Hook or Crook. Real or Fake

Editorial: July 2013

Hardnews Bureau Delhi 

Narendra Modi, RSS/BJP’s putative PM candidate, has threatened the CBI, which is investigating the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, in which she and three others were killed by top cops of the Gujarat police. She was allegedly on ‘Mission Assassination Modi’. He warned that the CBI was acting at the behest of the Congress and they should remember that “no government can rule forever”.  The sinister implications are clear: Don’t dare go after us, or else we will fix you when we come to power! Earlier, BJP consigliore and current Modi loyalist Arun Jaitley had also threatened the CBI. Civil society activists argue that these are nothing but ‘terror tactics’ to stall the probe and protect the guilty and ‘masterminds’ of what is clearly cold-blooded murder.

Although the outcome of the probe will be visible in the chargesheet, reports hint that some officers are running scared and going easy on key leads. This could be a clever psychological war unleashed by the BJP and others involved in the gruesome killings to demoralize the investigators; but these reports cannot be taken lightly.

The threats by Modi and Jaitley have implications for India’s secular identity and the way the government and institutions conduct themselves. Is it not the court’s responsibility to haul up Modi for contempt for tarring and threatening the agency which has been mandated to conduct the probe?

It will be a travesty if CBI officials are browbeaten by the perpetrators of these murders even when the case is being monitored by the Gujarat High Court. The case was handed over to the CBI after the High Court-mandated Special Investigation Team (SIT) concluded that Ishrat and others were killed in a fake encounter. The CBI dithered for a year before it began to pick up the guilty cops. It also found that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) was generating fake reports which rationalized the killings. These are at best minor details of a case that has mind-boggling implications.

The Gujarat High Court is rightly looking at the circumstances in which the fake encounter took place. It is not their case to look into grand conspiracies, but it is important to dwell on what this case means for truth and justice and how the institutions of the State can stand up to powerful fascist threats.

Apart from the other fake encounters in Gujarat like that of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife, Kausarbi, and Tulsiram Prajapati, the encounter opens up multiple diabolical narratives. The police version is that she was part of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) module that was trying to assassinate Modi. This incident happened a few weeks after the Congress-led UPA government won the Lok Sabha elections. The operation had been initiated on the assumption that ‘India Shining’ BJP would retain power in Delhi. During the run-up to the elections, the vicious hysteria created against ‘Islamic terror’ was meant to polarize politics and the way the majority community perceived the ‘other’. Recent investigations reveal the extent of subversion of the Indian intelligence agencies and political processes to sabotage secular institutions. It is in this context that the Ishrat fake encounter — based on bogus intelligence — has to be seen, along with the rise of ‘saffron terror’ and its bizarre links with intelligence agencies.

In some ways, the investigation into terrorism by Hindu extremists is similar to the one undertaken to understand the forces behind the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. A quality probe will surely help in preserving the country’s secular soul from the corporate-backed xenophobes who are trying to capture power at all costs — by hook or crook, real or fake. 

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: JULY 2013