Ishrat Jahan, a teenaged woman from Mumbra, was killed in June 2004 by the Gujarat police in an ‘encounter’ along with three other men. A magisterial enquiry, SIT probe and CBI investigation subsequently all concluded that this was a fake encounter – that the police claim of having fired on her in ‘self-defence’ was a lie. In July 2013, almost a decade after the fake encounter, a chargesheet was filed against 7 Gujarat police officials and (in a supplementary chargesheet in February 2014) four Intelligence Bureau officials for the unlawful killings, abduction, criminal conspiracy etc.
Ever since her death, Ishrat Jahan’s affiliation, if any, has been the subject of endless debates by political parties. The Gujarat police said she was a terrorist and several Indian newspapers carried a Delhi-datelined story by PTI which said the Ghazwa Times, a magazine published by the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, had described Ishrat as an operative of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. In 2007, Business Standard reported the Jamaat-ud-Dawa retracting that claim and apologising to Ishrat’s family. The fact that the erstwhile UPA government revised an affidavit it filed in the Gujarat high court in 2009 to clarify that there was no “conclusive evidence” of Ishrat being a terrorist operative has been seized upon by the BJP to suggest the Congress used the Ishrat case to “frame” the Gujarat police and target Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.
In legal terms, of course, whether Ishrat was or was not linked to the LeT is immaterial to the criminal charge of custodial murder that the Gujarat police is facing.
On March 1, 2016, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a contempt of court plea against former Union home minister P. Chidambaram for filing that second affidavit in 2009 in the Ishrat fake encounter case.
Vrinda Grover, lawyer of Ishrat’s mother Shamima Kauser, spoke to The Wire on why political circles continue to be obsessed with this aspect, the complete lack of any intelligence linking Ishrat to the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, the legally unimportant nature of the affidavits of which much is being made, and how the fake encounter trial is at a standstill. Excerpts:
Updated On: 02/03/2016