India Bhopal jailbreak
Police officers and Special Task Force soldiers stand beside bodies of the suspected members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi), who escaped from a high security jail in Bhopal, and were killed in an encounter at Acharpura village on the outskirts of Bhopal, India Raj Patidar/Reuters

Concerns have been raised over the death of eight prisoners shot and killed by police in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh after they had allegedly managed to flee from prison. While family members of the deceased have sought an inquiry into the matter, conflicting reports continue to emerge over the circumstances surrounding the incident.

All the eight men, who are believed to be linked to the banned extremist group Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi), were killed by police personnel in state capital Bhopal on Monday (31 October). The prisoners fled from the high-security Bhopal Central Jail after reportedly slitting the throat of a security guard and scaling a wall, police said.

While lawyers representing the deceased pledged to move the Madhya Pradesh high court calling the episode "cold-blooded murders", the state government has assured it would look into the matter thoroughly.

"The families of the deceased have come to me and are weeping inconsolably for justice. We are going to move the Madhya Pradesh high court for a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) probe into the entire incident. It is surprising that the authorities are claiming that the accused climbed the 32feet boundary wall of the jail. Is this possible?," said lawyer Parvez Alam.

Contradictory reports have surfaced indicating that the prisoners were armed with locally made pistols but this has been denied by authorities. Post-mortem reports show most of the escapees sustained bullet wounds on their torso, which is not the standard operating procedure in case of escaping prisoners.

Escapees are usually shot on their limbs so that they can be captured alive. The CCTV cameras installed in and around the prison were reportedly found functioning at the time of the incident. However, there is footage that shows how one of the prisoners was shot while he was incapacitated (contains graphic images). Although the video was broadcast across Indian media, it is difficult to independently verify the authenticity of the footage.

It is not uncommon in India for the local security forces to employ extrajudicial killings under the name of "encounter". In recent years, this has been a serious cause of concern for law enforcement agencies and human rights groups actively fight against such incidents.