Power corrupts; absolute power…. That saying seems to have gone through a change as Ram Jethmalani reminded the Parliament in December 2011. “Power corrupts but the prospect of losing power corrupts even more”. This briefly sums up many actions of the GOI with support from many in the media in their political witch-hunt of Narendra Modi. This year too, the media had started their hunting season with great spirits. As soon as Modi was elevated as BJP’s poll chairman the CBI was acting with great speed on another front. This gave the media-folks greater fuel to target Modi with the Ishrat Jehan encounter case. Ishrat was killed with three other terrorists in an encounter in Ahmedabad in June 2004. So far all the ‘secular’ parties maintained she was not a terrorist as did the many dubious NGO campaigners for justice. Over 10000 people attended Ishrat’s funeral along with members of many political parties. She had become a great heroine for the secular parties who have also referred to prominent terrorists as “Osamaji” or “Shri Hafeez”. Why not! After all, our human-rights and secular parties have greater sympathy for terrorists.
In its eagerness the CBI had even made an IB officer an ‘accused’ for providing fake intelligence leading to the encounter that killed Ishrat+3 and planting the weapons that were found on them. The accusation was that Rajendra Kumar was frequently in touch with the Gujarat Police and passing on intelligence to them. One would have thought that is what IB people do. When the Gujarat High Court constituted an SIT to probe the encounter it also allowed Ishrat’s mother to nominate an investigator to the SIT (What a luxury!). This was IPS officer Satish Verma who had focused a bit more on IB angle. On June 13, 2013 Verma was removed from the CBI investigating team, which is handling the case since October 2011. On June 14 the Gujarat HC ordered the reinstatement of Verma and advised to keep focus on the encounter and not the IB. Between 2002 and 2007 there have been over 400 encounter killings in India. Naturally, only 2 from Gujarat, one of Ishrat and the other of Sohrabuddin, interest the Congress and media. Because Modi can be hunted with these cases while the other states don’t matter. Of the police officers arrested in the Ishrat case 5 have already got bail. Why? Because in their enthusiasm CBI couldn’t file a charge-sheet against these officers. Considering the investigation is now 9 years old that shows the efficiency of CBI.
Sometime back Amit Shah, as Home Minister of Gujarat, was arrested in the Sohrabuddin encounter case. That he has also been given bail in the case says a lot for the strength of the CBI case against him. Even the SC had lampooned the CBI for their conduct in the case. Shah is now appointed as Campaign Convenor for Uttar Pradesh. The likes of NDTV, CNN-IBN, Timesnow, Headlines Today had already declared Shah a convicted criminal in their endless coverage of his arrest. The cover of CBI’s real plan wasn’t blown any media outlet but the BJP’s Arun Jaitley who wrote some damaging stuff on his website:
Jaitley doesn’t mince words when he says the CBI officers who made the file-notings and those who allowed them to pass should be sacked. But hey, they’re on a hunt; who would want to sack them? It is this particular document that Jaitley got hold of that has blown the lid off the operation. That the CBI now drags IB personnel to question and treats one of them as accused for murder is a grave danger to the intelligence community. The NIA had the chance to interview 26/11 backroom terrorist David Headley who had also claimed that Ishrat Jehan was a LeT suicide bomber. The LeT too had first claimed her as a martyr and then removed that claim from their website. In a 2010 report the NIA made absolutely no reference to Ishrat Jehan in reporting their interview of Headley. Strange, isn’t it?
The Intelligence Bureau hasn’t taken kindly to being dragged in as a target for investigations or one of them being accused of murder by the CBI. It also seems that the GOI, many of the NGOs that run the anti-NaMo cottage industry and the media wanted to make a hero of Ishrat. Nobody wanted to ask why she was driving around with two Paki nationals and another guy all over the place. According to her mother she was just “selling some Sheikh’s perfumes”. All of this until someone, maybe from the IB or some govt agency, dropped letters and tapes into the lap of the India Today group. On the night of June 13 Headlines Today aired the devastating tapes of conversations between Muzamil Bhat, the Pak terror plotter, and those with Ishrat. A summary of what the HeadlinesToday leaks can be seen in these screenshots from their programme:
This should not have come as a surprise to anyone. The intelligence input on Ishrat and others was shared with all state DGs in April 2004, much before the encounter in June 2004. If the IB is dragged into hunting expeditions there will be dust that is bound to get kicked. The recordings indicate Narendra Modi wasn’t the only target. Other targets included Advani, Bal Thackeray and Praveen Thogadia. All ‘Hindutva’ rabble-rousers in the eyes of ‘secularists’. Former Home Secretary GK Pillai has reportedly even filed an affidavit in the Gujarat HC citing Ishrat as a terrorist.
It’s only fools who would believe that potential terrorists go about telling their mothers and friends they are about to undertake a terror operation or kill a Chief Minister. The portrayal of Ishrat as a simple young student in Mumbai or a perfume sales girl may be her otherwise regular pursuits. But even in the Boston blasts the terrorists were described as quiet, friendly neighbours who got along well with everyone. The one that takes the cake is that of David Headley planning the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai who picked up the gullible son of Mahesh Bhatt for company. I’m sure if Rahul Bhat or any of his friends parted Headley’s hair and looked with a magnifying glass they would have found the inscription “I am a terrorist”. Perfumes indeed! The father of Javed (Pranesh Pillai), who was with Ishrat, also claims his son is innocent. Naturally! Praveen Swami writes a whole deal in Firstpost: “Ishrat Jahan: The inconvenient story no one wants to tell”.
In another development the IB has stated it will petition the Supreme Court against the CBI for dragging its officers into this investigation. The Home Ministry is also now seeking immunity for IB officials from any prosecution given the naturally covert nature of their operations (Deccan Herald). Here’s a damning quote from the Firstpost article I referred above: “Even as the CBI works towards finding out just how Ishrat died, there’s a growing mass of evidence that suggests the United Progressive Alliance government has been economical with the truth about her life and her death”.
Praveen Swami gets it right but misses a couple of important points. He mentions the “UPA govt” which is not very accurate. The CBI is under the Congress wing of the UPA so it’s the Congress that dictates the course of the case. Secondly, why has the media, the Congress and even the CBI turned this into the “Ishrat Jehan case”? Isn’t that odd? There were four people who were killed in that encounter. One seems to be her friend (Javed) and the other two were Paki nationals who were strangers to her. The answer is simple: She’s a woman, was a 19-year old, is a Muslim and that makes for a great “emotional blackmail” story. The others were Muslims too but they don’t make such an emotional story as Ishrat.
Hunting Season had started in earnest but the CBI Vs IB tangle has created some serious hurdles for the case as more and more evidence comes out. In a report a CBI official claims “We do not have anything against Modi yet in this case”. Firstpost wrongly headlined the report as “Ishrat Jahan case: CBI says no evidence against Modi…”. FP missed an important word in the CBI official’s statement: YET! They may be trying still but it sure looks like hunting season just hit a big bump.