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A fake encounter of justice?

June 09, 2015 16:16 IST

Ishrat JahanAn accused D G Vanzara gets bail months after Modi emerges as PM and hails it is as a return of 'Achche Din’ while the rest of us are told nobody is guilty for the cold-blooded killings of Ishrat Jahan, Kauser Bi or the 2,000-odd innocent people in Gujarat riots, says Shehzad Poonawala.

Just days after cop N K Amin, one of the main accused in the fake encounter cases of Sohrabuddin, his wife Kauser Bi and Ishrat Jahan, who had been under suspension for almost eight years after his arrest in 2007, was re-instated by the Gujarat government as deputy superintendent of police, comes another shocker.

The Narendra Modi government has reportedly decided to deny the Central Bureau of Investigation permission to prosecute four Intelligence Bureau officials, namely Rajinder Kumar, P Mittal, M K Sinha and Rajiv Wankhede, accused of criminal conspiracy in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case.

Many questions arise over whether a concerted effort is being made to distort and scuttle a free and fair probe, not just into the Ishrat Jahan matter but many such cases of fake encounters and 2002 riots, where a majority of the victims belonged to a minority community, under Modi's watch as chief minister. Is there a deliberate attempt being made to unravel a conspiracy that could well have its linkages with those who occupied the highest seats of political power in Gujarat? The overwhelming evidence seems to point in that direction.

Take the Ishrat Jahan, Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Kauser Bi cases, for instance, which also saw Javed Sheikh, Tulsi Prajapati and two Pakistani nationals being killed, in stage-managed encounters, between 2004 and 2005. The CBI chargesheet said very clearly that Amin was involved in a conspiracy with accused number 1 and 2, namely, D G Vanzara and Rajkumar Pandian, and in touch with the then MoS home and currently the BJP president Amit Shah (accused number 16) during the period when the fake encounters took place.

Another key accused, Dinesh M N, a Rajasthan cadre IPS officer, was also released on bail but was not only re-instated but given triple promotions by the Vasundhara Raje government this year. Currently, seven officers who have been accused in the case are all out on bail.

Now, before uninformed friends on the right start manufacturing ‘facts’ proving Ishrat Jahan's alleged terror links and accuse me of being an ‘anti-national whose heart bleeds for terrorists’, they would be well advised to read the uncontested letter by the National Investigation Agency to the Gujarat high court stating unequivocally that reports of David Coleman Headley making a statement on Ishrat Jahan's links with terror outfit Lashkar-e-Tayiba were ‘baseless’ and ‘in the nature of hearsay’.

In 2009, Judicial Magistrate S P Tamang had held that the Ishrat Jahan encounter was ‘fake’ and had sought the prosecution of those officers responsible. It dismissed the claims that Ishrat and the others were on a mission to kill Modi.

In 2010, the apex court upheld that verdict by the judicial magistrate and set aside the stay granted by single judge of the Gujarat high court, against which it expressed reservations too. And while there were intelligence inputs which were shared with the Gujarat government, extending that as an excuse to kill somebody in cold blood is hardly a justification that can be accepted in a society run by rule of law.

The culpability, however, did not end just at these officers. It went right up to the political executive. For instance, Amit Shah was facing murder and conspiracy charges in the Sohrabuddin and Tulsi Prajapati fake encounter cases. The CBI too had made it clear before the Supreme Court that the officers had killed Ishrat Jahan and her co-travellers in cold blood.

But after the Modi government came to power, by December 2014 the CBI did a complete U-turn on its earlier stand and did not even oppose Shah’s discharge plea in a Mumbai court.

What was worse was that the CBI, acting as a virtual hand-maiden of the government, argued the matter for a mere 45 minutes and appointed no special public prosecutor either. It was then reported that the CBI had no interest in filing an appeal against this order either.

This was certainly not the first instance where the BJP-run Gujarat government came in for flak for not allowing a probe to continue freely and fairly. Earlier, the SC had transferred all the 2002 riot cases out of Gujarat fearing that a free and independent probe would not be possible. In 2008, the Supreme Court ordered the then Modi government to re-investigate nine cases relating to the Gujarat riots in 2002.

In his book The Fiction of Fact-Finding: Modi and Godhra, senior journalist Manoj Mitta describes how 'crucial pieces of evidence were allowed to fall through the cracks' leading to a 'clean chit' by the Special Investigation Team to Modi, paving the way for his elevation as the PM candidate and his ultimate election as the prime minister.

The late Mukul Sinha and other lawyer-activists including upright IPS officers like Sanjiv Bhatt had brought out, through affidavits and other means, how the Gujarat government which was supposed to be on the side of the victims was itself weakening the 2002 riots cases in favour of the accused.

In 2011, the entire nation was shocked to hear that Gujarat government itself destroyed documents relating to the 2002 cases, including telephone records, police movements, etc. Bhatt, who had alleged that Modi had instructed the police to not act against rioters attacking Muslims, needed these documents to prove his claims but was not given access to them.

Instead what we have witnessed over the last one year in particular, is the manner in which activists like Teesta Setalvad and IPS officers like Bhatt have been hounded by the government. The special judge Jyotsna Yagnik, who convicted BJP leader and Modi's cabinet colleague Maya Kodnani, has received several threat letters but her security cover has been scaled down to Y category from Z+ while the likes of Baba Ramdev and Mohan Bhagwat have got enhanced security. And yes, a convicted Kodnani has also secured bail.

Modi has been meeting a lot of 'so-called Muslim leaders' these days in a symbolic attempt to hard-sell his Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas jumla. Perhaps he should have started his outreach by meeting Ehsan Jaffri's widow Zakia and Ishrat Jahan's family that have been running from pillar to post for justice. But it seems that after the fake encounter of people there is now an attempt to commit a fake encounter of justice itself.

In that skewed, unfair world, one that was certainly not envisaged by our Constitution, an accused D G Vanzara gets bail months after Modi emerges as PM and hails it is as a return of 'Achche Din’ while the blind-folded lady justice seems to mock the rest of us by suggesting that nobody is guilty for the cold-blooded killing of Ishrat Jahan, Kauser Bi and the 2,000 odd innocent people in Gujarat.

Satyameva Jayate anybody?

Shehzad Poonawala