Cover Story : The Ishrat Cover-up
The ghost of Ishrat Jahan encounter carried out in 2004 continues to haunt the politics of Bharat. This time it is troubling the former Home Minister P Chidambaram and his masters in the Congress party. At least three top officials, served in the Ministry during the UPA government, have indicted Chidambaram in delinking Ishrat from the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba. These revelations have reinforced the theory of political conspiracy by the Congress and Chidambaram to target the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi through the Ishrat case. The revelations made by the then Home Secretary G K Pillai have brought out new facets about the alleged conspiracy. The then Under Secretary (Internal Security) in the Ministry of Home Affairs, RVS Mani has accused the SIT of torture for changing the details in the revised affidavit, which has a serious political implications
“Repeat a lie a thousand times and it becomes the truth,” said Paul Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany.
In a similar way the Congress party in a free, democratic India dipped into the idea to target its apparently strongest opponent Narendra Modi, who was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Someone at political level did not want the real picture to come out: GK Pillai, former Home Secretary
Former Home Secretary GK Pillai revealed that someone at the political level did not want the real picture in Ishrat encounter case to come out. He mentioned that two affidavits submitted by the Home Ministry in relation to the case were contradictory to each other. “One of the affidavits mentioned that the people (who were killed) were LeT operatives, while in the other one that aspect was deleted. We had nothing to do with it, it was done at a political level,” he told media. He said Ishrat could be an unwitting player in the hands of Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba. “They were LeT activists. She (Ishrat) knew that something was wrong. Otherwise an unmarried young Muslim woman would not have gone with some other men,” he said.
What the Congress-led UPA government wanted to hide and put the entire blame on Modi and Amit Shah, present BJP president, has boomeranged. The Congress and its former Home Minister P Chidambaram have got exposed with the latest revelations from the then Home Secretary GK Pillai, former Under Secretary (Home) RVS Mani and former IB Special Director Rajendra Kumar.
It is the infamous, controversial and largely touted as the ‘Fake encounter of Ishrat Jahan’ case.
The latest revelations
The latest revelations in the Ishrat Jahan case have shocked the entire nation. It has exposed how an elected government of the UPA used every possible illegal, immoral, unethical means and the State power for political reasons to tarnish the reputation of one man called Narendra Modi. All of this was aimed at stopping the rising popularity of Modi and to ensure that he didn’t get the chance to contest consecutive elections, especially the general election of 2014.
June 15, 2004: Ishrat and three others are killed in an encounter on the outskirts of Ahmedabad
The North Block—that houses Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)— became the hub of conspiracy led by none other than the then Home Minister P Chidambaram.
I was tortured and forced to sign second affidavit: RVS Mani, former Under Secretary, MHA
Former Under Secretary (Internal Security) in the Ministry of Home Affairs RVS Mani said he had drafted the first affidavit which was based on the available facts, but the changes in the second affidavit were made at the political level. “I did not draft the second affidavit in which the LeT reference was dropped. The Home Secretary is the highest serving officer in the MHA. So if, up to his level if it has not been drafted, then you can draw the conclusion that it was someone above him. I was asked to go and file it, so I went and filed it. It was an order for me,” he said alleging that he was tortured by the SIT chief Satish Verma to sign the affidavit and he was even burnt with cigarettes.
Mani lying, wants to weaken case: Satish Verma
IPS officer Satish Verma, who assisted the CBI probe into the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, termed the allegations by former Under Secretary in MHA RVS Mani as ‘wrong and baseless’ and accused him of attempting to weaken the case in the prevailing atmosphere. Countering Mani’s claim that he was pressurised and tortured he said, “There is no evidence to support the charges. Second thing, when police records the statements of witnesses, they don’t take their signature. Mr. Mani was also a witness and thus there was no question of pressurising him to put his signature. The CBI never tortures anybody in such a way in any of their investigations, he said.
In the process, the State machinery under the UPA regime demoralised honest intelligence agency officials, sent some behind bars on false charges, spread canards in public, fed ‘false stories that looked genuine’ to media and as per Mani’s latest statement—even went on to torture him, an upright bureaucrat of MHA to coerce him to change his original stand and sing to the tunes of his bosses.
Recently, GK Pillai questioned Chidambaram's role in the alleged fake encounter of Ishrat Jahan. He claimed that the Home Ministry deleted references of Ishrat's alleged links with the Lashkar-e-Taiba because Chidamba-ram did not want them to be a part of it.
No reason to doubt inputs in the case: AK Jain, former Joint Secretary, MHA
Former Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs AK Jain also questioned the need for a second affidavit. He said there was no reason to doubt the inputs provided by the Gujarat Government and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) in 2004 Ishrat Jahan encounter case. Jain, who was the Joint Secretary in-charge of monitoring communal-related matters across the country, said the reports were clear that outfit to which Ishrat belonged to, had an association with terror groups.
