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Ishrat Jahan and BJP!
by Dr. Rajinder Puri Bookmark and Share

Once again this writer is taking a line of argument that will displease all the anti-Congress elements in the opposition. As one who has been for the past many decades the most consistent and unflinching critic of the Congress in media as well as in politics it will be doubly unpleasant to invite brickbats from readers generally tolerant. But it must be done because this writer does not seek cosmetic improvement in governance but a radical change to create a new India. Nothing less will be satisfying. And in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case the reaction of the opposition to the event reveals a pathetic state of mind that must be criticized.

What is that case?

The decline in India is far beyond a remedy through change of governments. A change of system is required. And no political party or leader is focusing on that

Following a court direction the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probing a Gujarat police encounter in which four individuals, including a nineteen year old student Ishrat Jahan, were killed, concluded that it was a fake encounter and the four were killed in cold blood. Earlier in 2009 an inquiry into the same case by a Gujarat Metropolitan Magistrate had reached a similar conclusion. The only difference in the findings of the Metropolitan Magistrate’s report from the CBI was that it stated that the four were killed elsewhere and their bodies dumped at the spot later. The CBI stated that the four were killed on the same spot where the bodies were found. The Magistrate attributed the motive for the fake encounter to the desire of the guilty police officers to gain promotion. It implied that seniors were aware of the proposed fake encounter and were pleased by it.

The CBI report recalls the statement of a Gujarat police officer, Mr. DS Goswamy, deposing before a Mumbai Magistrate much before the CBI undertook its investigation that he had witnessed the accused Gujarat police officers claiming that the fake encounter had been cleared by their political bosses. The Ishrat Jahan encounter was the fourth fake encounter listed in Gujarat in recent years. Of these, in three of the alleged fake encounters the Gujarat police had claimed that Pakistani terrorists were aiming to assassinate Gujarat Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi. The main accused in an earlier case, the Sohrabuddin fake encounter, is the same police officer presently convicted and in jail, who is also accused in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case. There is enormous confusion caused by motivated leaks by different sections of the government and the enormous media hype that has obfuscated the truth. But if the various media reports are correct, and that admittedly is a big if, the sequence of events can be conjectured. One makes no claim that this version is correct, only that it is reached after connecting the dots of what has appeared in different sections of the media.

On information provided by the IB the Gujarat police apprehended the four victims traveling together in a car. The police detained the two who were from Pakistan and had later confessed that they belonged to a Kashmiri separatist outfit. The police allowed the other two to go. The other two were one Javed and Ishrat Jahan who was employed by him. Javed was a Hindu converted to Islam. He was a petty criminal in Pune and was recruited by the IB to act as an informer and keep watch on the two Pakistanis. Later the police decided to eliminate the Pakistani terrorists. But possibly they thought that by then the IB informer had done his job and was expendable. His knowledge of a fake encounter by the cops could be exploited by him later. Therefore they decided to eliminate him too. There was a dispute among the cops about the fate of Ishrat. But since she had witnessed the others being taken into custody by the police she would know that they would have been killed in cold blood. Therefore the cops decided to eliminate her too. That the four were killed in a fake encounter was determined first by a Metropolitan Magistrate’s probe, later by a Special Investigative Team (SIT) appointed by the Gujarat government, and eventually by the CBI. The veracity of the encounter was all that the CBI had the brief to probe under the court’s orders at this stage.

Now consider how the opposition and large sections of the mainstream media reacted. They kept harping on the allegation that Ishrat was a terrorist and a suicide bomber and refused to address the fake nature of the encounter. They were aided by a leak by the IB quoting David Coleman Headley as having described Ishrat as a suicide bomber. On June 19th this writer commented in these columns: “The IB… to the media… released an FBI report from the US which quoted David Coleman Headley quoting a Lashkar terrorist leader quoting another Lashkar operative claiming that another Lashkar operator had recruited one Ishrat Jahan as a suicide bomber. This thrice removed hearsay was seized upon by IB as clinching proof that Ishrat Jahan was a terrorist.” The TV channels went to town with the IB leak. But what did the NIA actually convey to the IB regarding the information imparted by the FBI?

Paragraph 168 of the NIA report to the IB quoted David Coleman Headley stating:

“I state that in late 2005, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi introduced Muzammil to me. Having introduced Muzammil, Zaki talked about the accomplishments of Muzammil as a Lashkar commander. Zaki also sarcastically mentioned that Muzammil was a top commander whose every big ‘project’ had ended in a failure. Zaki added that Ishrat Jahan module was also one of Muzammil’s ‘botched up’ operations.”

In Para 169 of that report it was stated that “apart from this, he (Headley) had no other information/knowledge about Ishrat Jahan”. Forget evidentiary value of this text, does it by even the understanding of ordinary English suggest that Ishrat was necessarily a terrorist or a suicide bomber? Headley’s vague allusion, like Goswamy’s evidence, was pure hearsay. Not surprisingly the NIA in a subsequent appearance in the court echoed the views of this writer by informing the court that it had not described Ishrat as a terrorist because Headley’s statement was “only hearsay”.

Forget the media, how did the opposition react to this fake encounter? BJP leaders kept harping on the unsubstantiated and irrelevant charge that Ishrat was a terrorist. As if that would justify murder in cold blood. BJP President Mr. Rajnath Singh accused the Congress of misusing the CBI and creating hype for political advantage and said that there had been over 3000 police encounters across the nation. Of course the UPA government misuses the CBI! Of course it blackmails several regional leaders having disproportionate assets. But why should those who seek to replace this corrupt and motivated government expect conduct any different? The bottom line is, are the victims of CBI blackmail guilty or not? The bottom line in the present dispute is whether or not the Gujarat police encounter was faked.

