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A chorus of indignant influential voices can be heard suddenly as the CBI appears to be closing in on the main culprits of the conspiracy that led to the extrajudicial killing of 19 years old Mumbra girl, Ishrat Jehan along with three others on 15 June 2004 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat and in all likelihood is set to indict Special Director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Mr. Rajendra Kumar. (The Tehelka Exposé)

The cacophony gets shriller the moment there is speculation, based on media reports, that there appears to be a possibility that the trail may lead to the doors of Mr. Narendra Modi, three-times Chief Minister of Gujarat, Hindutva strongman and poster boy of a section in the media who finds only political conspiracies in any accusations against him.

To one such eminent columnist, Mr. Ashok Malik, even any conjecture that Modi could have done wrong is “Dangerous Logic”.

Writing in The Asian Age (30 June 2013), Mr. Malik claims:

What does one make of the selective leaks and the motivated reportage in sections of the media on the Ishrat Jehan case? It is fairly clear there is a systematic and downright political attempt to implicate Narendra Modi, the Gujarat chief minister, in still further controversy, without the legal case necessarily getting anywhere.

The insinuation is clear: That the Congress led government at the Centre, through the abuse of the investigative powers of the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), is seeking to implicate Mr. Modi in the conspiracy to have Ishrat Jehan and  three others killed in cold blood in a false encounter in a bid to stop him from gunning for power at the Centre in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He, in fact, provocatively claims that the ‘legal case necessarily isn’t getting anywhere’.

Unfortunately, the facts dispute Mr. Malik’s claims substantially.

That Ishrat Jehan and three others were killed in a fake encounter isn’t the conclusion of the Congress led government at the Centre, nor even of an inquiry instituted by it. It was at first, the conclusion of the Court of the Ahmedabad Metropolitan Magistrate on 7 September 2009 (more than 5 years after the incident), based on the findings of a 247 pages Judicial Inquiry Report, ironically ordered by the Gujarat Government led by Modi.

Inevitably, the Gujarat Government challenged the findings before the Gujarat High Court, only to be faced with a deeper investigation by a Special Investigative Team (SIT) constituted by the Gujarat High Court and monitored by it. On 21 November 2011, The SIT concluded in its Final Report to the HC that Ishrat Jehan and three others were indeed killed in cold blood in a case of custodial killing made to appear as an encounter.

On 1 December, 2011, the Gujarat High Court passed orders for fresh FIRs to be filed against those found guilty by the SIT probe and handed over the probe to the CBI. In a detailed order, the Bench recorded 12 reasons for not letting any state agency of Gujarat to continue with the probe and why it was handing it over to the CBI. Since then, the Gujarat High Court routinely monitored the progress of the investigation and even pulled up the Central Agency whenever it found it’s pace slackening. As recently as 15 March 2013, the Gujarat High Court bench of Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari monitoring the probe expressed satisfaction about the progress made by CBI in the investigation of Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. It is in fact the High Court which had ordered the CBI to file chargesheets by 4 July 2013.

Does it, therefore, appear that the legal case has not necessarily got anywhere, as Mr. Malik claims?

Also, in order for the CBI’s investigative powers to be abused by the Congress to implicate Mr. Modi, it must be acting through the bench of the Gujarat High Court that is monitoring the CBI. ‘A dangerous logic’ indeed.

I have also been left wondering by Mr. Malik as to why did CBI wait this long to fabricate evidence and plant the same in pliable media to implicate Mr. Modi when they could have done so earlier to prevent him from becoming the Chief Minister for the third time?

Mr. Malik further writes:

Yet, it is not as if those 191 cases — or 400 cases (of fake encounters), depending on which number one fancies — are the subject of public activism or that politicians and police officers from several states are being targeted. The indignation is decidedly selective and limited to one or two cases in Gujarat. Logic is being stretched to suggest the chief minister and home minister fabricated an Intelligence Bureau report, masterminded the kidnapping of four innocent citizens, got them killed and pretended it was all part of defeating an assassination plot.

Again, the insinuation is clear: That the outrage over the Ishrat Jehan fake encounter case isn’t because an innocent 19 year old girl was kidnapped, kept in illegal confinement and then murdered by those who are sworn to protect and uphold the law but because it gives the Congress a an opportunity to hurl accusations at Mr. Narendra Modi.

