Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ishrat Jahan case: The problems

It is better to state the angles and viewpoints. There are many contestants. 1. The Gujarat government. 2. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and his BJP associates in the state government, in the state and at the party headquarters in the state. 3. The Ministry of Home Affairs. 4. The Congress. 5. The lawyers of Ishrat Jahan. 6. Muslims and the secularists. 1. The Gujarat government takes two positions. It says that its police killed Ishrat Jahan and other associates because they had intelligence input from the central government agency, the Intelligence Bureau (IB), and based on that input, the state police intercepted and killed Ishrat Jahan and the other three. At one level, the Gujarat government wants to take credit of having efficiently intercepted potential terrorists and killed them. On the other hand, it also wants an alibi that it did not kill the suspects based on their own intelligence but that of the IB. It looks like that they want to take the credit and push the blame, if there is any, on to the IB. That is, if investigation that the IB had wrongly identified the terrorists and the state police killed them in 'good faith'. 2. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and his BJP colleagues, like the state government, want to play it both ways. That is, they want to say they acted promptly against the potential terrorists, and they want to say in the same breath that if the intelligence input was wrong about the terrorist credentials of the victims, then they cannot be blamed. In their eagerness and anxiety to defend Modi, the BJP leaders cite the IB input, the disclosure of Headley as though they constitute clinching evidence. It is the first blunder. The second blunder they commit is to raise the question, which would be a legitimate defense lawyer's question but not that of a political party, as to why Ishrat Jahan was to be found in questionable company if she was innocent.The BJP betrays its bias by not considering the fact that an ordinary Muslim girl can be weaned away into terrorism, or she could be working for terrorists without knowing about them. Both are of legal importance but if they are used to score political brownie points then the BJP walks into the trap of looking and sounding anti-Muslim because they are not willing to consider all possibilities, including that of her innocence instead of jumping to conclusions. 3. The Ministry of Home Affairs did not want to play the partisan game on the face of it. It knew that blaming the state police for killing so-called terrorists or to call those killings fake encounters would be troublesome. So, it tried to maintain that the Gujarat police acted because it was able to provide such dependable intelligence. So, the central ministry tried to corroborate the terror links of those who were killed by citing the disclosures made by David Coleman Headley, a CIA operator and a jihadi infiltrator, who was convicted in a US court for the Mumbai terror attack of November 26, 2011. It seems that ministry changed it stance on the Headley input because the Congress-led UPA government might be keen to corner Gujarat chief minister Modi and his former home minister Amit Shah.The home ministry and the former home secretary G.K.Pillai seem to be tying themselves in knots because they are not sure of the line to be pursued. 4. The Congress is playing a careful game. It does want to embarrass and corner Modi and the BJP, and take advantage if it can of the fact that an innocent Muslim girl, Ishrat Jahan, has been killed in a fake encounter. But it is afraid to cross the red line for fear of supporting or seeming to support probable terrorists. If the courts were to declare that Ishrat Jahan was an innocent victim, the Congress would want to derive the political mileage it can from such a verdict. But it would not declare Ishrat Jahan innocent as yet. 5. The family and lawyers of Ishrat Jahan are arguing the case on the issue that she was not a terrorist, that she was killed in cold blood in a fake encounter along with three others. They are not arguing the case of the other three dead men. They seem willing to admit that perhaps the three men had jihadi links, but they maintain that Ishrat Jahan did not about their terror links, and that she was innocent. 6. The Muslims and secularists are in the fight because they want to prove their hunch that Modi and associates are anti-Muslim and that they do not hesitate to kill innocent Muslims like Ishrat Jahan in the name of fighting terrorism and establish Hindu majoritarian regime. For the Muslims and secularists, the life of Ishrat Jahan or that of her associates has no intrinsic value except as a political and rhetorical weapon to fight Modi and the BJP. So, these six groups refuse to consider the following possibilities: 1. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) nor the Gujarat police did not have any malice and killed Ishrat Jahan and her associates as part of a process of tackling terrorists, which are questionable but which were not dictated by political superiors. And they could be doing this on wrong information without knowing that this was wrong information. 2. That Ishrat Jahan was a helpless worker of the terror network, and she was in it against her will, and the family too knew about it but they were all helpless. 3. Ishrat Jahan knew about her terrorist employees but she did not share it with her family. 4. Ishrat Jahan was not aware of the terrorist background of the people she was working with, and she was an innocent victim when her associates were killed in the shoot-out. 5. Ishrat Jahan was a young, sensitive woman, who was convinced that she had to avenge the killing of innocent Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 and she was willing to pay for it with her life. 6. What is not being considered is that police routinely kill suspected terrorists, or petty criminals framed as terrorists, including young women. This has been so in the case fake encounters of Naxalite or Maoist killings. Many a time, dreaded Maoists, gangsters and jihadis are killed after they have been arrested and they are in police custody. 7. That it is important to raise the issue of fake encounters, and use the case of Ishrat Jahan as one more instance of this criminal high handedness of the police force. 8. That it is wrong to kill Ishrat Jahan even if she is a convicted jihadi because that is not the business of the police. 9. That the police have to prove that there was provocation in the form of firing from the side of Ishrat Jahan and her associates which left the police at the check-post with no option but to fire back.

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