The tragic saga of wrongly implicated and condemned


Ishrat Jahan case and fresh light on the Malegaon case have revealed the vulnerability of the minorities, particular Muslims, in this country. It’s now official with CBI report pointing out that Ishrat Jahan was abducted by Gujarat police, killed and then projected as a terrorist. Two other men who were killed in the same encounter were said to have links with Kashmir militants but were not arrested and tried, as per the law, but abducted and killed illegally, all the same. The ATS in Malegaon bomb blast had indicted 9 young Muslim men and for years they were denied bail. The National Investigating Agency (NIA) probe has now revealed that the charges against all of them were fabricated. For five years, courts denied bail and remanded the accused to custody on the grounds that they were involved in terrorist activities in collaboration with Pakistani terrorists, and that releasing them on bail would endanger national security, purely on basis of concocted evidence by ATS. However, NIA investigating the Samjhauta Express blast case not only unravelled that Hindutva elements were behind it, it also revealed a link with Malegaon blast in which the 9 Muslims were wrongly accused, jailed and labeled terrorist. The NIA has debunked the entire ATS theory and the nine men have been freed but only after earning the brand name of being terrorist; however there is no move to punish the ATS officers who concocted evidence to frame these men in the first place. 

Last year, Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association came out with a report ‘Framed, Accused, Acquitted and Damned’. The report listed several cases of Muslim youth, including some Kashmiris who had been wrongfully indicted on terror charges, later acquitted but continued to live with the label of ‘terrorist’ because those who framed them continue to not only be scot free but also free with the powers to victimize other innocent people in the name of investigating terror charges. Ishrat Jahan’s case falls in much the same category, though instead of being arrested she was killed in a fake encounter. The family, however, continues to live with the stigma and label of ‘terrorism’ with truth having taken a decade to be revealed. And, this may just be the beginning with CBI report making these revelations. The courts have yet to decide and punitive justice for those who wrongly killed and framed her is still a long way away. The CBI chargesheet in the Ishrat Jahan case also reportedly contains the testimony of a police witness who told a magistrate that he had heard DIG of crime branch tell his junior colleague of having obtained permission from chief minister Narendra Modi and the then junior Gujarat home minister Amit Shah for killing her in a fake encounter. However, Modi and Shah have not been named in the chargesheet. How far would the CBI go in pursuit of justice is something, one has to yet see. 
Justice in such cases becomes imperative for several reasons.

Firstly, to question and limit the powers obnoxiously used by the security and investigating agencies, often with political patronage at some level. Some years ago, the supreme court, while making an observation on a case of custodial killing, had maintained that murders committed by men in uniform were far more heinous because they are committed by people in authority, people who have been tasked and empowered to protect the lives of the ordinary masses, not to take these lives away. Men in authority cannot be allowed to get away with heinous crimes or it will erode public faith in the institutions of justice and will also lead to collapse of the system. Secondly, delivery of justice is important for washing off the stains of terror with which victims of such uniformed perpetrators are tagged with, even after these victims are proved innocent. Thirdly, fabricated investigations have for years perpetuated myths and created a national mindset where an entire community is seen in poor light. This is not done away with mere acquittals because the condemnation goes beyond the files of the investigators, often endorsed by political interests and played up by media. When people are wrongly accused, it becomes a major news, when they are acquitted, it is dwarfed to some corners. 

Ishrat Jahan case may have been a little different. It did hog the limelight but it also allowed unscrupulous media to botch up headlines with facts that did not exist in their own news story. A Hindustan Times headlines, on the day the CBI charge sheet came about, revealed ‘Ishrat Jahan had connection with Kashmir militants’, though the news only mentioned that two of those killed in the fake encounter had connections, not Ishrat. Yet, even as CBI made its revelations, political bigwigs like Meenakshi Lekhi had a field day, taking a dig at the ‘lawyer of the terrorists’ (counsel for Ishrat’s mother), questioning what the girl was doing with men who were ‘unrelated to her’ and casting aspersions on her background while concluding that deprivation may have led her to the act. Such denials are manufactured but it is easy to manufacture them when the minorities in the backdrop of perpetuation of official lies are too vulnerable to be branded terrorists, whether or not they are accused, whether or not they are acquitted after the charges are proved wrong. For justice to be delivered in the real sense of the word, this tag of terrorists has to be done away with, by magnifying their innocence as much in proportion to their vilification, and also by making the men who concocted lies and fabricated evidence against them accountable. It is equally important to learn why they did it and for whose benefit.