The Bharatiya Janata Party has decided to tread cautiously in defending the Gujarat government against Monday’s disclosure by Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate S.P. Tamang that the June 2004 “encounter” in which teenager Ishrat Jehan and three others were gunned down was fake.

While Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari described the Narendra Modi regime as a “maneater government” and demanded that all encounter deaths in the State between 2001 and 2009 be looked at afresh, BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu objected to Mr. Modi’s name being dragged in, pointing out that whatever happened in Delhi could not be blamed on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad was silent on the magisterial inquiry report, but he pointed out that it was not proper for a lower court to come out with its report when the Gujarat High Court was seized of the matter and had ordered a special investigation team to look into complaints on the basis of petitions filed by the relatives of those killed.

Mr. Prasad described the “encounter” deaths as “correct, legal, and required encounters.” But he did not explain when journalists asked him what he meant by “required encounters;” instead he read out from the Union Home Ministry’s affidavit, filed in the High Court on August 6, 2009, giving details of intelligence on some of those who were killed and the suspicion that they could be involved with the Pakistan-based terror group, Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Rebutting this argument, the Congress said sharing of intelligence or suspicion could not be stretched to mean that the Centre asked the Gujarat government to kill the suspects without caring about the law.

Mr. Prasad was repeatedly asked whether information of suspicion against anyone justified “fake encounters,” but he parried those questions.

He made the following points: One, the matter is under investigation by the High Court; two, the Centre had intelligence information that some Lashkar modules could be planning attacks against Central and State leaders; three, the Lashkar had activated its Indian modules; and four, Ishrat Jehan and Javed Sheikh, another victim, were part of Lashkar modules.

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