The investigation into the alleged ‘fake’ encounter of Ishrat Jahan could have taken the following two routes:
1. Accept the version that Ishrat was an LeT operative and yet the encounter was fake.
2. Prove that not only was Ishrat not an LeT operative, but that she was an innocent female murdered in a fake encounter.
Of course there is a third angle as well — that Ishrat was indeed a LeT operative and the encounter was genuine too. But let us leave aside this possibility for the moment and take on face value the contention of activists that the encounter was fake. In a democracy governed by the rule of law, fake encounters, even of terrorists, is considered abhorrent. So even if Ishrat was an LeT operative (case 1), killing her in a fake encounter will fall foul as per law. Why is it then that a whole mythology has been sought to be built that Ishrat was innocent too?
Evidence against Ishrat
Consider first the evidence that would support the thesis that Ishrat was indeed an LeT operative:
1) In 2004, IB recorded various conversations between Pakistani handlers and their operatives in Indian soil, who were also killed in the same encounter as Ishrat, which clearly pointed out to a conspiracy to kill top Indian politicians including Narendra Modi and LK Advani. Headlines Today recently ran a story on these tapes.
2) Soon after Ishrat and her associates were killed in the encounter in 2004, LeT, on its official website, declared the four of them, including Ishrat, as martyrs. Later, in an apparent tactical move, LeT retracted this ‘confession’. This now forms one of the basis of defence of Ishrat’s lawyers, who are willing to give credence to LeT’s word but not to our own agencies!
3) In 2006, the Union Home Ministry , then headed by Shivraj Patil of the Congress, cleared an affidavit at the level of Home Secretary VK Duggal, that Ishrat and her friends were indeed LeT operatives. The said affidavit was finally filed in Gujarat High Court in August 2009, when Home Ministry was headed by P Chidambaram of Congress and Home secretary was GK Pillai.
4) NIA in 2010, then under Home Minister P Chidambaram of Congress, interrogated David C Headley, another LeT operative involved in 26/11 attacks on Mumbai. In its interrogation report, the NIA quoted Headley as confirming that Ishrat was indeed an LeT operative.
5) Then Union Home Secretary G K Pillai, is on camera confirming that Ishrat and her associates were LeT operatives.
6. In February 2013, Intelligence Bureau Chief, Asif Ibrahim wrote a strongly worded letter to CBI where he backed up the IB’s claim that Ishrat was an LeT operative. Indeed, Ibrahim was so convinced about the case he had, that when CBI did not desist even after his letter, he escalated the matter to Home Ministry and even PMO level.
Chhota mota blasts
Now consider this video aired on Congress-friendly channel NDTV on June 27, 2013. Sreenivasan Jain, who is the anchor of the show, makes a startling claim that Ishrat and her accomplices were indeed terrorists, that they had gone to Gujarat do some “chhota mota blasts” but not to kill Modi. Who gave this information to Jain — “CBI sources”. Quite apart from the absurdity of the assertion that “chhota mota blasts” make terrorists relatively innocent, there are some other pertinent questions that arise.
A) CBI has been the primary source of all the news breaks in in recent times in Ishrat case, for both Left-Wing Tehelka and Congress-friendly NDTV. When and at what time did CBI sources give this information to NDTV about Ishrat’s ”chhota mota blast” intentions? If NDTV had this information from before, why has it become a willing participant in the propagation of the theory that Ishrat was innocent?
B) Is it possible that CBI sources leaked this “chhota mota blasts” intentions of Ishrat to only Congress-friendly NDTV and not to Left-Wing Tehelka? How is it possible that the same agency, which has been credited as source of breaking news by both these media houses, and whose stories are similar in most other aspects, differ on this? Rana Ayyub of Tehelka has, among many other startling things, claimed in her Twitter feed that Ishrat was innocent?
C) Is it possible that both Congress-friendly NDTV and Left-Wing Tehelka were aware in advance, and as indeed most others are convinced, that Ishrat was indeed an LeT operative but did not reveal this information as it would hamper the narrative?
On the one side there is this enormous evidence, each backed up by officers at different times, testifying to the fact that Ishrat was indeed an LeT operative.
On the other hand, ace scriptwriter Javed Akhtar (the dialogues of the famous water tank scene in Sholay – he wrote that in a jiffy while climbing the stairs to board a plane), has conjured up this theory as to how Ishrat could be innocent.
Journalists of Left-Wing publications like Tehelka, who have been following up the case, have alluded to the role of then head of Gujarat unit of IB, Rajinder Kumar, as that of one of the prime conspirators in the case, who not only fabricated evidence but even allegedly supervised the encounter.
Now even if Rajender Kumar was conceivably a ‘fascist’ (as has been suggested by Left-Wing journalists) and worked to frame an innocent girl, it defies reason as to why successive officers of high integrity would continue to back his claims? Why would then Home Secretary of India come on camera and sully his image by associating with the claims of a “fascist” IB officer? Why would the present IB chief risk his well-deserved name by continuing to back such an officer even going to the level of escalating the matter to Prime Minister level? Why would a Home Ministry under the Congress regime file a sworn affidavit that Ishrat was indeed an LeT operative? Suggestions have been made that Rajender Kumar has always been close to Modi and thus he fabricated the evidence to somehow help Modi in a twisted way. But are all those backing Rajinder Kumar also close to Modi, as that would seem to be the logical conclusion?
The Real Goal
If the aim had only been to prove that Ishrat encounter was fake none of this elaborate charade would have been needed. As has been pointed out before, her terror antecedents would be immaterial in punishing the people involved if the encounter was indeed fake. If the aim was not merely to prove that the encounter was fake, then what was it?
Consider the following two headlines in selective newspapers:
A) “Modi Government killed an LeT terrorist in fake encounter”
B) “Modi Government killed an innocent Muslim girl in a fake encounter”
As has been conclusively argued by many legal experts, the only evidence CBI has against Modi is of this type: “X told CBI that he heard Y telling Z that A and B had given the green signal”. Even those whose only knowledge of the law is based on reading John Grisham would laugh at the absurdity of this triple hearsay. If there is no legal case against Modi, then how does one fix him? Simple! Create a media case. Read the prospective headlines quoted above again. Which one looks more damning against Modi?
This is 2013 and not 2004. In post 26/11 world, despite Digvijay Singh’s best efforts in releasing books that claim that 26/11 was an RSS operation, no one sane has anything good to think about LeT. How would the normal populace react in the eventuality that judiciary gives the stamp that encounter was fake but the operative killed was an LeT terrorist? That is why, for project 2014, it is important to prove that Ishrat was innocent too.
For many, it is understandable that CBI is playing their masters game. After all, the previous chief of the CBI is now an honourable Governor of a State. But why are certain sections of the media playing their masters game too? As the managing editor of Times of India argues in a recent column, it’s the economy (read Bharat Nirman Ads) stupid ! Meanwhile, in an unrelated news, Mint has reported that NDTV has failed to pay their lawyers in the United States who have now sued them. Who fails to pay their lawyers?
If only Sreenivasan Jain, in the ‘heat of the moment’, had not outed the “chhota mota blast” angle.
This article was originally published in Niti Central on 2nd July 2013.