The Ishrat Jahan case is one of the best and perhaps the last such “undercover operations” that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has carried out, according to Rajendra Kumar, retired IB Special Director. IB officers are now wary of carrying out such operations, he told The Sunday Guardian.
Kumar, who retired in 2013 after spending 28 years with the IB, said that the intelligence regarding the Lashkar’s plans to target senior political leaders was painfully developed over a period of time. “Through extensive and prolonged surveillance and inputs that were obtained from sources that are not friendly, we found out in April 2004 that the LeT was planning to target L.K. Advani, Narendra Modi, Ashok Singhal, Pravin Togadia and Bal Thackeray. The LeT plan was to target Advani and Modi during the campaign for the general election as they would be travelling together. Later, the plan was shifted to May as the LeT operatives could not arrange the weapons and they thought that since the NDA was going to win again, they would get the opportunity to target these two leaders during one of the victory processions,” said Kumar, who served in Gujarat from 2002 to 2005.
He said that because of the way the whole Ishrat Jahan operation was politicised and IB officers put in the dock, they are now wary of carrying out such operations.
“I speak to serving IB officials daily and they tell me that after the way the Ishrat case was used to malign the IB, they have stopped conducting such operations and have become extra cautious. This hampers IB’s primary work, which is to develop information,” he said.
According to Kumar, some of the top Central Bureau of Investigation officers, prodded by some Congress leaders, tried their level best to implicate him in the Ishrat case.
“I was harassed for doing my duty. When I got the information regarding the LeT’s motive, I shared it with every officer concerned for necessary action. During my 28 years of service, I always served on the field. No one had even a single picture of mine as I avoided the media and social functions and stuck to my job. However, when I was harassed by the CBI, no institutional support or protest in favour of me was registered by the senior officers of the IB,” he recalls.
Even though the CBI kept saying that it had sufficient evidence against Kumar, the perusal of the documents related to the case that the agency submitted to the courts over a period of time, paints a different picture.
In the letter that the CBI sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) seeking permission to prosecute Kumar, which was subsequently declined, CBI’s own assertions punctured several holes in the case: “(1) Nobody has seen that the weapons recovered from the encounter site are the same as provided by Rajendra Kumar; (2) investigation has disclosed that Rajendra Kumar was not present at the scene of crime. Substantial part of the evidence is circumstantial; (3) it was his official duty to generate intelligence inputs and pass it on for necessary action and (4) the CBI has not been able to establish/find any motive.”
Similarly, a crucial portion of a statement that was based on the interrogation of 26/11 Mumbai attack accused David Headley by the National Investigation Agency, which stated that Ishrat Jahan was a part of Lashkar and which was shared with the IB, was neither allowed to be put on records nor did the CBI followed it up despite being aware of the existence of such a statement as this would have made the fabricated case against Kumar weak.
In fact, a statement filed by the CBI in the Ahmedabad court (BS 1/S/2011/005) in 2011, the CBI stated that Ishrat was aware that Javed alias Pranesh Pillai (who too was killed in the encounter) was involved in illegal activities. About Javed, the CBI had stated that he had two passports, had a criminal record and had links with terrorist outfits as indicated by his personal possession of a satellite phone. However, in the latter part of its investigation, the CBI mysteriously forgot to focus on the criminal antecedents of those who were killed in the encounter, which the agency itself had confirmed earlier.
According to Kumar, Headley’s recent confession that Ishrat was a Lashkar member, was admissible in court. “The evidence given by Headley is not hearsay. It is a very strong evidence, as Headley heard the name of Ishrat from Lashkar military chief, Muzammil Bhatt, who is a named accused. Bhatt has been named as an accused in an FIR filed by Ahmedabad Crime Branch vide FIR No 8/2004,” he said.
The special CBI court too, while granting bail to Gujarat police officers P.P. Pandey and D.G. Vanzara, in February 2015, has questioned the agency’s investigation and stated that the agency had failed to come up with a motive in the whole Ishrat Jahan encounter case.
A board of experts comprising the former head of department of forensic medicine and toxicology (AIIMS) Dr T.D. Dogra and Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) director Rajinder Singh, who visited the crime scene, stated in their report that there was no case of fake encounter. “However, the head of the SIT (Special Investigation Team), which was monitoring the Ishrat Jahan case was forced to junk the findings of Dogra and Rajinder Singh, because a certain section of Congress leaders were aware of a particular vulnerability of the SIT head and they used that vulnerability to pressurise him to follow their orders,” Kumar claimed.
Kumar claimed that during the period in which the CBI has claimed that he was conspiring to stage the fake encounter, he was in the United States, from 13 May 2004 to 2 June 2004 on an official assignment.
In May 2014, Kumar wrote a detailed letter to the Union government naming the officers and the modus operandi used by them to make a mockery of the internal security of the country to please their political masters. “This is a case of treason and certain people of the previous government carried out my political encounter,” he said.
Kumar regretted that almost all the officers who compromised on national security to seek favours of different kinds from the political leadership of that time, were never held accountable.