…But Didn’t LeT Say In Ghazwa Times That Ishrat Jahan is…?

An article by Mayank Singh, Ishrat Jahan: The Politics of a “Fake Encounter”, which appeared in Fair Observer, was shared today on a forum. Author at the start makes his aim clear, “First, India is confronted with the collapse of its legal machinery. Second, India’s political leadership views national security issues through the prism of electoral politics and sacrifices national security to gain votes. Finally, India’s political class has started using institutions to launch political vendettas, setting a dangerous precedent and undermining the credibility of its institutions”. His first and second observations are unexceptionable. His last observation is not, because he creates an impression through his statement -“India’s political class has started using institutions to launch political vendettas”- that this is a current phenomenon, though he has pointed out later the rot began way back. Singh has nothing new to contribute the debate, which has Pro-Modi and Anti-Modi camps weighing heavily on their respective cherished narratives. For the record, Mayank Singh weighs on with Modi.
However, what caught my attention were the following three sentences, “Ghazwa Times, a Lahore-based mouthpiece for the LeT, hailed the martyrdom of Ishrat and her accomplices. It proclaimed the deceased as their operatives and castigated the police for removing Ishrat’s veil, violating Islamic custom. The government of India, in an affidavit submitted in 2007, confirmed the legitimacy of the encounter”. The year mentioned -2007- is patently wrong. The first affidavit on behalf of ministry of home affairs (MHA) was submitted on 6th August 2009, which did implicate Ishrat Jahan along with three others as LeT operatives, but only to be retracted through second affidavit on 30 September 2009. I have seen it repeated ad nauseam by Modi supporters that “even LeT called Ishrat Jahan its operative”. On one such forum I asked a person to provide “original”see comments proof for his claim. He went cold after that. Here Mayank Singh had provided a clue that it was “Ghazwa Times, a Lahore-based mouthpiece for the LeT”. This is a good starting point. My repeated attempts to find the Ghazwa Time website failed, and so did attempts to open the website of its parent organization, Jamat Ud Dawa ( http://jamatdawa.org/). Google showed its “cached copy” of 12 July 2013: “This is Google’s cache of http://jamatdawa.org/. It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on 12 Jul 2013 13:35:11 GMT. The current page could have changed in the meantime”.
Wikipedia is often the first stop for “netizens” to seek information, and the above search page had it at number one position. I called on it in the fond hope it will lead me to Ghazwa. No luck! In the reference it gives at serial number 6 for “the Ghazwa story” it has cited news in Times of India. I thought Sunday Guardian, which appears last in above screen shot, would do a better job. But it had sourced its story based on R V S Mani’s affidavit of 6thAugust 2009 before Gujarat High Court: “The affidavit also mentioned the statement that was issued by Lashkar-e-Taiba on the death of Ishrat. “It is humbly submitted that several Indian newspapers such as the Times of India, The Hindu, The Indian Express published news item on July 15 2004 that Lahore based ‘Ghazwa Times’, mouthpiece of LeT had said that the veil of Ishrat Jehan, a woman activist of LeT was removed by Indian police and her body was kept with other mujahideens on the ground”. Mani’s affidavit does indeed carry the statement referred to by Sunday Guardian at para 8 on page 6.
Then I directed my search based on MHA’s affidavit clue to the websites of these three newspapers. I drew a blank on The Hindu and Indian Express websites (see below).
Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has been doubly shameless to have put this statement in its affidavit. First, when it has at its command huge budgets, secret funds, and services of Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), National Technical Research Organization (NTRO), besides many other sundry outfits to collect, collate, and create actionable intelligence; why should it have to rely on what has appeared in the newspapers? Second, its factotums should have known too well that news-stories, which appear in newspapers, are not treated as evidence in court of law. Be that as it may, mercifully for MHA, Google results in case of Times of India came out positive.
Next logical step was to visit relevant story on Times of India website: “Lashkar owns up Ishrat”.: “Giving credence to police version, Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba has said that Ishrat Jehan, who was killed along with three others in Ahmedabad, was the outfit’s activist. In a news report published in Lahore-based Ghazwa Times, mouthpiece of the LeT, Lashkar said “the veil of Ishrat Jehan, a woman activist of LeT, was removed by Indian police and her body was kept with other mujahideens (terrorists) on the ground.””. However, this story too runs into difficulties.
The difficulty is very simple. Times of India has given “credit” for this story to Press Trust Of India (PTI), but Google was unable to “locate” any such story on Ishrat Jahan in the month of July in year 2004 on PTI website.
Quite clearly it cannot be said that PTI did not carry the story just because Google could not “locate” it. If Google cannot locate it does not mean Ghazwa Times doesn’t exist. If Google cannot locate it does not mean Ghazwa Times did not carry a LeT statement on 14 July 2004, which said Ishrat Jahan was its operative. If Google cannot locate it does not mean The Hindu did not carry a LeT statement on 14 July 2004, which said Ishrat Jahan was its operative. If Google cannot locate it does not mean Indian Express did not carry a LeT statement on 14 July 2004, which said Ishrat Jahan was its operative. Even though MHA retracted its first affidavit, which claimed that four killed in encounter were “confirmed” LeT operatives, through its second affidavit, which claimed the four were “suspected to be” LeT operatives; that does not mean that the four including Ishrat Jahan were not indeed LeT operatives.
But then someone would have to answer what does all this mean, if it does not mean all that? Or at least locate those references, which I failed so miserably to locate. Only condition is that those references should have time stamp, which shows they belong to June/July 2004. If the whole edifice is built upon only a single Times of India reference, which is how it looks to me despite several searches to prove otherwise, and the TOI reference that in turn is based on a PTI story, which cannot be located by Google, then one would have to concede that it’s a pretty narrow, fragile, and shaky foundation indeed. Unless, of course, the “missing evidence”, or as George Bush would have called it the “smoking gun” shows up. I am waiting for that.
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