The political murder of Ishrat Jahan 12 years after her encounter

Both the Congress and BJP have played cat-and-mouse games over the 19-year-old girl’s death.

 |  6-minute read |   13-02-2016
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There is a strange coincidence to the David Headley confession in the Ishrat Jahan case that needs to be mentioned before we look into other facts.

On the day it was announced that Ujjwal Nikam would be conferred a Padma Shri by the current government at the Centre, he appeared on NDTV India on a programme with senior journalist and anchor Ravish Kumar. While glossing over his career, Nikam told Kumar that he would see him again post February 8, when a big revelation would be made before the country.

On February 11, David Coleman Headley, who deposed via videoconference in the 26/11 trial from an undisclosed location in the US, told Nikam that “Ishrat Jahan was an LeT operative”.

Was this the “revelation” Ujjwal Nikam was referring to on NDTV India and if yes, how did he anticipate David Headley’s response? Is it a sheer coincidence that Nikam, who made the infamous remark about serving biryani to Ajmal Kasab, got this statement of Headley just a few days after February 8?

Now, a look at the cross-questioning of David Headley, where Ujwal Nikam does a Kaun Banega Crorepati during the trial, giving Headley three options to answer his question. The questioning begins thus:

Q. (Public Prosecutor): Is there a women's wing in the LeT?

A. (David Headley): Yes.

Q. (Public Prosecutor): Who is the head?

A. (David Headley): The mother of Abu Aiman.

Q. (Public Prosecutor): Are there female suicide bombers in LeT?

A. (David Headley): No, I don't know.

Q. (Public Prosecutor): Can you name a suicide bomber?

A. (David Headley): I cannot name.

Q. (Public Prosecutor): Was there a botched-up operation in India?

A. (David Headley): There was a botched-up operation, which I learnt of while Zaki Ur Rehman Lakhvi was talking to Muzzamil Bhat. Later, I asked Muzzamil and he told there was a female member of the LET who was killed in a police shootout at a naka (picket). Exact place I cannot recall.

Q. (Public Prosecutor): I gave you three options. Noor Begum. Ishrat Jahan and ((xxx)).

A. (David Headley): Ishrat Jahan.

The hearsay evidence by David Headley by its very nature is contradictory when he denies having any knowledge of women suicide bombers in the LeT and is later prompted to name Ishrat in the very submission.

While there are many questions that need to be asked of the CBI for its inability to continue with the Ishrat Jahan trial, it is amusing to have Rajendra Kumar, special IB director, who has been promoted and served two UPA regimes, talk of a conspiracy against PM Modi.

Rajendra Kumar, who broke his silence, uncannily a day after double agent David Headley’s deposition, calls the chargesheet against him a Congress conspiracy to defame Narendra Modi, who was on his way to become the prime minister.

His statement is uncannily similar to all the FIRs filed in the four staged encounters in Gujarat that spoke of a jihadi attack against Narendra Modi post the 2002 riots.

Again, uncannily, the Sohrabuddin, Tulsi Prajapati, Sadiq Jamal and Ishrat Jahan encounters carry almost similar reading FIRs with the first six paragraphs almost verbatim, talking of a jihadi attack by Pakistan against Narendra Modi. Hope those shielding Rajendra Kumar and other Gujarat officials remember that the Supreme Court and Gujarat high court-monitored investigations have termed all four as “fake encounters”.

Hope we remember that GL Singhal, one of the top officers of the ATS who was arrested in the Ishrat Jahan extrajudicial killing, had submitted a sting video, which had incriminating details.

If the Gujarat state was so confident that it had killed an LeT operative, why then was there a discussion between junior home minister of Gujarat Praful Patel, principal secretary Girish Murmu, advocate general Kamal Trivedi and additional advocate aeneral Tushar Mehta, on ways to stall the SIT investigation and obfuscate and sabotage the SIT’s findings. The sting video, which was listed by the CBI as evidence in the chargesheet, was accepted by the Gujarat High court and first published in 2013.

If Ishrat was indeed a terrorist and was on her way for a fidayeen attack, then why was the then joint commissioner of police PP Pande named as an accused on the run and later declared an absconder? Let us also remember that the chief judicial magistrate of the special CBI court, HS Khutwad, had passed an order proclaiming additional DGP (Crime) PP Pande an absconder under Section 82 of the Criminal Procedure Code. It must be remembered that Pande surrendered later and was reinstated after the BJP government came to power.

On the day of David Headley’s deposition, DG Vanzara, who is an accused in the Ishrat Jahan case and had been in jail till last year, told the press that he stood vindicated. Oddly enough, it was the same Vanzara who wrote a letter from jail offering to resign and calling Amit Shah an evil man who had misled Narendra Modi on the fake encounters.

The web of lies continues further when Rajendra Kumar, who was posted as the central IB officer in Gujarat, claimed his innocence right after Headley’s alleged confession.

Rajendra Kumar has been named by at least three Gujarat cops and witnesses of not just visiting Ishrat Jahan when in custody, but also faking the IB input in another fake encounter - that of Sadiq Jamal.

The CBI, which had asked the MHA for sanction to prosecute Rajendra Kumar in the Ishrat Jahan case, was refused permission by the Modi government, disregarding an earlier Supreme Court judgement on prosecution of government officials.

The SC bench led by Justice TS Thakur held that “while it is not possible to hold that the requirement of sanction is unconstitutional, the competent authority has to take a decision on the issue of sanction expeditiously as already observed. A fine balance has to be maintained between need to protect a public servant against mala fide prosecution on the one hand and the object of upholding the probity in public life in prosecuting the public servant against whom prima facie material in support of allegation of corruption exists, on the other hand”.

And while the present-day government seems to have redeemed all those who were accused in the fake encounters on the basis of David Headley’s confession, a minor trivia should be of help. 

Post the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, the Mumbai Police, with some able help from the state ATS and IB, had arrested two individuals as co-accused and plotters in the 26/11 attacks. Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed were named as LeT operatives in the chargesheet filed by the Mumbai Police, who had allegedly done the reconnaissance of the targets of the 26/11 strikes. 

But the moment David Headley came into the picture and confessed to having done the reconnaissance himself, the other two were acquitted, for the charge against them proved baseless, thereby turning into a major embarrassment for the Mumbai Police.  Subversion of justice?

19-year-old Ishrat Jahan has been mocked time and again in her death since 2004 when she was called the first woman fidayeen. A fidayeen who was so intelligent that she wore her college ID card (according to the Gujarat Police FIR) while on her way to kill Narendra Modi. When facts are least sacred, human lives are placed at the altar of political games, which both the Congress and BJP have played over the young girl’s death over the years.

So the next time, any political party uses Ishrat Jahan for its own motive, spare a thought for a human life, which was sacrificed at the altar of a political ambition. 

Writer

Rana Ayyub Rana Ayyub @ranaayyub

The writer is an award-winning journalist and political writer. She is working on a book on Narendra Modi, which will be published in 2015.

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