First Post? Or Front Post Of Intelligence Bureau.

The First Post (FP) has been at the forefront of releasing news stories and “leaked documents” that it says proves central government is hiding the “LeT link” of Ishrat Jahan, who was gunned down along with three others in what has come to be known as Ishrat Jahan encounter case. The “LeT Link” of Ishrat Jahan is crucial to prove that the encounter carried out by Gujarat Police (GP) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) was morally unassailable as “India’s security” was at stake –if not bullets what else can terrorists expect, lollypops?– even if legally questionable. The latter would be true in case the encounter is proved to have been faked. Gujarat High Court had ordered constituting Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to establish whether the encounter was faked irrespective of the antecedents of those killed in it; and had even chided SIT-CBI for wasting time in trying to establish antecedents. Ishrat Jahan encounter case has turned into a touchstone of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s Prime Ministerial ambitions and has also become a bitterly contested credibility war between CBI and IB-GP. Mainstream Media too has willingly joined one side or the other as allies instead of digging out the truth and informing the public.
Just 5 days earlier Praveen Swami wrote in FP, “Intelligence won’t survive the investigation”. I had analysed his piece in a post, “India Won’t Survive Lawlessness Of Security Agencies”. Whether Ishrat Jahan had “terrorist LeT links” or not pivots around only one fact; did David Coleman Headley, CIA/FBI/DEA agent, tell National Investigating Agency (NIA) interrogators, who were allowed access to him in US custody, “Lakhvi told Headley he would be working with Muzammil Bhat, the full-bearded 6’4” giant in the room, who counted among the Lashkar’s most able operatives. Bhat’s achievements, Federal Bureau of Investigations interrogators recorded Headley as being told, included multiple strikes in Kashmir and recruiting a “female suicide bomber named Ishrat Jahaan”?
Headley’s “evidence” is of little value in court proceedings because he says he was told by Lakhavi that he would be working with Muzammil Bhat, whose achievements included recruiting of a female suicide bomber named Ishrat Jahan. This is hearsay evidence that has no value in Indian Evidence Act. Further, Headley will never be allowed to testify in person his hearsay evidence because of the deal he reached with US prosecutors. Only NIA interrogators, who visited USA, could testify what Headley told them. That makes it “Double Hearsay”. Therefore “Headley’s evidence” has no value in judicial proceedings, but could be of immeasurable value in political proceedings. This is where the role of First Post India and Mainstream Media comes into the picture.
FP Editors carried a post, “More evidence against Ishrat surfaces: What is the UPA hiding?” alongside another by Praveen Swami, “Leaked NIA document indicates cover up in Ishrat Jahan case”. When Swami claims to have showed “what” UPA is hiding -a claim which FP Editors have separately supported, then it is foolish to ask “what” UPA is hiding. It would have made sense if they had asked “Why UPA is hiding?” The evidence cited by Swami is the NIA note dated “13 October 2010” that he has accessed and produced as a part of his article. This note of “13 October 2010”, he further based on his “sources” claims, was shown on 5th July to Union Home Affairs Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, members of the Congress Core Group, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Unfortunately the veracity of this note is questionable, because there is evidence in public domain that NIA had at least two days11 October 2010– prior to it backed off from this “crucial bit in Headley’s interrogation report (IR)”.
