Published On : Wed, Apr 20th, 2016

Ishrat Jahan encounter case: Congress on defensive as BJP ups ante

Controversy flared afresh after ‘Times Now’ revealed that P. Chidambaram signed original affidavit describing Ishrat Jahan as being part of a Lashkar module

New Delhi: With less than a week to go before the start of the second half of the budget session of Parliament, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has upped the ante on the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, putting the Congress party on the defensive.

BJP has alleged that the Congress party compromised national security for political purposes.

Senior leaders of the party have asked Congress leader and former home minister P. Chidambaram to name the people, who asked him to change the affidavit in which references to Ishrat Jahan being a member of terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and posing a threat to the life of then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi were made.

The controversy flared afresh after news channel Times Now revealed that Chidambaram had signed the original affidavit describing Ishrat Jahan as being part of a Lashkar module.

The political developments surrounding the alleged fake encounter of Ishrat Jahan have the potential to affect the nascent truce between the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government and the Congress, visible in the first half of the budget session. It helped the crucial real estate bill make it through Parliament.

BJP leaders have alleged that Congress president Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram had tried to suppress information that Ishrat Jahan was a terrorist and a threat to Modi.

“P. Chidambram let the nation know. Who is she who wrote the conspiracy? Because we all know that in the Congress party diktats come from a singular address. The remote control lies with her. Why did you suppress the information? Because you could not tolerate these two persons (Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah). You could not tolerate him (Modi) as you feared him becoming the Prime Minister. You tolerated terrorists. P. Chidambaram’s conspiracy has been blown off. The conspiracy to eliminate important leaders from India. Not only did they keep quiet but they conspired to stand with terrorists,” said BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra.

Earlier, former home secretary G.K. Pillai had said in an interview to Times Now on 25 Februray that the United Progressive Alliance government had got a reference to the LeT deleted from an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court.

“One affidavit said these people (Ishrat Jahan and others) were LeT operatives and in the other affidavit that aspect was deleted. I really won’t know why it was deleted. It was done at a political level,” Pillai told Times Now.

Ishrat Jahan, a resident of Mumbra near Mumbai, was shot dead along with three men on 15 June 2004 by the Gujarat police in an encounter.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is investigating allegations that the killing was staged.

The affidavits were filed by the CBI in 2009. The focus of the affidavits was the fake encounter and not whether Ishrat Jahan was an LeT member.

A media report on Monday quoted Chidambaram as saying: “My public statements on why the second affidavit was filed after due and full consultation with the home secretary and the attorney general are self-explanatory. I have nothing to add.”

He insisted that the conclusion drawn from the first affidavit which named Ishrat Jahan as a terrorist and the second affidavit which said that she wasn’t one “are not the correct conclusions to be drawn from the two affidavits”.

Statements made by Pillai, former undersecretary in the home ministry R.V.S. Mani and former joint director Rajendra Kumar on the deposition by LeT operative David Headley suggested that the first affidavit was filed on the basis of inputs from Maharashtra and Gujarat police besides the Intelligence Bureau to the effect that the 19-year-old girl and her companions were terrorists but these were ignored in the second affidavit.

The second affidavit, which officials claimed was drafted by Chidambaram, said there was no conclusive evidence to prove that Jahan was a terrorist.

Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said: “Modi government is using a web of selective news leaks, deceptive statements of its ministers and non-grant of sanction for prosecution of the accused to ensure mistrial and reinvestigation through pliable investigating agencies.”

Analysts say that the recent revelations in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case are an instrument in the hands of the NDA to counter the Congress.

“Whatever issues opposition raises, the government has to counter it. This issue is another instrument in the hands of the government to counter Congress. This issue will be raised strongly. During the first part of the budget session, the government came under attack from the opposition on the issue surrounding Jawaharlal Nehru University and the suicide of Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad Central University. Now, this issue about Ishrat Jahan will give the government an advantage over the Congress,” said Bidyut Chakrabarty, a Delhi-based political analyst and political science professor at Delhi University.