The crack-crack of bullets, and then four ‘bodies’ (First Person)

January 19th, 2009 - 7:58 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 19 (IANS) I was on way to office in an autorickshaw, feeling slightly sleepy, when suddenly the driver stopped the vehicle on hearing sounds that to me sounded like firecrackers. “Golian chal rahi hai, madam. Mein dekh kar aata hoon (Bullets are being fired madam, I’ll seee what is the matter,” he announced and alighted. I was taken aback. A shootout in the heart of the capital at around 4 p.m. is the last thing you expect.

And sure enough, the crack-crack of bullets being fired was heard again. The “encounter”, as some bystanders put it, was on at the upmarket Green Park Extension in south Delhi, on the road connecting the busy Yusuf Serai market to Safdarjang Enclave, just past the well-known Mohinder Hospital.

The firing went on for a few minutes, and all the while I was sitting nervously inside the autorickshaw, wondering what to do. I alighted and joined some people standing behind a large dustbin and craned my neck, trying to see what was going on.

“I think it is a private gang war,” said a gentleman standing near me. I thought so too, there did not seem to be another explanation for the firefight.

The firing stopped after some time, and we decided to go forward to see what had happened.

“Char lashein hain (there are four bodies),” said a bystander, to my disbelief. But sure enough I saw four men sprawled on the ground, two with blood soaked clothes - and all lying very still.

A man, who I think was a plainclothes policeman, with pistol in hand, was kneeling on one “body”. The entire shootout was next to a playschool next to which are a few private banks.

“Yeh terrorist hain (these are terrorists). Police encounter me mare gaye (they are killed in a shootout with police),” said another bystander, and watching the scene, it did look like I had seen an “encounter” first hand.

The “bodies” were lying on the road (the police later clarified that the men were only injured and had not died), next to a silver coloured SUV and a black sedan. A few motorcycles were on the road, of which one was yellow-coloured police vehicle, blocking the traffic.

A few of the policemen, in civvies, were wearing bullet-proof vests, and had pistols in their hand. Then one man in a grey jacket waved a sten gun, asking people not to crowd around and move on. I moved ahead, warily, praying the shooting would not start again, and no stray bullet would fly my way.

But the “encounter” by then seemed to be over, and as the crowd started increasing, I decided to flee to office.

And not to forget, all the while, like a good journalist, I was calling up our crime reporter, giving him the latest I could see.

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