Pakistani-American terrorist David Headley’s deposition to a Mumbai Special Court has given a surprise turn to the Ishrat Jahan case. Double agent Headley recently told the court that Ishrat was a member of the Islamist terrorist outfit Laskar-e-taiba (LeT). Ishrat died in an alleged fake police encounter in Gujarat on 15 June 2004.
Headley said that he received information about Ishrat Jahan from LeT top operative Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi. Ishrat, a 19-year-old college student from Mumbai, was shot dead along with three others by Gujarat police, who claimed the group was plotting to kill Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister. Now 12 years later, Headley corroborated the police narrative by stating that the four people had set out to attack policemen at a check post in on that particular day.
The case had turned murky when human right’s groups blamed the Gujarat police for killing an ‘innocent’ teenager and three other in cold blood. Court ordered probes, and several top cops were arrested for carrying on a ‘fabricated encounter’ with support from Chief Minister Narendra Modi Amit Shah, who was Gujarat Home Minister then. The point of suspicion easily moved towards Modi and Shah, as the state was still recovering from the massive bloodbath of the Godhra Riots of 2002.
But now, with the confession of Headley, all those allegations against Narendra Modi fall apart. Not all victims are innocent. In the age when children as young as 12 or 13 take to terror, the involvement of a 19-year-old with a terror outfit should not have seem impossible. Terror outfits brainwash youngsters; they are the easiest to influence with propaganda.
On Aug 30 2013, Deputy Superintendent of Police, NK Amin, who was arrested for ‘staging’ the Ishrat encounter, submitted a letter in the Supreme Court. In an attempt to prove his innocence, Amin who was held up in Vadodara jail, submitted a true copy of a letter (dated June 25, 2010) sent by Daniel C Clegg to the Intelligence Bureau (IB). Clegg was the nodal person for the American FBI in India and a key officer looking after terror issues after the 26/11 Mumbai attack.
The copy of the letter said: “Zaki told Headley about a female suicide bomber named Ishrat Jahan who was recruited by Muzammil (LeT commander). Jahan was killed by the Indian police during the attack. Zaki mentioned Muzammil’s plans to attack Akshardham temple, Somnath and Siddhi temples. The attacks were revenge for the 1988 attack on the mosque in UP.”
Questioning police integrity every time terrorists are killed in encounters has been the norm. The recent development in the Ishrat case only reiterates that police don’t always knock off innocent people to take medals. Quite often, they are tipped by intelligence agencies both Indian and foreign, and then chart meticulous plans to counter terror strikes.