It is inconceivable that NIA would prepare such a note just two days after a major national daily had promptly reported that “NIA U-turn erases Ishrat’s LeT terror link”. Express is already alleging that NIA is out to “Erase” Ishrat’s LeT terror link on “11 October 2010”. In the same news Express had also said, “Senior Home Ministry officials had claimed that Headley told NIA sleuths that Ishrat Jahan, a Mumbai girl killed in an encounter in Ahmedabad, was a suicide bomber of the outfit”. If NIA had indeed decided to “Bury Ishrat’s LeT Terror Link” on 11th October, then does it not defy common sense that just two days later same agency would prepare a note that says something to the contrary? Either Express or FP story is correct, both can’t be. Express would have had no knowledge how significant these dates, 11th and 13th October, are going to prove in the future; whereas FP story has the benefit of hindsight. Has the NIA note prepared on 13th October been deliberately cooked up by some agency and conveniently leaked to sow confusion? This “faulty cooking” appears to have been carried out of hubris that public has short memory and still shorter sense and unmindful of the fact that contrary evidence may challenge the “13 October 2010” date.  FP also quotes Hindustan Times, “The matter seems to be more complicated as home ministry has found statement of Headley in its file pertaining to the encounter. After a senior Congress leader and BJP demanded clarification from the home ministry on whether Headley had mentioned Ishrat Jahan module in interrogation by the NIA on July 5, the home ministry found the NIA note (UO NO 04/2009/NIA/16/104 dated October 13, 2010) in its Ishrat Jahan file confirming the same”. The matter seems more complicated than the “simplistic conclusions” drawn by FP or HT. The story of Ishrat’s terrorist links had first surfaced in July 2010, just three months before the alleged NIA-Erasure, “Ishrat Jahan was an LeT suicide bomber: Headley to NIA”: “Bearing out the version of Gujarat Police, American-born Lashker-e-Toiba terrorist David Headley has claimed before NIA sleuths that Ishrat Jahan, a Mumbai girl killed in a police encounter in Ahmedabad, was a suicide bomber of the outfit.
Official sources said that Headley shared this information with the four-member team comprising officials from National Investigation Agency and Law Department during their visit to Chicago in the US… Headley’s information corroborates the stand of Gujarat Police and the Centre. The encounter had run into controversy after Jahan’s family claimed that she was just a student and filed an appeal in the court. Gujarat Police had claimed that the terrorists were in the state to attack Chief Minister Narendra Modi”. This NDTV story had emerged  10 months after Metropolitan Magistrate S P Tamang had concluded that the encounter was fake: “Metropolitan Magistrate S P Tamang’s probe report, which was submitted in the metropolitan court in Ahmedabad on Monday, said the four persons who were also suspected to be linked with Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Tayiba, were killed in cold blood by the police. Magistrate Tamang, in his report, has claimed that the four were not linked to the LeT”. The “faked encounter” case had gone to Gujarat Court to request constitution of SIT to probe encounter and to collect evidence to prosecute the accused police. High Court’s favourable directions were expected soon at that time –these finally came in August 2010– when David Headley’s “revelations” about “Ishrat Jahan’s LeT link” had pipped  “most opportunely” just by a month the High Court’s order. The timeline of the leak suggests that the timing was not innocent. Mukul Sinha, the lawyer who represented pro-bono Ishrat Jahan’s family before Gujarat High Court, gave out the criteria for his prima facie hunch in September 2009 to Mid-Day correspondent as to why the encounter appeared faked.
Sign of Four
Sinha’s four factors that pointed to a fake encounter
1)    The encounter team was headed by former Gujarat ATS chief DG Vanzara, who had carried out all the encounter killings.
2)   All the victims had a Maharashtra connection.
3)   All the victims had minor criminal records, except Ishrat.
4)  The police claimed that they had come to target and kill Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
All this public domain evidence suggests that the conspiracy to scuttle investigations and prosecutions in Ishrat Jahan encounter case have a long history. The issue has been politicized to very high decibel pitch now because SIT-CBI has filed its charge sheet in the case. Congress had not initiated the magistrate-enquiry or the subsequent High Court interventions and had in fact given favourable affidavit in Gujarat High Court that supported the “terrorist LeT link” charge of Modi’s government. The judicial probe started because of Ishrat Jahan’s family’s quest for justice and the able lawyer they fortunately got in Mukul Sinha to represent them. Even Modi apologists seem to have accepted that the encounter was faked. Only saving grace they want to derive is to “show” that Ishrat Jahan and her associates, and particularly Ishrat Jahan, have “terrorist LeT links”. Dragging UPA into the quagmire influences the pro and con lobbies to go ballistic, and thereby vitiates the atmosphere surrounding the case. Ultimately if this influences the court proceedings or not is irrelevant –in any case no verdict can be expected in Indian courts soon where cases drag on for years and definitely not in the next 8-10 months- but it is hoped to shape the outcome of 2014 general elections.
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PS: To know why David Coleman Headley is a compromised witness, who would do his masters’ bidding to give any testimony convenient to them, read: Hillary, Hillary of US, tell me please, Who is the….?
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