Wednesday, March 2, 2016

JAHNAVI SEN - The Second Killing of Ishrat Jahan // Ipsita Chakravarty - Headley's deposition does not answer this: Was Ishrat Jahan's killing actually a fake encounter?

Vrinda Grover, lawyer for the family of the teenager shot dead by the Gujarat police in 2004, says the only question before the courts is that of her custodial killing.

I think they are trying to shape public opinion to say that “controlled killings” are in our “national interest”. It is a clear shift to move away from rule of law. The clear message of the political class, the IB and police is: “Give us power, with impunity, to eliminate anyone who we think is against the nation. How we deal with them is completely up to us to decide”. This is the most dangerous thing that is happening, much beyond the Ishrat case...

Public Appeal - Resist degradation of Indian criminal justice system

JAHNAVI SEN - The Second Killing of Ishrat Jahan 
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:

There are many ways of answering this. So let me start with her mother, Shamima Kauser, who I represent legally. According to her, Ishrat Jahan is her daughter. Shamima’s husband used to be a builder-developer in Mumbra, a predominantly Muslim-dominated area in Thane, neighbouring Mumbai.  Shamima’s husband’s business ran into rough weather. As the business declined, he fell seriously ill and died in 2002.  Shamima Kauser was now faced with the herculean task of singlehandedly bringing up seven children.

Ishrat was her second eldest daughter. Ishrat did well in academics. To support the family, she started taking tuitions. In 2004 June, when Ishrat was killed, she was doing her B.Sc from Guru Nanak Khalsa college, and alongside taking tuitions. Tuition is actually a seasonal profession, usually immediately after exams there’s a complete drop in demand. This would directly impact the budget of Shamima’s family. So for this lean phase, through a common acquaintance living in the area, Shamima Kauser learnt that someone called Javed was looking for a woman to work with him. Javed, interestingly, had been known to Ishrat’s father, Javed used to work as an electrician on the site where he was the builder. So on 1st May 2004, for Rs. 3,500 a month, Ishrat started working with Javed.

Now let us see what the charge sheet says, filed pursuant to the SIT probe, as well as the CBI investigation, and monitored by the division bench of Gujarat high court. This charge sheet actually states very categorically who Ishrat Jahan is, so let me quote from the charge sheet. This is dated 3 July 2013, filed against 7   police officers of Gujarat for the murder of Ishrat Jahan and three others.

“… the following facts are notable at this stage. Ishrat Jahan, 19 years old and 2nd year B.Sc student, when she died had no criminal record. She had met Javed, alias Pranesh, for the first time on 1 May 2004. She had travelled with Javed … She may have understood that Javed was engaged in illegal activities involving smuggling and counterfeit currency. … However, there is no evidence to indicate that she had any terrorist links.”

So very clearly, the charge sheet actually corroborates everything that Shamima Kauser has told us about her daughter, Ishrat Jahan, and that is really how this matter has begun. It is very important for me to say over here that in August 2004, within two months of Ishrat’s murder, it was Shamima Kauser who went and filed the writ petition in the high court in Ahmedabad. The politicisation of the case occurred much later.

Shamima was convinced of the innocence of her daughter. She said, “My daughter is not a terrorist. We had run into very hard times, she stepped up and took responsibility for the whole family. I cannot let her be pronounced a terrorist”. This is why she went and filed the writ petition in August 2004 and asked for a CBI investigation. It had nothing to do with any political party whatsoever, and in fact her claim today stands completely confirmed by what is detailed in the charge sheet after much investigation.

So according to the investigation, Ishrat came in contact with Javed only on 1st May 2004 and was shot dead on 15th June. In these 45 days, she travelled with Javed for 10 days only. For the remaining period 35 days Ishrat was attending college, as substantiated by the college attendance record. So when and how could she have become a LeT operative?

Metropolitan Magistrate Mr. SP Tamang, in his report, has also said that she was an innocent college-going 19-year-old girl who was murdered, and then because she had been murdered, in order to prop up this theory of an encounter, they   labelled her a terrorist. Otherwise how do you justify the murder of a young college going woman who has nothing to do with any terror activities? In any case, the law of the land does not allow anyone, not even the police or the IB, to kill a terrorist who has been taken into custody. In the charge sheet, evidence of eyewitnesses as well as forensic and ballistic evidence all conclusively establish that Ishrat had been taken into custody on 12th June and illegally detained by the Gujarat police in conspiracy with the IB officers.