“Mr Chidambaram, who was then the Home Minister, had asked for the file from the Joint Secretary, saying that the affidavit needed to be reworked. Only after the affidavit was revised, as directed by the minister, did the file come to me,” reportedly told Pillai to a national English daily.
Another explosive revelation has been made by Mani who told a news channel that he was coerced to file the second affidavit in the Ishrat Jahan case. He alleged that a CBI official tortured him with burning cigarettes.
The second affidavit is the one in which the references to the alleged links of Ishrat Jahan, Pranesh Pillai alias Sheikh, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) were removed.
Mani suggested that Chidambaram was behind the decision to file the second affidavit. He alleged that the then SIT chief, a CBI official, was after him and an attempt was made to question the quality of professional inputs by the intelligence agencies on Ishrat and other terrorists.
Background of a dark conspiracy
It is the Ishrat Jahan’s fake encounter case in which Modi and Shah were attacked by the Opposition parties, activists, NGOs, common man, those living abroad and many within the BJP itself for a decade. People, especially the Muslims in this country, were made to believe that ‘Ishrat Jahan who was an innocent girl was on her way to Gujarat with her three friends (or known to her), was killed by Narendra Modi’s State police in connivance with the Intelligence Bureau personnel by staging a fake encounter’.
For years, the Congress harped on this lie like Goebbel and made people believe it by branding Modi as the ‘Butcher of Gujarat,’ ‘The Murderer’ and what not.
Modi failed to get any respite from this slanderous campaign even when SIT and courts gave him a clean chit.
It was in the early morning of June 15, 2004 when Ishrat Jahan, Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Zeeshan Johar and Amjad Ali Rana were shot dead on the road leading to the Kotarpur Waterworks on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. KP Singh was at that time Director of the Intelligence Bureau.
The police had claimed that the four were connected with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and had come to Gujarat to assassinate the then chief minister Narendra Modi in order to avenge the communal riots of 2002 which had led to the deaths of numerous Muslims.
Ishrat’s family members held press conferences claiming that she was not a terrorist. “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.”
Soon, reports began to surface that it was a “fake encounter”. The activists jumped in. The ‘Fake encounter’ drama rocked the nation and became news headline. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) monitored by the Supreme Court was set up to find the truth. The UPA government wanted to make sure that Modi was shown to be behind the killing of an “innocent young Muslim woman”.
The encounter team was led by DG Vanzara, who was then Deputy Commissioner of Police in the Ahmedabad Crime Branch.
Politically motivated probe impacted morale of officers: Sudhir Kumar
Former Special Director of Intelligence Bureau (IB) Sudhir Kumar said the politically motivated probe in the case impacted the morale of the IB officers adversely. IB team was let down by the then leadership and government for its anti-terrorism job.
On November 21, 2011, the SIT told the Gujarat HC that the Ishrat Jahan encounter was not genuine. After the SIT filed its report, the High Court ordered that a complaint under Indian Penal Code Section 302 (murder) has to be filed against those involved in the fake encounter, in which over 20 policemen, including senior IPS officers, were involved.
Meanwhile, in 2013, Asif Ibrahim—a Madhya Pradesh cadre IPS was appointed as IB chief. He was the first Muslim to hold this position, but this upright officer refused to succumb to the ill-motives of the Congress and the UPA government. When the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and National Investigating Agency (NIA) charged IPS officer Rajendra Kumar in this ‘fake’ encounter case, Ibrahim told both the then PM Manmohan Singh and then Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde that the IB had credible evidence to link the 19-year-old girl Ishrat to the Pakistani terrorist outfit
The game CBI played
The Congress-led Central Government then used the CBI to brand Modi as the master of the ‘fake encounter’. The case was handed over to the CBI after an investigation by SIT, appointed by Gujarat High Court which said that it was a fake encounter. The CBI filed chargesheets against seven police officers including three from the Gujarat cadre IPS, and four IB officials in the Ishrat encounter case.
Currently, all seven police officers who were charge-sheeted are out on bail.
The CBI and the IB have been at loggerheads since the former agency sought sanction from the MHA to prosecute the IB officials. The IB placed before the Supreme Court papers in sealed covers reportedly proving Ishrat’s involvement, procured from FBI’s investigation of David Coleman Headley alias Dawood Geelani – key player in the 26/11 Mumbai attack.
Even if, as per Headley’s testimony to the Mumbai Court, Ishrat was a terrorist, the Gujarat High Court, when handing over the case to the CBI had clearly said that the probe should be based on whether the killing was a genuine or a staged encounter.
According to sources, “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.”
Those who are in know of things, said, “Everything was stage managed. CBI ensured a fool-proof water-tight case to nail Narendra Modi — as the architect of the fake encounter.”
The CBI had filed two charge-sheets.
The first chargesheet filed in July 2013 was against seven police officers, including IPS officers P P Pandey, D G Vanzara and G L Singhal. In the chargesheet, the CBI had said that the encounter was fake and a joint operation between Gujarat Police and the IB.
