I had pledged to not let the unceasing acts of injustice in our country deter my resolve to wage a personal crusade against them. But the recent developments, both before the Supreme Court and the debates in Parliament, to quash the Ishrat Jahan case has disturbed me to such an extent that I feel compelled to express my anguish and distress.
It appears as though the ringmasters of our nation are trying to convey, in no uncertain terms, that if fingers are raised in indignant opposition to any decision, they will go unaddressed and unresolved. This muzzling of voices, this resolute silence that our questions are constantly met with and the throttling of voices that resonate in protest may well sound the death knell of democracy as we know it. However it is my sincere effort and hope that the facts below of the injustice meted out to Ishrat will move you, dear reader, infinitely more than my indignation ever will. Simply put, the facts speak for themselves.
In June 2004, accusations flew fast and thick regarding a fake encounter conducted by certain top officers of the Ahmedabad Police,Crime Branch in which four alleged operatives of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT- a terrorist organisation) had been gunned down on the ‘mere suspicion’ of being terrorists. Ishrat Jahan Raza was the only woman in the group, a student and only 19 years old at the time of her death. The police and intelligence agencies claimed that she and her associates were embroiled in a plot to assassinate the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi. Later, an investigation was launched by the Central Bureau of Investigation based on the allegations that the characterization of the incident by the police was false and the killings were deliberate.
The following instances serve as my argument:
1) In 2004, a Lahore-based publication, Ghazwa Times quoted the Jamat-ud-Dawah, affiliated with LeT, claiming that Ishrat and her companions were LeT operatives. In 2007 though, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, retracted the statement as a “journalistic mistake“, offering an apology to Ishrat’s family. No explanation was given as to why it was retracted after 3 years.
2) The Gujarat government had faced strong criticism by human rights groups for anti-Muslim human rights violations, following the carnage of 2002. During this period, there had been several police encounter deaths in Gujarat, three of which have been attributed to attempts to kill Mr. Narendra Modi in retaliation for his alleged involvement in the carnage. Allegations also surfaced that many of these encounters took place in police custody and usually followed a?pattern:
- they always took place in the wee hours of the morning in a deserted area, with no witnesses;
- a vigorous exchange of fire resulted in the deaths of all the terrorists, while the police received no injuries; and
- a personal diary of the accused was often recovered, which contained incriminating evidence.
3) The Gujarat police claimed to have received information regarding the assassination plot from the Mumbai police. The Mumbai police however denied there was any such information. According to the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties, the Gujarat police did not follow normal procedures in their investigations. No FIR was lodged with the local area police station where the encounter occurred, no charge sheet, no inquest report, and no witness statement.
Last night, I received a WhatsApp message that in its first half painted Ishrat as an innocent girl but ended with the statement (Well guess what?) that she was a terrorist on a mission to kill Modi. People in my opinion are making the same mistake as the accused – a person is considered innocent until proven guilty. The case admittedly falls in the category of ‘an inconvenient truth’ – a truth which when revealed will have deep repercussions for the system, the intelligence agencies and political bigwigs. The truth must prevail whether you believe that Ishrat was a terrorist or not. Justice must be done in conformity with the principles of justice laid down in the Constitution of India.
That is what led me to read into the case in the first place. I don’t know where we as a nation are headed and if the highest echelons of power are stifling democratic systems or not, but I do know that there will be a thousand more Ishrats if this state of affairs continues. Because if a 19 year old student is gunned down by top officials, who are supposed to protect citizens, without a fair trial, without an opportunity of being heard, without any consideration to the person she was ONLY because of ‘mere suspicion’ then what stops them from burning any of us down to ashes and making it look like an accident.
I also know that the last thing we need right now, is a fearful and silent public. Please “Get Up, Stand Up – Stand Up For Your Rights“.
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