New Delhi, Feb 26: When Ishrat Jahan was killed in an encounter, there was a raging debate on whether the operation was genuine or not. There were allegations hurled at the Intelligence Bureau and also the Gujarat police.
In this encounter which took place in Gujarat on June 15 2004 along with Ishrat there were three others too who were shot dead- Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar.
While on one hand many claimed that the encounter was fake, there was also another line of debate and that was regarding the innocence of Ishrat Jahan. However there was not a murmur on the antecedents of the other three.
What was most surprising was that all those who questioned the encounter were unable to tell what exactly was Ishrat doing with the other three? Instead there were many allegations made against the operation and the officers involved in it. Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar even went to call her, "Bihar ki beti." (daughter of Bihar)
The mystery solved:
The four had entered Gujarat with an intention of assassinating Narendra Modi. All four were operatives of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Even a magazine which is the mouth piece of the Lashkar-e-Taiba had hailed the martyrdom of Ishrat and the rest. So back to the question, what was Ishrat doing with the other three?
She was a cover for the operation according to former Home Secretary G K Pillai. It appears that the other three roped her in so that there would be very little doubt on their operation. She was part of the group and travelling as a wife and this acted as the cover.
The entire operation was was carried out by the intelligence. Right from 2003 onwards there were several intelligence inputs suggesting that there could be an assassination bid on Narendra Modi by the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The Lashkar-e-Taiba wanted to capitalise on the situation and assassinating Modi would have meant that they increase their support base in India. These operatives were up to something and after tracking it was learnt that they were planning a hit on Modi who was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Rajinder Kumar who was the Special Director of the Intelligence Bureau was part of the team which tracked down this operation. He informs that there was no doubt in their mind that these persons were terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. The IB does not gain anything by undertaking a fake operation.
The Headley revelation
David Headley had first told the FBI about Ishrat Jahan. He had said that he did not know her personally and about the operation, but learnt that she was a fidayeen part of the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The NIA during its questioning of Headley in 2010 also was told the same thing. However this was never probed and the NIA had at that time stated that it was not part of their brief.
Recently during a deposition by Headley before a court in Mumbai, he was specifically asked by the prosecution about Ishrat Jahan. Headley once again reiterated what he had told the FBI and the NIA. Now with the revelations by Headley and also the former home secretary, the issue ought to be put to rest.
Several officials who were tormented by the earlier government to term the encounter as fake feel that the names of those politicians who tried to give the encounter a different colour need to be named.