Leaving aside this ridiculous assumption that all who feel revolted by the idea of an innocent 19 year old girl belonging to a certain community being brutally killed to enhance someone’s political capital are enamoured by the Congress (hence opposed to Mr. Modi), can Mr. Malik explain where else did these fake encounters repeatedly involved elimination of alleged terrorists, belonging to a particular community, attempting to assassinate an all powerful Chief Minister?

Fake encounters and extrajudicial killings have become all too common in insurgency-affected Jammu & Kashmir, the North East or the Maoist affected districts of India. Can Mr. Malik explain as to which insurgency was raging in Gujarat for such repeated fake encounters to occur, not that even in the areas I mentioned it is acceptable by any standards?

I also hope Mr. Malik can explain to us as to why did LeT terrorists suddenly stopped coming after Mr. Modi altogether, once the Central Government changed hands from NDA to UPA and the stink of fake encounters started arising.

I can explain to Mr. Malik in blunt words why these particular fake encounters in Gujarat raises the heckles of many like me. It is because in no other instance, such fake encounters were cynically made an instrument to demonize a certain community and consolidate the political capital of hate which Mr. Modi has accumulated to now stake the claim to be our next Prime Minister. That may be acceptable to you Mr. Malik. It isn’t acceptable to me.

And, isn’t it the appropriate Court that will decide whether Mr. Modi or his deputy Amit Shah was party to the conspiracy? Why is the hurry to acquit them even before the Courts have had an opportunity to look at the evidence?

Mr. Malik is visibly pained that,

An input of a Lashkar-e-Tayyaba assassination squad, comprising Ishrat Jehan and her accomplices, is being sought to be rubbished as made-up. An entire mythology of how the officer in question was close to Mr Modi across several years and several postings in several locations is being planted on whichever media practitioner is willing to play unquestioning stenographer. An officer on the verge of retirement is finding his entire career and reputation tarnished and mocked, without giving him an opportunity to answer.

In his disquiet, Mr. Malik perhaps forgets that the CBI is placing the charges and the evidence before an appropriate court and not exactly summarily sentencing the senior ‘intelligence officer’. Also, isn’t Mr. Malik guilty of the playing the same unquestioning stenographer in accepting at face value the alleged ‘input of a Lashkar-e-Tayyaba assassination squad, comprising Ishrat Jehan and her accomplices’ in spite of no Courts having pronounced Ishrat to be a LeT militant?

Why is Mr. Malik mischievously silent on the fact that during the last hearing, the court refused to accept a CD and put it on record, which allegedly contained clinching evidence that the persons who were killed were terrorists, and directed them to submit it to CBI instead?

To Mr. Malik, the career and reputation of an intelligence officer accused of conspiracy of killing in cold blood an innocent young girl is somehow more important than the quest for truth and justice.

While mocking others of being ‘unquestioning stenographers’, Mr. Malik doesn’t restraint himself from distorting the truth, however. He writes:

The issue goes beyond merely a battle between the CBI and the IB or even the prospects of individual officers. The manner in which a major assassination attempt against a top political leader is sought to be mocked and dismissed — despite the LeT embracing Ishrat Jehan and her accomplices as its “martyrs” in the days following their killing — speaks of an unconscionable irresponsibility.

To Mr. Malik, somehow, the dubious claim of LeT is more reliable (a claim it later retracted) than the fact that the SIT did not find even a shred of evidence of Ishrat Jehan being involved with LeT even remotely. The NIA, similarly, is on record in its submission to the Gujarat High Court that David Hadley did not provided it with any evidence of Ishrat being a LeT terrorist.

What is also of no concern to Mr. Malik is that the disturbing consequences the perception of an innocent young Muslim girl being labeled a terrorist and then brutally murdered by the security apparatus, and then denial of justice, could have in further alienating a community and sowing seeds of seething resentment.

Mr. Malik is confident that, ‘this conflation of bazaar gossip with a rigorous legal process will continue till the 2014 elections, unless the CBI and its current leadership suddenly — and perhaps equally expediently — discover there is no case at all.

Shall we let the appropriate court separate the hard evidence from the alleged bazaar gossip and decide whether a case exists or not, Mr. Malik?

Ignoring credible evidence as bazaar gossip to suit one’s argument can be equally dangerous logic.

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