Fresh details likely to further embarrass the BJP government in Gujarat on the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter show that even four months after he was killed, the Narendra Modi government maintained that he was a petty criminal.
In reply to a question asked in the state assembly on 20 March, 2006, the Gujarat government made no mention of Sheikh's alleged terror links. He was killed in November 2005.
The Gujarat government's reply is in stark contrast to its later assertions that Sheikh was a "terror suspect", the claim is being strongly endorsed by the BJP central leadership.
Asked about the details of encounters in Gujarat between January 2003 and January 2006, the state government, in a written reply, stated : "In 19 encounters, 23 persons died."
Giving details, the Gujarat government stated six of those killed "had the intention to assassinate chief minister Narendra Modi."
The reply by the state home department, came in response to a query from a Congress MLA, Mukesh Gadhvi.
The list includes Ishrat Jahan, a Mumbai college student, who was allegedly killed in 2004.
"Connected to ISI and also involved in a conspiracy to murder the honourable CM."
The reply, however, mentions that "Sheikh was an accused in an unspecified murder case, who was also wanted for offences under the Arms Act". No other details have been given about him, nor has any charge against him been elaborated.
The BJP, however, said on Tuesday that Sheikh was a terrorist.
"There is no doubt about it. He was a terrorist," BJP spokesman, Prakash Javadekar, told Hindustan Times.
Javadekar, in a detailed press release on Sunday, had slammed the Congress party for its strategy on trying to corner the Gujarat government in the Sohrabuddin case.
"For the Congress, human rights of one terrorist is an important issue, but not the terrorism itself."
He added, "Sohrabuddin and (Tulsiram) Prajapati were hardcore criminals and terrorists."
Asked about the Gujarat government's March 2006 response to the state assembly, Javadekar replied : "Fact remains what I have told you."
The Gujarat government also stuck to the BJP line.
"Unless proved otherwise, he remains a terrorist," said a state minister, not willing to be quoted.
The BJP has also brought out a list of criminal cases registered against Sohrabuddin in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
It has pointed out that three cases were registered against him in Gujarat, two each in Maharashtra and Rajasthan, and there were 13 cases against him in Madhya Pradesh.