I am with Ishrat’s family. You too may follow me.
Spare a moment to think about her family members who today find themselves isolated and socially ostracized for a crime their beautiful Ishrat Jahan, a 19-year-old college girl, may or may not have committed. Ishrat cannot come back now. She’s dead. She cannot tell her story. She cannot defend herself. She has been wrongly branded a terrorist, without any evidence or a trial. She was not even questioned.
According to fellow journalist Pritish Nandy: “It’s tragic. Worse, it’s criminal. In any case, she committed no crime. She was killed by the police on the suspicion that she may commit a crime.”
The country just saw a storm on Sept.7, 2009 when Ahmedabad magistrate S P Tamang ruled that the incident in which Ishrat and three others were killed in June 2004 was a “fake encounter”. Tamang named top gun D G Vanzara as accused in the “cold blooded murder” of the four.
We know that Vanzara and some other policemen are already in jail in connection with the much publicized Sohrabuddin killing case, in which the Gujarat government had been asked to pay compensation by the Supreme Court.
Stating that Ishrat and three others were killed in a fake encounter by the police for personal interests, promotions and appreciations, Tamang appended a list of top police officers running into about two pages who he held responsible for the fake encounter. Tamang report said the police “kidnapped” Ishrat and three others from Mumbai on June 12, 2004 and brought them to Ahmedabad. The four were killed on the night of June 14 in police custody, but the police claimed that an “encounter” took place on the morning of June 15 near Kotarpur water works on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. It said the explosives, rifles, and other weapons allegedly found in their car were all “planted” by the police after the encounter.
The police had earlier claimed that Ishrat, a resident of Mumbra near Mumbai, and three others — Javed Sheikh, a convert son of Gopinath Pillai of Kerala and two Pakistani citizens Amzad Ali Rana and Jishan Jauhar — were connected with Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, and were coming to Gujarat to assassinate chief minister Narendra Modi to avenge the 2002 communal riots.
Immediately after the Tamang report, political parties jumped in slamming the Gujarat government. But Modi quickly rejected the report and on Sept.9, 2009, the Gujarat High Court stayed the controversial report.
On a visit to US, Home Minister P Chidambaram said that the Gujarat Government could not justify the killings. “Certainly no one suggested that based on an intelligence input you should kill someone. If a state government acts as though intelligence inputs are evidence or conclusive proof I am sorry for that government.”
Incidentally, the Indian government’s affidavit filed in the Gujarat High Court confirmed that Ishrat Jahan, her partner Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai and two others killed in the 2004 encounter had links with the LeT.
But the Home Minstry is now clarifying that it had just passed on to the Gujarat government the information regarding Ishrat’s association with LeT. As regards the subsequent action taken by the Gujarat police on the inputs, which were obviously not conclusive proof, the Union home secretary clarified that the Centre could in no way be held accountable for the same.
The BJP has taken strong objection to Home Minister P Chidambaram’s remarks on the encounter deaths and said the Home Minister’s remarks were uncharitable, irresponsible and politically motivated.
In view of the above facts and circumstances, it is clear that there is something annoying and frustrating about the way in which the Congress and the BJP are playing politics with the encounter that resulted in the death of 19-year-old Ishrat Jahan and three of her companions in Gujarat.
“The point is that we will never know whether they were terrorists. The killings made it impossible for their guilt or innocence to be established in a court of law,” wrote senior journalist Vir Sanghvi in The Hindustan Times on Sept.12, 2009. “Are we prepared to live with the situation where a policeman is prosecutor, judge and executioner?”
Sanghvi has a point.
Ishrat Jahan and three others or Sohrabuddin were not killed in cold blood in Gujarat merely because Narendra Modi is the chief minister there.
Who would dispute that over the years, our trigger-happy police have self-acquired the licence to kill virtually anybody.
Terror suspects are eliminated throughout India, with thrill and conviction. Tell me thus one thing: Does a civilized nation like ours really need encounter killings by the State?