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Ishrat Jahan Political Circus: NATIONAL SECURITY BE DAMNED!, By Poonam I Kaushish, 8 March, 2016 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 8 March 2016

Ishrat Jahan Political Circus


By Poonam I Kaushish


This is a sordid saga of one of the most infamous and controversial incidents of encounter killing in India.


In the wee hours of 15 June 2004, 19-year old Ishrat Jahan and three others were gunned down in a joint operation by the Gujarat police and Intelligence Bureau (IB) on the outskirts of Ahmadabad. The State Government claimed they were members of the dreaded Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) on a mission to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The killing made headlines, thanks to Jahan’s tenacious mother who moved court claiming her daughter was innocent and killed in an audacious fake encounter.


Nine years later the CBI in its explosive 1500-page charge-sheet held it a fake cold blooded murder resulting in seven top police officers, a senior IB official and then State Home Minister Amit Shah languishing in jail on the ground it had political sanction. Notwithstanding, a Lahore-based publication Ghazwa Times quoting someone from the Lakshar’s political arm Jamaat-ud-Dawah that Jahan and her companions were LeT “activists”. 


Jahan's name once again made it to front page headlines last month when one of the main conspirators in the 2008 Mumbai attacks David Headley reiterated his 2010 stand that she was indeed a LeT operative. This was endorsed by then Union Home Secretary GK Pillai who asserted that the first affidavit of August 2009 declaring her a LeT agent was one month later at the behest of his boss Home Minister Chidambaram. 


More shocking, Pillai implied that the LeT group was lured to Gujarat. Added Under Secretary Mani that he had been “coerced” by the CBI to project the encounter as fake. Chidambaram in his defence said that as the first affidavit was filed without his approval, he was bound to file a supplementary affidavit to set the record straight.


Predictably, this has resulted in a BJP-Congress slugfest. While the former accused its rival of “whitewashing” facts due to its “congenital dislike” for Modi because it foresaw him as a “political threat”, the latter dubbed it yet “another example of BJP opportunism and having implicit faith in terrorists and what they say.”


Lost in the raucous tu-tu-mein-mein was the crux: Was the teenager a terrorist? Undeniably, the first and second affidavits contradict each other. Whereas the first shows Jahan as a LeT operator, references to her Lashkar links have been deleted in the revised affidavit.


True, either which way the Government machinery was abused. Also correct it is very difficult to prove who is telling a lie as there is no real evidence to link Jahan to LeT apart from inputs received from intelligence officers. Pillai could face serious charges if caught about Jahan's role in LeT plans to kill Modi.


On the other hand, Chidambaram might have to answer tough questions if and why he is covering up the teenager’s links with terrorists. What if the terrorists had succeeded in their plans to kill Modi? Who would be held accountable?


Questions arise: Why did the bureaucrats not disclose this seven years ago? What held them back? Why did Home Minister Chidambaram change the affidavit? Why did he cover up Jahan's Let links? Who instructed him to do so? Or is Pilli lying?


Is it fair that innocent officers should serve jail sentences for no fault of theirs and become pawns for politicians to score brownie points? Importantly, can one politicize national security and play ducks and drakes with it? 


The needle of suspicion squarely puts Chidambaram in the dock. He must come clean on the flip flop and who was instrumental for the second affidavit? Was it then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or Congress President Sonia Gandhi? What was the purpose of doing so?


Indisputably, the bureaucrats have once again proved how spineless and gutless they are. Why are Messers' ex-IB Chief MK Narayanan, ex-Home Secretary GK Pillai and Under Secretary Mani singing now? Underscoring once again their loyalty to their kursi comes first, followed by political mai-baaps and the nation can go to hell.


See how once the ruling dispensation changed, like a chameleon babus too changed colour. All began singing like canaries. Sic. After all, closeness to powerful political superiors is more rewarding than mere seniority or merit which helps them to get promoted more rapidly than their performance and seniority justify.


Consequently, instead of the right man for the right job being the criteria, there is invariably a wrong man for the right job for wrong reasons! In fact, the political identification of officials has become so marked that even the bureaucracy itself is able to predict as to who will occupy which top post, if ‘X’, ‘Y’ or ‘Z’ Party or individual comes to power!


Moreover, some even succeed in bagging political offices by obliging the right politician through thick and thin. Leading to most officials having little interest in taking any initiatives and are willing to make self and boss-serving compromises with the fundamentals of administration


Clearly, the steel frame has rusted and how! Averred a retired official, “Bureaucrats were to be checks in the system. The checks have turned into cheques while the balance is out of the window! The civil service has become an elite self perpetuating club which protects its perks, turf and corners all top jobs. Shockingly, for every officer who refuses to sign a file due to political pressure, there are 10 others willing to do it.”


What next? Alas, nothing anyone has said or done so far suggests that our leaders really wants to get to the bottom of the story, worse our netagan’s shenanigans in Parliament and media gives reason to believe that nothing is going to change. Given they revel in scoring political brownie points, national security be damned!


The tragedy of it all is that the Centre will continue to grope in the dark about how to deal with terrorism till our leaders don’t stop politicking on national security and the country’s security apparatus. It has to respect the reputation of its intelligence wing and desist from giving a communal slant to every incident.


Clearly, instead of getting into a political-intelligence slanging match it is vital that checks and balances are put in place as IB is a covert intelligence body and intelligence gathering a dangerous game requiring opacity. Thus, it has to be protected and officers ensured immunity like in US, UK, France, Germany et al. Any prosecution would set a bad precedent for counter terror operations thereby emboldening the State’s enemies.


Our polity must realize that beyond human frailties and fallibilities as they exhaust precious national energy, time and money on the Ishrat Jahan storm they should not loose sight of the larger issue of giving no quarter to terrorism.

Time now to unearth this terror tale. We need to know the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It’s critical for the credibility of India’s national security, our fight against terrorism and the criminal justice system.  Else we will only prove Acharya Kriplani right: He described Indians as the world’s biggest hypocrites and humbugs. What gives? ----- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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