Subhash Batham had held 23 children hostage in the basement of his house at Karthiya village in Fatehgarh district of Uttar Pradesh. (Express photo: Avaneesh Mishra)
A crowd had gathered outside the house of Subhash Batham (40), who was shot dead by police late on Thursday night after he held 23 children hostage. But, despite the curiosity, no one from the crowd made any attempt to approach the house, which police cordoned off anyway to ensure that the crime scene is not compromised.
People in the crowd said Subhash, a murder convict, was a “psychopath capable of doing anything”. “It won’t come as a surprise if he set up bombs that can blow up anytime to create chaos even after his death,” said a villager standing outside the cordoned-off house.
Several hours later, when a bomb disposal squad from Moradabad entered the house, the villagers fears were confirmed. The house was a minefield, with crude bombs littered around along with an explosive-filled cylinder and metal boxes.
The single-storey house of Subhash with two rooms and a verandah covered with alabaster sheet resembled a bunker with two heavy metal doors on the front and the rear sides and no windows. It has a basement, the entry to which can’t be spotted easily. “The basement is like we see in our movies used by the villains for his illegal activities,” said SHO of Nawabganj Police Station, Ajay Narain Singh, who was the part of the police team that first entered the house.
“Once you enter the house, it will take you sometime to even notice the basement as its gate is on the floor and in the most dimly-lit corner of the room, right below a shelf. A mattress is kept above the basement’s gate, so there is no way one could find it unless the person knows specifically what to look for,” the police officer added.
According to a villager, Subhash began constructing his pucca house two to three months ago after he was released on bail —Subhash had four cases against him: one for killing his uncle in which he was convicted, another case was registered by his wife’s family after they had eloped, a third case under the Arms Act for being in possession of illegal arms and a theft case that was registered last year.
“With what we have seen so far, and what the local residents are telling us, it appears that Subhash had planned this whole hostage thing a long time ago,” said a police constable guarding the perimeter.
A villager, Anil Tiwari, who stood nearby, concurred. “This person (Subhash) had hidden a bomb attached with a wire in a pile of bricks outside his house just a day before the incident,” said Tiwari.
Subhash Batham was shot dead by the police
On Thursday night, as police tried to convince him to release the children, he had set off the bomb that left two policemen injured, including the local SHO. “At first, when I entered the house, we found several small crude bombs. We started dumping them in water to dispose of them. Next, I saw something rolled in a sack. When I put my hand inside, I found that there were four crude bombs the size of a muskmelon, somewhat between a half a kg and one kg in weight each. I was lucky that it did not slip from my hand, otherwise, one such bomb would have been enough to demolish the entire house,” said a member of the Farrukhabad forensic team.
Additional SP (Fatehgarh) Tribhuvan Singh also confirmed that the four bombs were “really powerful”. A 5-kg cylinder filled with explosives was also found in the basement where the children were held hostage. Few medium- sized bombs were recovered near his body. There were at least 50 countrymade hand-grenades, in addition to a rifle, a countrymade pistol and few live cartridges,” said the Additional SP.