Former Gujarat Cop RB Sreekumar on Why There is Nothing Worthwhile in Headley’s Revelations About Ishrat Jahan

15 February, 2016

RB Sreekumar is the author of Gujarat: Behind the Curtain, a book on the Godhra riots of 2002, which was released in December last year, Sreekumar was the additional director general of the Gujarat police in the intelligence department, a post he took over soon after the carnage. He was the first serving officer to depose against the Gujarat government after the massacre and has criticised both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Sangh Parivar for their role in the violence. He has also condemned the United Progressive Alliance government for its failure in the delivery of justice to the victims of the riots.

US terrorist-turned-approver David Headley's recent revelations regarding Ishrat Jahan have brought her death and the role of the government  in the encounter to the forefront. In his open letter, written on 12 February, Sreekumar questions the plausibility of Headley's testimony, and further states that even if Headley's account was true, it does not take away from the extrajudicial nature of her death.

By merely re-iterating his earlier statement that Ishrat Jahan—killed by the Gujarat police, in collaboration with the Central Intelligence Bureau (IB)—was a member of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), David Coleman Headley, did not provide any fruitful and significant inputs that would facilitate further probes by Indian security agencies. Headley had claimed that Ishrat Jahan was an LeT operative earlier as well, without related information about her network and hierarchy in the LeT and specific operations carried out by her friends and her in India and other places. Of course, his statement was music to the ears of the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders and for those who organise fake encounters such as DG Vanzara, the former Deputy Inspector General of Gujarat Police. In his resignation letter in 2013, Vanzara had confirmed that the encounters were carried out in pursuance of a well-conceived strategic policy formulated by the Modi government.

Perhaps, there is a tie up between the USA and India about Headley, who must have been assured of immunity from legal action in India and USA for his culpable role as an operative of LeT.

Utilising each point of Headley’s revelations, no purposeful investigation is possible because he religiously avoided data about present whereabouts, resources, associates and future plans of the terrorists of LeT and its sister organisations. Information on terrorists who were killed in police action is not of much use. But those planers and perpetrators of fake encounters can build up further on their defense and their political friends can boast about the feasibility and effectiveness of their counter terrorist propaganda.

The justification of the killing of Ishrat Jahan, on the ground of her role as an LeT activist has sinister portends. The general public may now get the impression that fake encounters and the extrajudicial elimination of persons, deemed to be terrorists by police and their political godfathers can be legitimised as preventive actions on the lines of acts such as the detention of persons without trial under anti-terrorist laws and externment from an area. Fake encounters are pre-meditated murders, an offence under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). A magisterial inquiry by Ahmedabad Metropolitan Magistrate and the Special Investigation Team appointed by the High court of Gujarat had confirmed that Ishrat was killed in a fake encounter. The law says that even a person who has been convicted of a crime and awarded with the death sentence should not be killed by the police and security agencies as this action is not in accordance with the procedure established by law.

The Central Bureau of Investigation could not trace out the source of AK 47 rifle recovered from Ishrat. Did Ishrat have the skill and expertise to operate the weapon? Who were her supporters and what was their game plan? So far, there has been no collateral, corroborative or circumstantial evidence to support either Headley’s claims regarding Ishrat, or to reveal more information about his own crimes. The spree of fake encounters started in October 2002 by the Gujarat police strangely stopped with the arrest of DG Vanzara and other police officers in April 2007. Significantly, no terrorist has been killed or arrested since then. Have Islamic jihadists became inactive after these police officers were arrested for their culpable complicity in fake encounters?