Trusting Headley's revelation on Ishrat Jahan is dangerous for India

It is no secret to any journalist anywhere in India (and elsewhere) what a police-politician nexus can do.

 |  3-minute read |   13-02-2016
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David Coleman Headley has been talking, or rather, singing for the last few days.

And it's not just any tune. It seems to be a carefully rehearsed "testimony", that Ishrat Jahan was a Lashkar terrorist, is designed to sing paeans of the government of the day and embarrass the Opposition.

We are told he sang the same song years ago when the Congress was in power and the government of the day conveniently brushed that testimony under the carpet. The present dispensation is doing exactly the opposite and taking the utterances of this "dangerous" man to another level.

I am not saying the Congress was right or the BJP is wrong. They are all in the business of serving their own political interests and conveniently twist anything and everything to suit themselves and their agenda.

What I am saying is - whom do we believe? If it's the Congress, it wanted to embarrass the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah so they kept quiet and, instead, tom-tommed court judgements and a CBI probe to implicate them.

And, if it's the BJP, they are going to town with what Headley is saying (again) and stirring up a debate, conveniently in cahoots with an ever-obliging media, in their bid to embarrass the "seculars".

However, how do we know what Headley said? Have we been shown his testimony? How do we believe what he said (then) and now? We go only by what we are told he said. And what our media tells us, courtesy the selective "leaks" and the "sources" each television channel and other media have.

As a journalist in India, and covering the crime beat as a young reporter in Ahmedabad in the aftermath of the Babri demolition, I know exactly how much to believe what is put out for the media - and what our "sources" tell us.

The then Ahmedabad underworld was the target of several "investigations", "encounters" and court cases, even though the BJP was then nowhere in the picture. The police, particularly the crime branch, was a willing partner to the government of the day in deciding who was who, who was guilty and who had to be implicated for what.

It is no secret to any journalist anywhere in India (and elsewhere) what a police-politician nexus can do and to what extent they can make the life of an ordinary person extremely miserable.

Before and after my stint in Ahmedabad, I have seen similar "police" work happen in Punjab, particularly Amritsar and other border areas in the days of terrorism. In some cases, so-called "terrorists" were gunned down as they "tried to escape" and policemen won accolades. But those same "terrorists" re-appeared years later in places far away and even abroad.

So much for the "investigations" and the "encounters"!

These cases are well documented and even talked about now.

Yes, Headley is a terrorist. He's involved in the Mumbai attacks. He should be brought to justice. He should be hanged. But what we should not do is to use him to suit our own selfish needs. Take his testimony, and use it for the good of the nation. Petty politics should have no place in the security and safety of a nation and its people.

Writer

Mandeep Singh Mandeep Singh @mandysings

The writer is a journalist who worked with the Indian Express in Punjab and Gujarat. He witnessed and covered terrorism and the aftermath of the Babri demolition. He is now based out of Bahrain.

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