Ishrat Story So Far: Did This Teenager Try to Kill Narendra Modi?

The killling of a college student in the company of hard-edged terrorists 12 years ago comes back to dominate the political agenda

Published: 11th February 2016 11:18 PM  |   Last Updated: 11th February 2016 11:49 PM   |  A+A-

First, a little back background. On June 15 2004, the Ahmedabad police killed Ishrat Jahan and three men with her in what they said was an encounter. The four had come to Ahmedabad to try to kill the then chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, they said.

The encounter became controversial. Rights activists said it was a cold blooded killing of an innocent girl.

Who was Ishrat Jahan?

Ishrat Jahan was a 19-year-old college student of Guru Nanak Khalsa College in Mumbai. When she was gunned down, she was three men, Javed Gulam Sheikh (also known as Pranesh Pillai), Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar, all with links to terror cells.

Police said she was a part of the conspiracy to kill Modi. Her family has always denied this. To them she was just a normal teenage college girl who got into the wrong company.

Also Read: Ishrat Jahan: How Did a Teenager End Up Like That? 

The 12-year-old encounter killing was brought back into the news today and triggered a day of fast developments.

A rundown of the main points of today’s story.

1. David Headley confirms Ishrat was a LeT operative

Deposing to a Mumbai court from the US, Pakistani-American terrorist Headley said Ishrat Jahan was recruited as a suicide bomber by LeT. Under questioning by special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, he recalled a "botched up operation" that was mentioned to him by LeT commander Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi.

In that operation, a female member of LeT was killed by India’s security forces. Asked who that female member was, Headley fumbled and was prompted by Nikam with three names. Asked if it was Ishrat Jahan, Headley said yes.

Also Read: Headley Names 'Ishrat Jahan' LeT Suicide Bomber 

2. Ishrat family lawyer debunks multiple-choice claim

Ishrat Jahan’s family lawyer Vrinda Grover said Headley’s ‘disclosure’ under prompting by the prosecutor can hardly be evidence to prove that the teenager was a terrorist. “I don’t know why suddenly these questions were put. They can have a political relevance, but they can have no relevance to 26/11…The public prosecutor in a procedure which is wrong and illegal in law gives a multiple choice question to a witness and says ‘now I will give you three names you select one name which will be that female LeT person’,” said Grover.

“He gives this three multiple choices and he says ‘Noor Begum, Ishrat Jahan and Mumtaz’. He (Headley) selects Ishrat Jahan. This is double hearsay,” she added.

3. Prosecutor denies asking leading question

Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam lawyer Vrinda Grover’s criticism that David Headley's version has no evidential value because he was given a ‘multiple choice question’ by a ‘Padma Shri’ lawyer.

“You might have noted that David Headley clearly said that there was a women wing, a finance wing as well as the overall militant operation wing. Then I did ask who was in charge of the women wing. So, there was no question at all of leading David Headley to say a particular answer,” Nikam told the media.

Read: Ujjwal Nikam, Ishrat's Lawyer Lock Horns Over Headley's Claim 

4. Government welcomes Headley ‘disclosure

The Union Government welcomed Headley's revelations on Ishrat Jahan. "Whatever revelations have come, all are good for the Government of India, security agencies and prosecution," Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said.

“His (Headley) revelations are giving right direction to the investigating agencies and prosecution. It is good for all of us," he said.

Read: Government Welcomes Headley's Revelations 

5. Home minister demands apology from opposition parties

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh sought an apology from the opposition political parties for  leveling false allegations that the Ishrat Jahan slaying was a fake encounter. 

“You must have heard what David Headley has just said in court, that Ishrat Jahan was a suicide bomber. Ishrat Jahan regarding whom many accusations were levelled against our leader, tell me, will the accusing political parties now apologise to the nation for trying to fool the people?” asked Rajnath Singh.

Read: Rajnath Demands Opposition's Apology Over Headley's Revelation on Ishrat Jahan 

6. BJP takes potshots at Nitish Kumar

Reacting to Headley’s statement that Ishrat Jahan was a Lashkar suicide bomber, the BJP took indirect potshots at Nitish Kumar for referring to Ishrat Jahan as 'Bihar's daughter'.

“Those who were doing politics on her name and calling her a martyr have got a startling revelation today. After the encounter many leaders used to call her innocent and some were calling her Bihar’s daughter. Today after Headley’s statement those minister who had said it should take back their statements,” BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain said.

Read: BJP Demands Apology for 'Campaign' Against Modi 

7. MHA officials admit disclosure has little value

In the Home Ministry, however, joy over Headley's disclosures on Ishrat was tempered by the fact that they carry little evidential value. That's because his statement is based on hearsay, which carries no weight even though he was making the statement under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Besides, Headley's statement has to be endorsed by someone like LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi -- which is not going to come.

Read: We Told You So: MHA Officials Crow About Headley's Disclosures on Ishrat Jahan 

8. Ishrat’s Mum Springs to Her Rescue

Shamima Kausar, the mother of Ishrat Jahan, said David Headley was only trying to save someone’s skin.

“I feel there is a conspiracy to defame my daughter in order to save someone,” she told ANI. “Who would know it better than a mother that how good her daughter was? My daughter was a very nice and kind person, and could not kill anyone,” said Kausar.

Read: Headley's Deposition a Conspiracy to Save Someone, Says Ishrat's Mother 

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