Ishrat Jehan, who was killed in a “fake encounter” of 2004 in Gujarat, had four sisters and two brothers. “The careers of my children are finished. They all wanted to study. They have no one to support their education. Today, my children can move ahead,” said Shamima, mother of Ishrat Jehan, in a tearful address to the media. Ms. Shamima remembered all that the family lost in its fight for justice.
Highlighting the support from non-Muslims, Abdul Rauf Lala, a social activist closely associated with the case, said there could not be a bigger victory for secularism. “This case should not be seen from a religious perspective but from a human perspective. It was a mother’s fight for justice.”
At a time when none wanted to be associated with them, some leaders, namely Jitendra Avhad of the Nationalist Congress Party, and advocates Vrinda Grover, Mukul Sinha and Shilpa Shah took up their cause. The family hailed them and the media as well for keeping up the pressure.
For five years, the family endured disgrace, despair and legal demands. “We have spent five years crying. Only I know the agony we have been through,” said Ms. Shamima.
“These five years were the worst period of our lives. It was difficult for us to prove. We were disheartened,” said Ishrat’s younger sister Musarrat.
The probe report of the magisterial inquiry had brought much relief. Too overwhelmed for words, Ms. Musarrat read from a piece of paper: “We had full faith we would win this fight. This was a conspiracy. We have been saying from day one that our sister was innocent. She loved this country as much as you do. No power can give her back to us. But we are happy that we got justice. Those who doubted us, saw us with suspicion, have lowered their heads.”
Not ruling out the connivance of Maharashtra police force in the “fake encounter,” Mr. Lala said they had received some reports on the involvement of an “encounter specialist.” Ishrat went out of the house on June 11, 2004, and that was the last anyone saw of her. On June 16, the family learnt of her death.
“When we went to collect her body, [the then Gujarat police DCP] D.G. Vanzara and [ACP Narendra] Amin behaved deplorably and forced Ishrat’s mother to confess falsely. We were detained for eight hours,” said Mr. Lala. Tellingly, the court summons for August 21 arrived by post this Monday, he said.
Mr. Lala said the post-mortem report indicated the day of Ishrat’s death as June 14, while the police had stated the encounter date as June 16.
Now all that the family wishes for is severe punishment for those who carried out the heinous act. “They should be hanged so that no one’s sister dies in such a brutal manner,” said Ms. Musarrat. Asked if they wanted action against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, she said they were not specifically asking for Mr. Modi to be indicted, but for those behind the killing.
Ishrat was just 19 when she was “kidnapped,” shot “in cold blood” and termed a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative. She was a second year B.Sc. student aspiring to become a teacher. She was also teaching at a well-known coaching centre. A day before she was “kidnapped” she had applied for an educational scholarship.
“She was very intelligent and a good teacher. All of us had our dreams back then, but we don’t anymore. Now hope has been lit, but time cannot come back. The time to study and build a career has gone,” rued Ms. Musarrat, who works as a receptionist.
Sheikh Anwar, Ishrat’s younger brother who is a computer engineer, said, “When we heard the news of her death, we did not believe it. My sister was very naïve. She was very nice. I was too small, but I knew my sister could never have done this. She was scared of even a cockroach,” he recalled.
The government has rejected the report of the sub-divisional magistrate.