Barely two months before Ishrat Jahan, 19, was killed with three others in an alleged fake encounter in June 2004, she was hired as an accounting assistant by one of the deceased, Javed Shaikh.
According to CBI probe findings, Shaikh thrice requested Jahan to accompany him in his blue Indica car on inter-city travels in May-June 2004, and the latter accompanied him first to Lucknow for up to six days and then to Pune for five days, sources said.
On the night of June 10, 2004, five days before the encounter, Shaikh requested Jahan to accompany him to Nashik and the duo left at around 6 am the next day with a pair of clothes in a plastic bag and a handbag, but never returned, the source said.
“My daughter is really innocent. I do not know why she was brutally killed by Gujarat police,” Jahan’s mother Shamima Raza said in her statement to the CBI in April 2012. “Javed never visited our house at any point of time. Ishrat had no other relation with Javed other than the employer-employee relation.”
“Javed’s phone calls used to come only when there was a requirement for Ishrat to go out of station with Javed. Otherwise, he used to not make any phone calls,” she said.
Five days later, a day after the encounter on June 15, 2004, local reporters who visited her Mumbra residence informed Raza that her daughter “was killed in a police encounter”, she said in her statement. Jahan used to live there with her mother, four sisters and two brothers.
Shaikh had hired Jahan on a monthly salary of `3,000 and paid her `4,500 during her stint working with him. Families of both Shaikh and Jahan maintain that they were innocent victims.
David Coleman Headley’s claim on Thursday that Jahan was a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative was also contrary to the findings of a CBI probe into the deaths. “The CBI probe found that Ishrat, along with three others, including two suspected Pakistani men, was killed in a staged encounter in cold blood but didn’t find any evidence of her having criminal or terror antecedents,” said a senior agency officer who was then associated with the probe.
Calling Headley’s claims as “unreliable and not fact-based”, a source said, “CBI’s probe was exhaustive and factual.”
Apart from Jahan and Shaikh, two suspected Pakistani men Jishan Johar and Amjad Ali, were also killed in the ‘fake’ encounter, the CBI found.
However, the CBI didn’t mention anything about the antecedents of the three other deceased in its two charge-sheets submitted in July 2013 and February 2014. The reason was that the probe’s mandate as determined by the Gujarat high court was to only establish if the encounter was genuine, said another case investigator.
The 2013 CBI charge-sheet had, however, stated that the Pakistani deceased, Ali, had allegedly revealed that he had come to Ahmedabad with a plan to “commit a terrorist act at some crowded location”. The probe CBI revealed that that a “counter-terror operation” run with the help of two informants — identified as C1 and C2 in the charge-sheets — was allegedly botched and ended in the fake encounter.
“When Ishrat used to go out of town and call me over phone, I used to get worried about her and Ishrat told me not to worry as Javed was a good person,” Raza told the CBI. “After Ishrat returned from Lucknow, I enquired from her as to what work she did. She informed that there was not much work to do and she had to only stay at a place, while Javed went outside and did all the work.”
“She only maintained accounts. I had checked her bags and had found a book containing accounts, but I am an illiterate, I could not read,” she said in her statement.
The CBI charge-sheets gave a basic profile of Jahan: A second-year BSc student at Mumbai’s Khalsa College and the sole breadwinner of her family, which belonged to the lower-income group. She gave tuitions to schoolchildren to support her family ever since her father, a civil contractor, died in 2002.It did not cite a motive behind the killings.
However, eyewitness accounts and corroborative evidence, along with forensic findings showed that none of the deceased had fired a single shot, as first reported by HT in January 2012. But the Gujarat police maintained that the deceased were LeT operatives plotting to kill high-profile political targets.
The CBI said it sent a judicial request (letters rogatory) to Pakistan, seeking further information on Johar and Ali.
The CBI took over the case in December 2011 from the Gujarat high court-appointed Special Investigation Team, which too had found the encounter ‘fake’. Earlier, the then Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate SP Tamang had in September 2009 concluded in his report that the four persons were killed in a staged encounter. The Gujarat High Court had stayed the magistrate’s report but said Jahan’s mother had the liberty to produce the same before the three-member committee constituted by it to investigate the encounter.
The CBI named seven police officials of the Ahmedabad Crime Branch, including the then additional commissioner of police, DG Vanzara, as accused in its July 2013 main charge-sheet. However, the 2014 supplementary charge-sheet, which named former Intelligence Bureau special director Rajinder Kumar and three junior officers for their alleged role in the case’s wider conspiracy, was not accepted by court. The Union home ministry too denied the sanctions in 2015.
The charge-sheet said Johar and Ali were picked up in Ahmedabad in the last week of April and on May 26, 2004, respectively. Shaikh and Jahan were picked up from a Vasad tollbooth in Anand district of Gujarat on June 12, 2004, after they arrived there in a blue Indica car from Maharashtra. Three separate farmhouses were used to detain the four.
Despite Headley’s claims on Jahan, the CBI seems in no mood to give a fresh look into her role. “The case is sub judice and therefore, the CBI will not like to comment on it,” an agency spokesperson told HT.
“What’s the integrity of the claims made by an LeT terrorist like David Headley?” said the spokesperson.