Mr. Rajnath Singh’s reference to 3000 police encounters across India is mystifying. Even if many of these were fake encounters would it justify a similar encounter in Gujarat? Or does it call additionally for overall systemic reform? One recalls Indira Gandhi’s justification of corruption by her notorious remark: “Corruption is a worldwide phenomenon!” The BJP president and other political leaders of the opposition should appreciate that the people of India do not want to replace the UPA government by a successor operating under the same corrupt and undemocratic culture. People want genuine change. Bihar politicians would like to remove Mr. Narendra Modi’s government, Gujarat politicians would like to remove Mr. Nitish Kumar’s government, and politicians of both states would like to remove Mr. Manmohan Singh’s government. All these politicians miss the woods for the trees. The decline in India is far beyond a remedy through change of governments. A change of system is required. And no political party or leader is focusing on that.

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Comments on this Article

Comment Excellent article by Mr Rajinder Puri. The rule of law is paramount for any civilised society and such encounters cannot be justified under any circumstances.

arvindar singh
07/14/2013 01:57 AM

Comment Its an irony but a fact that so called Pakistani Terrorists & LET have been the saviours of various miscreants specially the political/communal hard liners !!

farhat farooqui
07/11/2013 01:44 AM

Comment A very genuine and thought provoking article by R. Puri. A true example of honest and fearless journalism. Neither UPA nor NDA nor Third Front nor AAP nor the Left can solve the problems of this country. UPA got itself in the muddy waters of corruption. NDA with its greed for power got entangled in negative politics of boycotting Parliament and one point agenda of exterminating Congress - now Ram temple added to it. AAP still has no economic or foreign policy worth the name. Left believes in destructive politics as against the constructive part. The federal front will be an opportunistic grouping only to acquire power at the national level with no genuine policy agenda. I see no great hope for the next six years. May be something better emerges in the times afterwards.

P V Rajeev
07/10/2013 19:01 PM

Comment Thought provoking article and in many ways I agree that the change we bring in booting out UPA should not be the same crooked systems using hindutva label. Having said that,I think this Ishrat case is the perfect case when you allow extra constitutional methods to control terrorism,you do get into sticky positions..The police officers were put in a situation of devil and deep sea.When they nab 4 ,2 of them turn out to be hardcore terrorists whom you cannot keep alive as it will lead to further complications, so you decide to eliminate them.The other 2 cannot be allowed to go scot free as they were nabbed along with the 2 terrorists. so the cops do the neccessary.But the primary question is what this Ishrat doing with these 2 hardcore terrorists?.Do you think young nubile woman is so dumb that she cannot make out that these 2 are up to some mischief?Do you really dream that decent young woman will spend few nights with total strangers especially on a wild goose chase?If we treat those who hide terrorists in the same vein as terrorists, then how is Ishrat's case different? I think media is living in their own dream world.For handling terrorism, there is no easy street because terrorists don't obey any laws, they have no concern for aam aadmi who is targeted much more than the crooked politicians.I don't think those indulge in terrorism should get any mercy so also those who abet them.Punjab terrorism was so dirty that the government under narasimha Rao whom i consider the best PrimeMinister this country has seen so far, decided to use extra constitutional means to put down it.The academics and the woolgatherers in media can go on debating the rights and the wrongs, the only way it is put down is to roll up the sleeves and get to work.I think every life that is lost on terrorist bombing and every life that is maimed for life have as much right to see terrorists/abettors get no mercy.Ishrat even in our wildest dreams we consider innocent is no fool and by sticking along with the 2 terrorists, paid ultimate price.Sorry, MrPuri there are no easy solutions to tackle terrorism.You can debate till kingdom come.

As for BJP leaders reactions,what do you expect? Do you really expect them to admit ? What happened to Munde who admitted to spending 8Cr?Do the media and opposition accept that it is the amount spent by every party in elections?

Come on,don't think readers are naive idiots and need your guiding hand to think through.

You want fundamental change but it will only start happening when you boot out the current UPA regime.Readers like me know well the rot is so deep one Modi will not change the system.We will need further versions of Modi's like in the softwares to finally reach some kind of order.

07/10/2013 04:56 AM

Comment Yes Mr Puri, India now needs a complete overhauling of the system. Change of government is only a choice between the scoundrel and the devil. But at the moment, to our misfortune, no such alternative has emerged to steer ahead the nation to build a New India and fulfill the democratic aspiration of her people. We have had enough of exploitation of the common citizens of the country. Unmistakably, police have been most corrupt and notorious in our country. They are not for the protection of the innocent or the victims. They are a mindless,self seeking lot influenced by power and money. Our political leadership has degenerated to such a low level of ignominy that voting for them is a shame for any educated and conscious citizen of this country.

Undoubtedly, we are living in a very scary and violent society. We are so much concern about the external terrorism; what about the terrorists in the form of police, bureaucrats, and politicians within? Are they not the enemy of the nation?

Why do politicians spend so much of money to hoodwink the gullible voters to get elected? Is that with a motive to serve the nation or to make hundred times more money during their tenure?

Taraprasad Mishra
07/10/2013 03:26 AM

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