The Ishrat Jahan case – weeding fact from fiction

Ishrat Jahan was reported killed in an encounter with Gujrat police along with three others Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar. Gujrat police claimed that they were members of the LeT come into Gujrat to plan the assassination of Narendra Modi.

Ishrat Jahan’s family protested her innocence. Mumbai Police said that it had no information on Ishrat Jahan.

Now a SIT has shared its findings that the encounter was fake.

These are the facts we have.

Now for the noise of well intended, but factless individuals cluttering the thought space.

  1. Ishrat Jahan is innocent: She may well turn out to be, but this is not what the SIT says. As for Mumbai police not having information, they didn’t have it on 26/11 either or the recent blasts. But they did happen. And there were terrorists they didn’t know about. So all that means is that they weren’t investigating her.
  2. The Modi government stonewalling this investigation means that they ordered it. There is almost no government in India that has encouraged or even allowed investigations of this sort – particularly the leader the police claimed to be protecting not doing anything to protect them – it is wrong. I am not debating that it is wrong at all. This is political hypocrisy, yes and it is a National, possibly worldwide phenomenon. If it is proof that Modi ordered this encounter, then we must consider that every fake encounter in the country is government ordered, not just the ones in Gujrat. There simply isn’t any evidence made public so far about it. There is a Tehelka article that seems to be fairly certain without being explicit about it.
  3. All governments do this – many encounters all over India, government protects police actions everywhere, etc. Modi is innocent. Not so fast. there is no proof of that either, and the obstruction to an investigation in itself implicates him for protecting criminals – knowingly or unknowingly. This is like many others, yes, but him too and right now the subject is him. He is a long way from innocent in terms of conclusion – though it isn’t ruled out.
  4. DIG D.G. Vanjara was later jailed for his involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter. This is not proof that every victim of his was innocent or even not a terrorist.
  5. Ishrat’s family insists that she was innocent and not in any way associated with the LeT. No family ever says their child is a terrorist. She worked for Javed Sheikh in Pune and visited family to provide money, etc. If she were involved in something illegal, there is little chance she would tell her family about it. The fact is that she used to work with Javed Sheikh in Pune and was found dead in Gujarat. Cops looking to provide random statistics on encounters won’t go to Pune to get victims. Plenty Muslims in Gujarat. Since they can’t randomly hunt Muslims on the highway or even take Muslims from Pune into custody in Gujarat, kill and plant on highway, there has to be some kind of information involved, but this is not known to public. It is unclear how people supposed to be in Pune were in Gujarat. Or, how Gujarat police targeted them, even if they traveled to Gujarat for some reason.
  6. Gujarat police claims that the four were terrorists. Generally the idea being that a person is innocent until proven guilty, it obviously follows that establishing them as terrorists is the responsibility of Gujarat police. I did not find any information about that.
  7. This is not a fake encounter. Techinically, I will go with what our courts rule, but frankly, this doesn’t look like a real encounter. Even if the four were terrorists, it is looking very unlikely that they were killed in a genuine encounter.
  8. None of the 70 odd bullets fired were found + rigor mortis + ID cards + cash = sounds fake encounter. Bullets would be there. At least a few.
  9. Bullet wounds on victims matched weapons found on them. = unless this was a bizarre suicide, the guns were used to kill them and then planted.
  10. As for wounds indicating fired from short range and while victims were sitting, that would match a car being intercepted and an encounter happening with victims sitting inside – say if they pulled out guns – for example. Or it might match victims sitting anywhere when killed.

On the whole, I am fairly certain that the encounter was fake. Whether the four were terrorists captured and killed in fake encounters or complete innocents somehow come on the radar of the cops is yet to be known.

What little is known of the incident suggests that Ishrat being with Javed Sheikh put her in the wrong place at the wrong time, though there is no proof of that either. According to her family, the last they heard of her was from Nashik about her being anxious about Javed going missing and then returning with strangers who scared her. Who were they? Cops? The other two people killed with them? No details. If it were police, it seems like a specific trap rather than random killing.

If there is suspicion that fake encounters were govt policy, it should be made into a separate case including all encounters and the current case shouldn’t be cluttered with these political battles postponing justice indefinitely as is the current tendency of all implicating Modi – and to a large extent, many of these political cases.

Policy should be fought as a separate case from an individual incident – victims are different, implications and impact are different. More importantly, individual victims get vilified and denied justice in a macabre tug-of-war when elephants fight comprehensive battles in the courtyards of puny mortals.

Lastly, I have no agenda here other than to think my way through the information available. Not to mention hurried post too. I have no wish to lynch or protect any party in this story, except that whoever is guilty must be called to account and punished.

If I have overlooked some information, or new information comes in, it will be useful if you share links.

PS: I haven’t included LeT and Headley calling Ishrat Jahan a terrorist for two reasons – 1. if terrorists were all about providing empowering information, they wouldn’t be terrorists – information from them is always suspect and likely misinformation. 2. LeT and Headley both weren’t really speaking from knowledge of her, but based on reports they heard – let’s face it – it is an echo of what the media printed based on police claims.