Delhi police, whose suspect is said to have a middle parting and stubble. The Delhi police maintained that they prepared the sketches 'keeping the broad features of suspects in mind.'

The hurried sketch releases could actually haunt the Delhi police because of the number of people detained by different state police forces on the basis of them. Two men in Alwar, Rajasthan and one in Balrampur, Uttar Pradesh -- all hailing from Jammu and Kashmir -- were picked up because of their similarities with the Delhi police sketches.

These men were released after their credentials were verified. In addition, the Delhi police alone have questioned over 100
people within the city because of their resemblance to the sketches.

"We have received several PCR calls from concerned residents claiming to have seen the suspects. We have followed each and every one of these calls, which numbered over 100. These men were not taken into custody, but were questioned," a senior police officer said.

Probably what made matters worse is the fact that the names of the detainees were made public. The names of all the three Kashmiris have been carried out in newspapers across the country and by news channels.

In addition to the NIA, the Jammu and Kashmir police are also unhappy with the sketches prepared by the Delhi police.

"The J&K police believes that the look of the sketches released by the Delhi police resembles Kashmiris," a NIA official said.

Because of detention of youth hailing from J&K across India, the state police has shot off letters to various Anti Terrorist Squads in the country to inform them before arresting any Kashmiri from their respective states.

Reportedly, the letter was written by the J&K police on instructions given by J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

The letter, which was also received by Delhi police's special cell, mentions that the J&K government did not want "unnecessary harassment of Kashmiri youth" traveling to other parts of India.

"Yes, we have received such a letter. The letter mentions that we should detain people hailing from Kashmir only in cases of extreme emergency," an officer of the special cell said.

Image:  The two initial suspect sketches released by Delhi police

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Sahim Salim in New Delhi