So Who Needs to Apologize for Ishrat Killing?

A file photo of a candle march protest against the Ishrat Jahan encounter. Photo:
A file photo of a candle march protest against the Ishrat Jahan encounter. Photo:

No matter what Pakistani American double agent Headley or anyone else would claim, the coldblooded killing of 19-year old Ishrat Jahan and three others still remains unjustified and was nothing but premeditated murder by men in uniform

TAHMINA LASKAR | Caravan Daily

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]ndian Home Minister Rajnath Singh has sought apology from opposition for leveling “false allegations” against the governing Bharatiya Janata Party after Pakistani American double agent and Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist David Coleman Headley’s deposition on Ishrat Jahan.

With all this cacophony and excitement all around us about the Mumbai college student’s alleged LeT connection, the right question to ask still would be, was the killing of Ishrat Jahan justified? Was it legal? Was it in strict adherence to procedure? All the answers are in negative if the reports generated so far by the state agencies are anything to go by. Right now the whole debate is focused on whether Ishrat Jahan was indeed an operative of Lashkar? All energies it seems are being directed towards justifying her killing rather than questioning the grave procedural lapses in the case.

Ishrat Jahan and three others were killed in cold blood in what was claimed to be a so-called police encounter on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004. Police claimed they were Lashkar members planning to kill Narendra Modi, the then chief minister of Gujarat.

Subsequently in 2009, a magisterial inquiry under Section 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure termed the encounter as fake. This was followed by the Gujarat High Court constituting a new three-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) for a fresh probe in 2010. A year later SIT also told the court that it was a ‘fake’ encounter.

The first charge-sheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) indicted seven Gujarat police officials followed by a special CBI court issuing notices to Amit Shah, the current President of the BJP in 2014, pointing towards his involvement in this entire conspiracy of fake encounter. With all the ballistic and medical evidence duly probed by the state agencies clearly pointing towards an extrajudicial killing a justification of this unconstitutional act is simply the lowest level the system can stoop to.

Even if we consider Headley deposition as gospel truth that Ishrat indeed was a LeT operative, how does it absolve the policemen involved in the killing? It is conclusively proved from primary evidence that the killing was illegal and clear violation of constitutional principles.

To quote from the magisterial inquiry report, SP Tamang, the magistrate who conducted the inquiry said “…the complaint lodged by the complainant is found to be false and concocted as per the systematically planned conspiracy to portray all four deceased as Fidayeen terrorists of Lashkar-e-Toiba and out of them, so as to show two persons (1) Amjadali Akbarali and (2) Abdulgani alias Jishant as Pakistani even though they were not Pakistani, and to show that all four of them were killed in encounter with police and due to firing from police in self defense and to describe them as terrorists, it appears to me in my inquiry that the said complainant has been recorded by the complainant as per conspiracy of the police and therefore, entire complaint of the complainant seems to me in my inquiry, a false and concocted complaint.”

He also said “…hence on the basis of such facts, she was killed by the aforestated police officers and police personnel with their service revolver and unlicensed and illegally held AK-56 rifle and with other weapons fired bullets on body of deceased and thereby murdered her in a systemic manner, cold-bloodedly, mercilessly and cruelly.”

As for Headley’s deposition and sensational claims that he has made, their authenticity is highly suspect simply because it is hearsay evidence extracted by putting leading questions to a witness who is an approver. The evidence fails on every test prescribed by the law of evidence.

However, one can make sense of why suddenly this deposition made by an approver based on hearsay evidence is being highlighted if we look into the developments of the past several months, especially since Narendra Modi-led BJP government came to power at the centre. A Gujarat CBI court has dismissed a plea seeking arraignment of Amit Shah and ex-police commissioner of Ahmedabad K.R. Kaushik as accused in the case and subsequently CBI giving a clean chit to the powerful BJP chief saying there is no sufficient evidence against him.

The BJP Government of Gujarat on the other hand has revoked the suspension of P.P. Pandey (an accused in the case) and DG Vanzara, the top cop responsible for the Ishrat encounter, has walked out of the Sabarmati jail in Ahmedabad eight years after he was jailed in connection with a series of encounter cases in Gujarat including this one.

This desperation one can clearly see is to justify is one of undermining the procedures and sweeping the illegalities under the carpet. The killing of Ishrat and the three others was premeditated murder and no other answers matter till we accept this fact.







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