How did 19-year-old Ishrat Jahan Shamim Raza become a suicide bomber in the ranks of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)?
Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley's revelation in court today reiterates the police claim that the girl from Mumbra in Thane district of Maharashtra was a LeT operative and that she and three men were in Ahmedabad in June 2004 to assassinate the then chief minister Narendra Modi.
The student of Guru Nanak Khalsa college in Mumbai was gunned down in an ‘encounter’ along with Javed Gulam Sheikh (also known as Pranesh Pillai), Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on 15 June 2004.
The killing of the teenager is one of the most controversial slayings in the history of anti-terror operations in India.
Although there have been several instances of Ishrat’s terror links being acknowledged, including by the Indian police and Lashkar front organizations themselves, her family has always denied them.
To them she was just a normal teenage college girl who got into the wrong company.
There are conflicting versions about her background. Some accounts say her father Mohammad Shamim Raza, whom she lost two years prior to her own death, was the proprietor of a Mumbai-based construction company called Asian Constructions. Her mother Shamima worked for some time at a medicine packaging company in Vashi.
Other accounts say her lower-middle-class family migrated from Bihar and settled in the Muslim-dominated suburb of Mumbra. These accounts say Ishrat, the second of seven sisters – she has a brother too – worked hard, going to college for a B Sc degree, teaching tuitions and doing embroidery work to support her family.
Four days before her death in the ‘encounter’ she left home without telling her mother.
She had met up with a man from Kerala, Javed Shaikh, who originally was named Pranesh Pillai but converted to Islam and began moving around in terror circles. Ishrat Jahan’s family knew about her association with Shaikh, and her mother didn’t approve of it.
Sometime after meeting up with Shaikh, she started working for him as a secretary, ostensibly doing his accounts. She travelled with him to places like Nashik, Bangalore and Lucknow.
On 11 June, 2004, Ishrat left home without word to her family. She called up her mother that very day, from a bus stop in Nashik, to tell her where she was. She said she was waiting for Javed to turn up. In a second call to her mother that day, she said Javed had indeed come, but accompanied by some ‘strange’ men.
A third call the next day reported only that she was with Javed.
Two days later, news broke that the Crime Branch of the Ahmedabad police had gunned down Ishrat along with three men, Javed Shaikh, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar, on the outskirts of the city.
The police said they had chased down the foursome in a blue Indica and gunned them down when they were fired upon.