In yet another setback to the Narendra Modi government, the Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate, S.P. Tamang, has ruled that the June 2004 killing of Ishrat Jahan and three others was also a case of "fake encounter."
In his 243-page, hand-written report, Mr. Tamang has named the then "encounter specialist" of the Gujarat police, D.G. Vanzara, among others, accused in the "cold-blooded murder" of the teenaged girl and the three others.
Mr. Vanzara and several other policemen are already in jail in connection with the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, which the government confessed before the Supreme Court was a case of "fake encounter."
The probe report comes even as a special three-member team of top police officers of the State appointed by the Gujarat High Court for a fresh investigation into the Ishrat Jahan encounter is seized of the matter.
Claiming that Ishrat and the three others were killed by the police officers for their personal interest - to get promotions and appreciation from the Chief Minister - Mr. Tamang appended a list of top police officers, running to about two pages, whom he held responsible for the fake encounter. Besides Mr. Vanzara and his then deputy in the Crime Branch police, N. K. Amin, who along with Mr. Vanzara was arrested in the Sohrabuddin case, the list includes the then Ahmedabad Police Commissioner, K.R. Kaushik, the then chief of the Crime Branch, P.P. Pandey, and another alleged encounter specialist Tarun Barot.
Mr. Tamang's report said the Crime Branch police "kidnapped" Ishrat and the others from Mumbai on June 12 and brought them to Ahmedabad. The four were killed on the night of June 14 in police custody, but the police claimed that an "encounter" took place the next morning on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. That rigor mortis set in between 11 p.m. and midnight the previous night clearly pointed to the fact that the police pumped bullets into Ishrat's lifeless body to substantiate the encounter theory.
The report said explosives, rifles and other weapons allegedly found in the car, in which the four victims were "travelling to Ahmedabad from Mumbai," and some of the weapons found on their person were all "planted" by the police.
Mr. Tamang said there was no evidence to link Ishrat Jahan and another victim, Javed Sheikh, with the Pakistan-based terror group, Lashkar-e-Taiba. Neither was there anything to establish that they had "come" to Gujarat to kill Mr. Modi.
The police then claimed that Ishrat, a resident of Mumbra near Mumbai; Javed Sheikh, son of Gopinath Pillai of Kerala; and Pakistani citizens Amzad Ali Rana and Jishan Jauhar were connected with the LeT and were coming to Gujarat to assassinate Mr. Modi to avenge the 2002 communal riots.