Karela Fry

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The Gujarat Murders

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The family of Gujarat police victim Ishrat Jahan

Tehelka exhumes another buried story about the Gujarat police, following the cases of Sohrabuddin Shaikh and Ishrat Jahan:

According to the Gujarat Police, Ishrat Jahan, 19, and three others had been shot dead on 15 June 2004 in an encounter. However, using forensic and other material evidence, both [Metropolitan Magistrate S. P. Tamang] and the [Special Investigation Team] SIT have found that they had been shot in cold blood at an earlier date. Twenty-one police officers are implicated in the case. Of these, suspended DIG DG Vanzara and ACP NK Amin are also the prime accused in the notorious Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case and the murder of his wife Kauser Bi. Both officers are currently in jail for this.

Apart from nailing the complicity of these cops, however, in a significant gesture, the court has suggested the Ishrat case now be handed over to another investigating agency — either the CBI or the NIA (National Investigation Agency). “The probe agency would need to find out who played the key role in the encounter, what was the motive, and what was the actual time of the death of the four people,” the court said.

This inquiry into “motive” and “key roles” is likely to prove very damaging for Gujarat’s political leadership. Defenders of the Modi government often argue that encounters — even fake encounters — are not exclusive to Gujarat and that the numbers are much higher in other states. This is probably true. However, what makes the Gujarat fake encounters particularly disturbing is the cynical and false propaganda that was mounted around them. All those killed in these fake encounters were publicly billed as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorists out to kill Chief Minister Modi.

Now, in another blow for the Gujarat government, TEHELKA has accessed a damaging paper trail about another encounter: Sadiq Jamal. Killed in January 2003.

Startlingly, this trail suggests that both intelligence inputs and evidence were being cynically tailored to frame the victim and fit a larger negative discourse about Muslims. In a crucial detail, it is important to remember that the police teams involved in the Sohrabbudin, Ishrat Jahan and Sadiq Jamal encounters were all led by Vanzara, who was one of the most trusted officers of Shah and Modi.

The article is long and detailed. Interestingly, it points out again the deep connections between murderers within the Gujarat and Mumbai police forces.

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