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Published in the 1-15 July 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Modi’s human sacrifice
Gujarat police guns down four including a young college student. 
MH Lakdawala reports from Mumbai on gaping holes in the story

Gujarat police gunning down four persons, including a Mumbai college girl, for allegedly plotting the assassination of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, has snowballed into a controversy with the police account of the encounter being questioned by almost all sections of society.

Neat job by Ahmedabad police on 15 June

Neat job by Ahmedabad police on 15 June

Shamima Shaikh, mother of Khalsa College student Ishrat Jahan (19), who was killed in the encounter, has demanded a CBI probe into the encounter saying that her daughter was completely innocent. “My daughter was innocent and not involved in any terrorist activity as alleged by the crime branch”, Shaikh said at her Mumbra residence after the body of Ishrat was taken away for burial. Jahan’s family comprises her mother, four sisters and two brothers. 

Gujarat police claims that the gunned down were members of the banned Pakistan-based Lashkar-e Toiba.The four were driving near Ahmedabad airport, when they were intercepted and killed, the police said.

Thane police said that the19-year-old Ishrat Jahan Raza had no criminal background and had never been involved in any terrorist activity. Thane district Deputy Commissioner of Police Amar Jadhav said “initial investigations suggest she was not a terrorist and had no links with Lashkar-e Toiba, as claimed by the police in Gujarat. We have still not found any evidence that could lead to the girl's links with any terrorist group”.

Ishrat’s mother Shamima (left) sister Nuzhat Jahan (centre) with her body in Mumbai on 19 June

Ishrat’s mother Shamima (left) sister Nuzhat Jahan 
(centre) with her body in Mumbai on 19 June 

Khalsa College authorities have been quoted as saying that Ishrat was a regular student and had secured admissions to the second year BSc this year opting for Maths and Statistics. She had secured a second class in her first year BSc exams, they said. The vice-principal of the college said he believed the girl was well-behaved and attended her classes regularly. She was never found to be involved in any unlawful activity, he said adding that the college believed she was not a terrorist. 

Neighbours said the death of Ishrat’s father, a municipal contractor, two years ago, had caused economic hardship to the family, and as one of seven siblings, Ishrat fulfilled her responsibility towards the household by giving tuitions. 
“She taught school children in the locality and helped her mother, who does embroidery and tailoring, to make ends meet. I have never seen terrorists or criminals visiting their place in the last three years that they’ve been here. The family is peace-loving,” said Mohammed Ibrahim, secretary of the Hashmat Park building.

Maharashtra government has ordered an inquiry to ascertain whether Ishrat had any criminal record just as the Congress in Gujarat demanded a CBI probe saying that the encounter was “fabricated”. “I have asked authorities to conduct an inquiry whether the girl was involved in any criminal activities and had any crime record,” Maharashtra home minister RR Patil said.

Samajwadi Party’s Mumbai unit chief Abu Asim Azmi said that “the entire encounter has been fabricated with an intention to save Modi from the ongoing political crisis”. In view of both BJP and NDA pointing fingers at Modi’s handling of post-Godhra riots for the party's debacle in the just-concluded Lok Sabha polls, the encounter was “staged in order to divert the attention from the on-going crisis”, said Azmi.

Since the post-Godhra riots, eight persons have been gunned down in four “encounters” by the Gujarat. In all the cases, the fingers on the trigger belonged to the same officers: Tarun Barot, Jaisinh Parmar, IA Sayyed and Kishoresinh Vaghela, star inspectors of the ACB. Considered ‘permanent faces’ in the high-profile wing of the police, they have spent a major part of their careers scripting these killing sprees. Many of them don’t even seek promotions, say sources. 

Sub-inspectors RL Mawani and DH Goswami are emulating their bosses to perfection. In October 2002, these policemen shot dead Samir Khan Pathan who was accused of plotting to kill CM Modi and other leaders during the Gaurav yatra. Pathan had trained with the LeT, they claimed. But the case fell through when all the accused were discharged by the High Court which upheld the verdict of a lower court.

As in the previous cases, there are many holes in the latest Gujarat police tale. They are relying on the entries in a dairy “recovered” from Ishrat’s body. The Gujarat police said that dairy had an entry “visited M”. How can they be so sure that M stands for Modi?

Secondly, the police claim that Ishrat dairy has the entry of monies received from various sources and they allege that these are monies from a terrorist organisation for terrorist activities. Even this is mere assumption. May be this money was earned by Ishrat.

From all angles its obvious that Ishrat was the victim of the socio-economic background. Until now not a single concrete evidence has been discovered by the police of two states. 

Because of the insensitivity of the police force not only a 19-year old girl lost her life but even her family has been inflicted with unbearable pain. Just because of suspicion no civilized society can allow the cold-blooded execution of people and later brand them as “terrorists”. As pointed out by the Sri Krishna Commission in its report, the police working needs to be scrutinized and police force be sensitized to respect the human life, honour and rights. <<

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