Seizing on the somewhat contrived portion of the deposition this week of David Headley, the Pakistani-American double agent and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) adherent whose role in the Mumbai 26/11 attacks was invaluable, Union home minister and BJP leader Rajnath Singh has asked top Congress leaders to “apologise” for being critical of Narendra Modi back in 2004, when he was Gujarat chief minister, for allowing the “fake encounter” near Ahmedabad that killed Ishrat Jahan.
He is merely reiterating the view of the Gujarat police back then that the teenager college girl from Mumbra near Mumbai was a LeT operative. Headley has supported this view in the course of indirect questioning by Maharashtra public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam who was given the Padma Shri award this year.
When asked, the former double agent — who claims to be a LeT man still — first said he didn’t know if LeT had female suicide bombers. When given a choice of three names to choose from as possible female suicide bombers, he selected Ishrat Jahan, whose name he said he had heard from LeT bosses in the course of his anti-India terrorist training with them.
All this appears highly contrived and without evidentiary value. In any case, extremist and terrorist outfits worldwide are known to take credit for events involving violence whose origins are hard to establish, and what better propaganda value than the case of an Indian teenager if she can be portrayed as even a botched LeT suicide bomber?
That’s not the point, however. Even if Ishrat Jahan was an LeT agent (although Headley’s indirect statement does not have corroborative value as he had himself “heard” it somewhere), the judicial process supervised by the Gujarat high court deemed the killing of the girl and her three companions a “fake encounter” by the Gujarat police. It was on the strength of this that human rights bodies and Opposition parties took up the issue.
The matter is still in court in Gujarat, and the Union home minister and his supporters are free to seek to persuade it on the basis of Headley’s statement that Ishrat Jahan fronted for the LeT. But that does not disprove the idea of “fake encounter”.
Even if Ishrat Jahan was an LeT agent, and by some judicial trickery it is thought okay to eliminate such people in fake encounters (that seems to be the nub of Mr Singh’s argument), what about the other Indian with her, Javed Sheikh, who was also killed in the same “fake encounter”?
Surprisingly, while Headley’s deposition has been sought by India in the Mumbai attacks case, the public prosecutor has seen it fit to go back to an earlier matter which has no bearing on 26/11. And then to play partisan politics with it reflects poorly on those doing it....