In the second chargesheet filed in February 2014, the CBI had charged Special Director of IB, Rajendra Kumar, with murder, criminal conspiracy, kidnapping in order to murder, wrongful confinement and under the Arms Act. Three other IB officers who were part of Kumar's team—P Mittal, MK Sinha and Rajiv Wankhede were also charged in the case.
The plot (or ploy?) and a few players
Now, it seems to be a plot straight out of a Hollywood political-crime thriller. It’s a maze of multi-layered conspiracies. Every attempt was made to erase the evidences that proved non-involvement of Modi in the case. The persons who could have been the witnesses to prove the encounter justified, were killed in encounters.
Ishrat Jahan: Despite having evidences against Ishrat that clearly pointed her as a terrorist or connected to LeT, the CBI at the behest of its political masters, conveniently showed her “innocent”. Headley told his FBI interrogators that Ishrat was a suicide bomber of the LeT gang under the command of Muzammil Bhat and LeT women’s wing in-charge Abu Aiman Mazhar. Headley said that he had got this information from Hafiz Saeed, Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi and Abu Khalifa, the second-in-command in LeT, during a meeting they had in Muridke near Lahore, Pakistan. Despite Headley’s claims on Ishrat, the CBI didn’t even bother to give a fresh look into her role. Even, Yasin Bhatkal of Indian Mujahideen once referred to Ishrat. The latest revelations point out that the previous government made every effort to showcase Ishrat as an ‘innocent victim’ for ulterior motives.
Rajendra Kumar: Former Intelligence Bureau Special Director suffered as the then government in Centre wanted to implicate its biggest political opponent Modi. Kumar, who was head of IB in Gujarat during the period of the encounter has also spoken in public now. “Allurements were offered that after retirement, you will be given a big post, but I said that I will not give false evidence. They wanted me to give a statement which would be an evidence for implicating the then Gujarat Chief Minister who was emerging as the biggest challenge to the then government, UPA. But I
said that I will not give false statements,” Kumar had recently told a news agency.
“It was all part of the conspiracy in which a very senior Congress leader, who hails from Gujarat, was the mastermind and was giving instructions to the people with an aim to somehow prove that the affidavit of the MHA is proven wrong. He, along with some of the disgruntled police officers, did all this,” he added. He also said that the witnesses were pressurised and told to give their testimonies.
Satish Verma: He was the SIT chief with a dubious character. The IPS officer from Gujarat who assisted the SIT in its probe was later charge-sheeted by the Gujarat government, for absenteeism at Junagadh Police Training College where he was posted.
An SIT appointed by the Gujarat government in 2012 on directions from the Gujarat High Court, investigated a 1996 encounter in Porbandar when Verma was SP of the District and found it to be fake. Verma, as SP of Porbandar then was held responsible for the encounter of Jasu Gagan, but he challenged the case before the Supreme Court where it is pending.
There are three cases of custodial deaths that took place under the supervision of Verma when he was Porbandar SP. Other than Jasu, Verma is alleged to have eliminated Aher Ranmal Ram and Aher Narayan Jesti Bandhiya in cold blood in police custody.
Verma is also allegedly involved in a ring that smuggles explosives. A departmental inquiry was instituted to probe why he let off a key accused in the Gosabara RDX landing case of 1993, which was later used in the Mumbai serial bombings.
A division bench of the Gujarat High Court comprising then Chief Justice SJ Mukhopadhyaya and Justice JB Pardiwala refused to entertain his plea that the State government
was going after him for his disagreement with it in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case.
According to Mani, on June 21, 2013, when a team led by Satish Verma including CBI officers met him at the SIT office in Gandhinagar and forced him to debunk IB reports that said Ishrat was an LeT operative, he refused to do so. It was Verma who burnt him with cigarettes to get his consent to the CBI theory.
Encounter was genuine: Forensic report
The Forensic Investigation of the scene of the encounter unanimously concluded that the Gujarat Police did not stage a fake encounter. The forensic report of the encounter was prepared by two unimpeachable bodies–All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL).
“After considering the circumstances given in quest papers, police records, narration by the police involved in the incident and the investigating officers and reconstruction of the scene of occurrence, simulation exercises, the Board of experts was unanimously of the considered opinion that the bullet holes in the Indica car, injuries on the body of deceased could have been possible from the firing by the police from initial position and during forwarding towards Indica car to the last position of encircling to Indica car,” says the report on page 172. Author of the forensic report, TD Dogra said this was a very detailed scientific reconstruction and opinion based on facts and earlier examination conducted by various scientists.
Only time will tell
But, who is behind this sinister plot? Is it Chidambaram alone or someone above him? Did Chidambaram act as a ‘Puppet on a Chain’? The skeletons have started tumbling out of the
cupboard. Only time will tell who are the ‘real players’ behind the entire conspiracy. Organiser Bureau