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India: Ishrat Jahan case - A shootout and many smoking guns

by Dilip, 17 March 2013

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With the CBI making its first arrests in the Ishrat Jahan case, Ujjwala Nayudu and Rahul Tripathi look at past investigations, all of which have punctured holes in the Gujarat Police’s encounter theory
When were Ishrat Jahan and three others killed? Was it in a police encounter on June 15, 2004, as the Gujarat Police’s records show, or a day earlier, on the evening of June 14, as subsequent investigations by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and others show, and which now point to an encounter that may have been staged? Nine years after the alleged encounter, heads have begun to roll in the Gujarat Police with the CBI making arrests, including that of IPS officer Girish Singhal, late last month.
On June 15, 2004, the Gujarat Police announced that it had "eliminated the first woman fidayeen". Ishrat, the most visible face of the tragedy, was barely 19 when she was shot dead. Police said they had found an identity card on her that identified her as Ishrat Jahan Raza, a science student of Guru Nanak Khalsa College in Mumbai.
According to the Gujarat Police, Ishrat and her "accomplices", Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai and alleged Pakistanis Amjad Ali Rana and Jishan Johar, were Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives out to assassinate Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Police killed Ishrat and the others in the ’encounter’ and claimed to have foiled the assassination bid. Their bodies, riddled with AK-56 bullets, lay on the road beside a blue Indica car on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. The police claimed to have acted on an intelligence input that Javed was coming with two fidayeens in a blue Indica—MH02 J A 4786—to kill Modi.
After the encounter, Pandey and Vanzara proudly claimed to have busted a high-profile, "genuine" terror plot. "Genuine", because questions were being raised on two earlier encounters—that of Samir Khan Pathan (2002) and Sadiq Jamal Mehtar (2003).
The CBI took over the case in 2011 and on February 21 this year arrested IPS officer Girish Singhal, who was an assistant commissioner of police in the Crime Branch in 2004 and had led the operation under Vanzara’s supervision. Four more arrests followed—that of DSP Tarun Barot, who was then a police inspector with the Crime Branch (he is in jail in the Sadiq Jamal encounter case); retired DSP J G Parmar; inspector Bharat Patel; and Barot’s former security commando Anaju Chaudhary.
The CBI probe relied on analysis of the call detail records of the policemen, forensic analysis of hard-disks seized from Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), Ahmedabad, and on SIT’s reconstruction of the crime scene by a team from AIIMS and the CBI’s Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) in Delhi. The CBI also tracked eyewitnesses who claimed that Ishrat and three others were kept inside a farmhouse on the outskirts of Ahmedabad days before they were shown to be killed in the encounter. Another witness from a toll plaza near Vasad (Anand) told the CBI that he had seen a Gujarat Police team taking Javed and Ishrat into custody from an unidentified car.
The post-mortem report analysed by experts at AIIMS concluded that semi-digested food was found in the victims’ stomachs, indicating that the four had been killed seven or eight hours earlier than what the Gujarat Police claimed (police had claimed to have killed them at 3.40 am). During the reconstruction of the encounter, the CBI studied the pattern of firing. According to the SIT, some of the wounds on the bodies could not have been possible if there was an exchange of fire.
According to the police theory, Amin’s Gypsy had stopped behind Ishrat’s car. . Read more

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