The SIT and CBI investigation have established that Ishrat Jahan was killed in a fake encounter, you already read from the charge sheet that was filed. Where does the legal case on this stand at the moment?
Interestingly, this case has been at a stand still now for rather long. The charge sheet filed in July 2013 against 7 police officials of Gujarat, and the supplementary charge sheet of February 2014 against 4 IB officials, are pending in the Mirzapur special CBI court in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. So the question that Shamima Kauser, and I as her lawyer, are asking is, now that the charge sheet is filed, why does the trial against the Gujarat IPS officers as well as the IB officials not commence?

Let me just reiterate here that the high decibel debates on her LeT links are irrelevant and redundant to the criminal case of her murder. Ishrat was taken into custody, illegally detained, and murdered in cold blood. So who she was is not relevant to the criminal case, it obviously has a bearing only for certain political interests.

So why is it that the BJP only wants us to focus on whether Ishrat was a terrorist or not? There is a specific reason that this particular fake encounter bothers the BJP. This is evident from the charge sheet – everything I am telling you is only from the legal records, no conjecture or inferences.

The charge sheet filed in July 2013 has a statement of DH Goswami, a retired deputy superintendent of Gujarat police. In his statement (under Section 164 of the Criminal Penal Code) to a metropolitan magistrate, he states that he was present when these 4 people were taken into custody. He says...  Read more:

Headley's deposition does not answer this: Was Ishrat Jahan's killing actually a fake encounter?
Nineteen-year-old Ishrat Jahan, killed in a shootout by the Gujarat police in 2004, was a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative, said Pakistani-American terrorist David Headley in his deposition on Thursday. Headley’s statement cannot be verified yet, and Jahan’s mother has contested it, saying it is an old and baseless accusation. But in many quarters, Headley's claims have created a general sense of I-told-you-so.

Whether the teenager was really an LeT agent sent out on a mission to assassinate then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi may be a matter for eternal speculation. It does not change the fact that Jahan never received a fair trial. A chargesheet produced by the Central Bureau of Investigation in 2013 called the encounter a case of “unlawful killing”, conducted jointly by the Intelligence Bureau and the Gujarat police.

The Ishrat Jahan case was widely followed because the lines of accountability led right to the top, to Modi’s henchman and Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah, who was charged with orchestrating the killing. In 2014, soon after the National Democratic Alliance came to power in Delhi, Shah was handed a clean chit by the CBI and the seven police officers named in the case are all out on bail. Some of them have been reinstalled and promoted to positions of responsibility in the Gujarat police.

Many dismiss the clamour for justice in the Ishrat Jahan case as politically motivated, part of an agenda to discredit the BJP leadership. Governments of all political colour have routinely used targeted killings to put down troublesome elements, the argument runs, why pick on this case?

So many Ishrat Jahans
It is true that extra-judicial violence is not restricted to Gujarat 2004. It has recurred across states and over the decades, an easy answer to a difficult situation. The phrase “encounter killing” has become a euphemism. It describes a situation where criminals are cornered by the police, apparently try to escape or attack, and are killed in retaliatory fire. Except in many cases, “retaliation” seems to have been an excuse to kill... read more:

see also
The importance of Professor Kalburgi
"Leftists never condemn Islamist terror"

Jyoti Punwani - Let us not give our Islamic neighbour a run for its money
RSS Declared Unlawful: Text of GOI communique February 4, 1948
Smruti Koppikar - Maharashtra CM has no will to pursue my father’s murder
Petition in Supreme Court Accuses NIA of Soft-Pedaling Hindutva Terror Cases

After Malegaon, Ajmer Blast Case Faces Allegations of Sabotage // Witnesses turn hostile in Samjhauta case
The law of killing: a brief history of Indian fascism

The emperor's masks: 'apolitical' RSS calls the shots in Modi sarkar