CBI on Wednesday submitted chargesheet to Ahmedabad additional chief magistrate in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have not been named in the chargesheet.
What makes the Ishrat encounter case unique and how is the CBI probe different from all others cases?
The BJP reacted to the CBI findings in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case in an entirely predictable fashion. Explicitly or by implication, the BJP's position is as follows:
1) The Congress government at the centre is using the CBI to target Gujarat chief minister and BJP strongman Narendra Modi.
2) There have been dozens of encounter killings in India, but Ishrat Jahan case is being vigorously pursued to appease Muslims. Why is no one investigating other encounters?
3) Even if it was a fake encounter, she was a terrorist. So why are we crying over the death of a terrorist?
4) Investigations into the role of Intelligence Bureau (IB) officer Rajinder Kumar amounts to an assault on IB and therefore cannot be tolerated.
The BJP position on the issue is shared by a lot of people who I have been talking to on this issue over the last fortnight. Most of them are not admirers of Modi.
Several of them are serving police officers; some of them have been critical of Modi’s governance record. They too make more or less the same four points as above – indicating a good success for the BJP propaganda on this issue.
I disagree for the following reasons:
1) Police officers will think twice before -- if they ever do -- similar cold-blooded murders. They now know that law could catch up and political masters may not be able to protect them.
2) Yes, there have been many encounters earlier too. But what makes the Ishrat Jahan killing unique is the fact that the BJP’s 2007 Gujarat campaign was primarily run on the efficiency ascribed to the state government -- and liquidating suspected security threats was a key component of that efficiency.
Therefore, not only that extra-judicial killings were done by the state police, but those were trumpeted as a grand success of the government.
3) Even if Ishrat was a terrorist, a civilized society run by rule of law cannot -- and must not -- pardon her murder in cold blood.
4) The CBI investigation was not initiated or ordered by the Congress government. It is the result of a court intervention. It all began with a magistrate in Gujarat stating that the encounter was fake.
Gujarat approached the Supreme Court to stall the investigation by a SIT, but failed to. The investigation is being monitored by the Gujarat high court at every stage.
5) Nobody can be insulated from a criminal investigation by virtue of his position – whether he is prime minister or an IB official.
India is still an evolving democracy. Extra-judicial killings have happened in this country with such immunity that police and army rarely bothered about it.
To cite just one case, more than a 1000 people have remained untraced after the defeat of separatism in Punjab. But all that is no excuse to argue that we should not attempt to better things.
The probe into Ishrat killing raises my hope in India’s future as a democracy ruled by law.
(Views expressed are personal)