There seems to be no end to the unexpected — and, sometimes, even half-expected — twists and turns in the 2004 fake encounter of the Mumbai college student, Ishrat Jahan, and three others in Gujarat.
While the IB and the CBI, which is investigating the case, are busy keeping each other off their respective turfs, Gujarat CM Narendra Modi – arguably the man who is supposed to be hit hardest in the case – is turning the confusion into a political advantage for himself.
The latest move that could be exploited to the hilt by Modi is the union home ministry’s likely clean chit to IB special director Rajinder Kumar — reportedly close to Modi — who has been accused by the CBI of conspiring with the Gujarat police to kill Ishrat and the others.
Although the CBI is struggling to prove that Modi was aware of the plan to kill Ishrat — via his confidants, then junior home minister Amit Shah and Kumar — the ministry said there was not enough evidence of Kumar’s complicity in the killings to sanction his prosecution.
Lawyer Mukul Sinha, who is appearing for the family of Javed Sheikh, one of the three killed in the shoot-out, said Kumar should not have been let off in this case. He is also under the CBI scanner in the fake encounter of Sadiq Jamal — allegedly at the behest of an associate of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim — who was also branded as a terrorist.
Although it’s still not clear why the union home ministry is pulling out all stops to protect Kumar, observers see it as a turf protection measure since the ministry runs the IB and doesn’t want one of its own to be touched by another agency.
Meanwhile, it’s the BJP that is raking in all the profit. During the past one month, top BJP leaders Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad and others lambasted the central government “for misusing the CBI to target IB and Narendra Modi”.
On June 21, Modi threatened the CBI in no uncertain terms: “No government at the Centre is permanent. So, don’t become a tool in the hands of the present government to target its political opponents.” He didn’t refer to the Ishrat case, but the message was clear. Again on June 25 in Mumbai, Modi told a CII gathering: “The UPA government has pitted the IB against the CBI.” Has the hunted been able to turn the flight into a chase?
It seems so. A senior IPS official said, “With his aggressive posturing, Modi has created a perception that the CBI is working at the behest of the UPA government, and the IB is a victim of the circumstances.”
The CBI, however, is preparing to file the charge sheet in the case on July 2, following the Gujarat HC directive. It still maintains that since it’s a murder case, the agency does not require any sanction to prosecute Kumar.
Human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi asked: “How can the ministry of home affairs pressure the CBI to let Kumar off? If a minister of the UPA government can be arrested in a corruption case, why can’t be an IB man?”