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The curious case of Ishrat Jahan

 | July 5, 2013

Indians across all walks of life are desperate for change, are desperate to lift the country out of the dark pit it has sunk into.

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As India races towards federal elections, there is excitement galore. Most of it appears murky with political parties trying to malign one another.

The case of Ishrat Jahan, branded a terrorist, fits into this scenario with all the trappings of political intrigue. Politics could not have been dirtier.

In 2004, 19-year-old college student Jahan, along with three others, were killed in an encounter, organised by the Gujarat police and the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau, says a chargesheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) the other day.

Dubbed as terrorists with Lashkar-e-Toiba elements, Jahan, hailing from Mumbra close to Mumbai, Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were murdered in cold blood by the Gujarat police on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15 2004.

For Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Narendra Modi, who was the state’s Chief Minister during the heinous incident, the chargesheet comes as an acute embarrassment.

Modi — who also carries a black mark for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots in which hundreds of Muslims were massacred — continues to be the Chief Minister, and stands an excellent chance of becoming India’s next Prime Minister on a BJP (often referred to as a Hindu nationalist party) ticket.

The chargesheet, though, has not pointed a finger at Modi or his close associate, Amit Shah, in the Jahan episode. However, seven Gujarat police officers, including the absconding Additional Director General of Police, P. Pandey, have been accused of criminal conspiracy, abduction, wrongful confinement and murder.

Be that as it may, Modi cannot still uncross his fingers. On July 26, the CBI plans to publish its second chargesheet.

The CBI does not say whether Jahan and the three men who were also shot dead along with her were terrorists. It chooses to ignore this question. But it makes it clear that the four did not go to Gujarat to kill Modi, a perception that has been floating for a long time.

Things can get hot for the BJP if the CBI says in its second chargesheet that the four were not terrorists. This can mean that the Modi administration had shot dead a young, innocent teenager and three men, equally guiltless. Admittedly, the Intelligence Bureau, which is part of the federal structure, was also involved. So the Gujarat police was not alone in carrying out this killing.

Even then, Modi, already carrying a heavy cross of the Gujarat riots, can get further weighed down by the new development.

For the Congress, which covertly controls the CBI (its political masters are the government of the day), this can be a splendid opportunity to score a point or at least half a point, given the mess the party is in.

The Congress, which now heads a coalition government in New Delhi, is in deep trouble today. At no time since India’s Independence in 1947, has this party been embroiled in such serious scandals and scams.

Indians across all walks of life are desperate for change, are desperate to lift the country out of the dark pit it has sunk into.

But the moot point is, is there a political party which can do this with honesty, integrity and a sense of nationhood?

Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at[email protected]


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