The Centre as well as their political allies making attempts to extrapolate the testimony of terrorist-turned-approver David Coleman Headley in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, to justify an encounter that the CBI found to be fake raises skepticisms.
Headley’s deposition before the court that Ishrat Jahan, the 19-year old student from Mumbai who was killed in an encounter with the Gujarat police in 2004, was a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative is being widely accentuated. Ishrat was shot dead along with three men by the police who claimed that the group were terrorists involved in a plot to kill Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister of the state. The debate on whether the encounter was fake still exists. Headley who is currently in a US jail made his sensational disclosure before the Special Court Judge in Mumbai via video conferencing on Thursday. He revealed having learnt about a ‘botched up operation in India’ from the conversation between Lashkar commander and 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Zaki Ur Rehman Lakhvi and military chief Muzammil Bhat in which a LeT woman operative was involved. The Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam while questioning him listed three choices of female members of Lashkar. Headley picked Ishrat’s name out of the three options. Few have reached their conclusions based on these imprecise revelations from Headley. The tendency behind this deduction is not due to want for justice but mere politics. Legal experts have clarified that Headley’s revelations had no legal viability. Ishrat Jahan's lawyer Vrinda Grover points out the skepticisms in Headley’s statements. The deposition linking Ishrat to LeT is a ploy to protect the powerful people in the BJP. An inquiry by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) entrusted by the Gujarat High Court in 2011 had found the encounter that killed Ishrat and three men, to be a fake. It was accepted by the CBI as well. The CBI submitted the charge sheet that included many top officials. This is the backdrop of why Headley was being questioned about the Mumbai terror attacks via video links.
Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam while posing questions was leading Headley towards the ‘multiple choices’. The question whether he knew of any female LeT operative was answered with a no. Headley said that he learnt from Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi and Muzammil Bhat about a female member of LeT killed in police encounter. Nikam then offered the three options. Nikam who was recently awarded a Padma Shri was in the news a year ago for lying about the Mumbai terror attack accused Ajmal Kasab who was hanged to death. Nikam had said that Kasab demanded mutton biryani while in jail. But the prosecutor admitted last year that he ‘concocted’ the news to break the ‘emotional wave’ which was taking shape in favour of Kasab. He thus came across as someone who has the right knowledge about the significance of propagating lies in such cases and ability to take advantage of such opportunities. Legal experts point out that Headley’s disclosure is purely based on hearsay and that it didn’t have any evidentiary value. The law doesn’t accept such evidences. Attempts are being made by the investigation team employed by the Gujarat High Court as well as the CBI to shield the criminals after terming it as a fake encounter. After the BJP came to power last year, more criminals are being protected in such cases. The accused in the CBI charge sheet are currently on bail. D G Vanzara, the former DIG who led the encounter, Tarun Barot and J G Parmar who were in the list have retired. P P Pandey was given a promotion by Gujarat government last year. G L Singhal and N K Amin, continue in their top posts. With the skeptical revelations of a former terrorist currently in jail given more credibility and legal validity than the investigation team, the judiciary is inviting ridicule.