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Interview: Chidambaram should have guts to admit revising Ishrat affadavit and not hide- G K Pillai

By Vicky

The ghost of Afzal Guru has returned and it has become a major issue. The man convicted by the Supreme Court after being held guilty in the Parliament attack case was hanged at the Tihar jail and strangely enough a section of the people have decided to celebrate his martyrdom.

What is even more surprising is a remark by the former Home Minister of India, P Chidambaram who says that there are doubts over Afzal Guru's role in the Parliament attack. He cannot say that he took a particular view when he was in government as he could not question the court and take another after he stepped down as Minister says former Home Secretary of India, G K Pillai. In this interview with OneIndia, Pillai bares all the facts and why he decided to come out in the open and speak about the Ishrat Jahan case.

Ishrat Jahan

P Chidambaram says that there are doubts over the Afzal Guru case. He also says that while in government he could not have questioned the court, but now he is entitled for an independent opinion. What are your thoughts on this sir?

I do not agree with this view at all. He had Afzal Guru's mercy petition with him. If he felt that there was injustice then he could have recommended a life imprisonment. Knowing him, he is not the one to take a decision in haste. He is a well read man, an eminent lawyer and would have read every sentence in the judgment. How can he have one view as a home minister and another as an individual? If he had taken a view then, he should stick to the same view now.

You have stated that the home minister himself oversaw and dictated an affidavit in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case. While the first affidavit of August 2009 states that the encounter was based on concrete intelligence inputs, the one in September 2009 runs contrary and says that those killed were not Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorists.

Yes, I have stated that. He oversaw the changes and did not involve any senior person in the Home Ministry. I do not know why the narrative was changed. However none of us were called in for that discussion when the affidavit was being re-done.

What has made you come out and speak about this after so long?

See, what irked me was that he was trying to say that all of us were in the picture at that time. That is not correct. He is trying to say that the Home Secretary and the Intelligence Bureau was in the picture. I took an objection to this. He himself dictated the affidavit in the office.

Does a home minister have a right to take a decision of this nature?

Yes, he does have the right. He is the political boss of the home ministry and can take a decision. However he should also have the guts to admit that it was his decision and not try and hide.

I decided to speak out because Chidambaram had said that this affidavit had the concurrence of the Home Secretary and the Intelligence Bureau. This is just not right. He himself had called for the file and revised the affidavit. He is the political boss and can do that. Once he has made his view clear then that is his prerogative. But then he should also take political responsibility for it. He should not try and hide.

Was it a fake encounter?

As I keep saying that one needs to distinguish between an Intelligence Bureau operation and a fake encounter. The operation by the Intelligence Bureau was a successful one. They managed to track down these Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorists. They were killed in the encounter so that was good. However whether the encounter was a genuine one or not is a whole other matter and is being decided by the court.

Many have termed Ishrat as an innocent girl. What is your view on this sir?

There is no denying that this was a Lashkar-e-Tayiba module. Ishrat Jahan could have been a cover. No unmarried girl would check in with someone in a hotel room. I am sure she knew that there was something wrong. You cannot say that she did not know what was happening. Many have defended her by stating that she was lured in by the rest on the pretext that she was being hired for their perfume business. Fair enough. But then if I go out with a colleague on work, would I check into a hotel room as Mr and Mrs. In this case she did just that. Does it not sound strange to you?

Lastly sir, please take us through why the National Investigation Agency did not probe the Ishrat angle when David Headley had called her a Lashkar-e-Tayiba fidayeen.

There are a lot of questions that have been raised on this issue. I am not sure why they decided not to probe it. When the National Investigation Agency gave me the draft report of Headley interrogation, there was no mention of Ishrat Jahan in it. The NIA said that it was there in the original, but was later deleted. I do not know why it was done. However I feel that it needs investigation.

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