Ishrat Jahan, the 19-year-old Mumbra student, was shot dead in Gujarat in 2004 but continues to be killed and branded a terrorist in a game of political football that refuses to end.
In the current din over whether Jahan was a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative, the NDA and the UPA are again taking aim at each other and trying to score goals.
The din conceals a vital and important fact: Gujarat has a long history of fake encounters. Let’s sift fact from political fiction, let’s look at important court records; let’s step back from the frenzied political debate and here’s what we get: the Gujarat government has itself conceded in the Supreme Court — the last bastion of justice — that it has killed in cold blood.
Jahan’s is not the only controversial killing that the state has had to contend with.
Under the stewardship of Narendra Modi as chief minister, Gujarat was dogged by multiple fake encounter controversies.
In each such controversy, the modus operandi was starkly similar: petty criminals were dressed up as terrorists by the state’s infamous encounter specialists headed by IPS officer DG Vanzara. The criminals-turned-terrorists, the police told us, had all entered Gujarat to kill Modi and that the cops were forced to turn their guns on the
criminals-turned-terrorists and kill them because they had tried to escape.
Take the case of Sameer Khan that predates Jahan’s.
The Gujarat police claimed Khan to be a Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist who had gone to Pakistan for training and stayed in touch with operatives in Rawalpindi’s Jaish camp even after his return. Just as there was an intelligence tip-off about Jahan, there was one about Khan, too.
Khan, the police said, had been asked to proceed to Ahmedabad to target Modi.
In a scathing verdict, however, the state high court said Khan had never set foot in Pakistan. “…there is no evidence that Sameer Khan went to Pakistan as alleged by the investigating officer, and so an adverse inference is required to be drawn against the investigating agency…’’ said the judgment that pointed a direct finger at the state police.
The story repeated itself with Sohrabuddin Sheikh till the state government was forced to concede to the apex court that he and his wife, Kauser Bi, had been killed in a fake encounter.
As the din over Jahan continues, let’s remember that no state has the right to commit extra-judicial killings. Even Ajmal Kasab was given a fair hearing in court.
Let us also ask an important question in the Jahan case: if the state was convinced that she was a Lashkar operative, where was the need to kill her in cold blood? Just as Sameer Khan and Sohrabuddin were.