, by ABDUL RAUF LALA
As we came to know through the media that a Mumbra girl namely Ishrat Jahan has been gunned down in an encounter in Gujarat, we reached her home at Rasheed Compound which is at walking distance from my house in the city. There we saw the house comprising one bedroom along with a washroom and a tiny kitchen. There was a tiny wooden box which contains of their clothing. And the family had access to neither television/newspaper nor a telephone. On our request, her mother Shameema Bi provided us with details.
Ishrat’s father, Shameem Sheikh, died in 2002. He worked as a constructor. After the sad demise of Ishrat’s father, the whole responsibility came to her mother’s shoulder and she joined a medical company so as to feed her family of six. There her work was to stick tags/labels on the medicine wrappers. Her elder daughter, Ishrat, was a B. Sc. (2nd year) student and was helping her mother by teaching at a coaching centre as well as giving private tuitions at her home. In fact, Ishrat was the backbone of her family and it was she who was winning the bread for the family. Days ago, she was out for some business purpose only to meet her ill fate.
After listening to the complete story, we smelt a rat in the incident. And first of all, we demanded from the authority to return her body as we wanted to bury her in her hometown. Then a team comprising of myself, my friends Munna Sahil, Shakeb Khan, Asadullah Hanafi along with Ishrat’s mother headed towards Ahmedabad the very next day. When we reached Ahmedabad at 5 in morning, a reporter from Gujarat Samachar approached us soon and told us earnestly to raise the issue strongly, as he said that was a fabricated story and a fake encounter. He further added that many of them knew the truth but could not speak out for one reason or another.
Then our team reached the Gujarat Crime Police Head Station at Haweli. At the police station, we met Singhal and NK Amin. They conducted their investigation upon us in a very rough manner. They talked to us as if we were criminals and were detained in our way to carry out some big mission. We were not given even water to drink and meal to eat during the period and were not allowed to perform Juma Namaz that day. After 5-6 hours of traumatising enquiry, Vanzara came and then started his turn which lasted for three more hours. Our only demand that made them torment us was our claim to return the body of Ishrat. They left no stone unturned to persuade us to withdraw our demand of taking the body to the hometown. When we refused to lend an ear to their requests or rather orders they put a condition before us and said the body would be released provided we bury it in Ahmedabad. We again declined their order and after 9-10 hour long torture we were given access to the body.
We already smelt something fishy in the incident; their behaviour turned our suspicion into surety. We made up our mind to go through legal proceeding in the whole incident as our Constitution allows us to fight on behalf of an accused whom you consider an innocent.
On return, we consulted my friend Advocate Shahid Azmi and subsequently filed a petition with Advocate Hashim Quraishi of Gujarat in the Ahmedabad Metropolitan Court. After one year and a half we found there was no significant development in the case as Advocate Quraishi seemed more interested in making headlines than fighting the case seriously. Then we formed a team along with Jitendra Awhad, who is now (not at that time) MLA from Mumbra, and met Vrinda Grover who is an advocate in Supreme Court. After having listened to our story, she stood firmly and boldly with us and assured us to fight the case with full potential and she is still keeping her promise. She also refused to take any charge for this case. Then, with her consent, we appointed advocates Mukul Sinha and Shilpa Setty in Gujarat and filed a writ petition in Gujarat High Court.
The hearing in Gujarat High Court started in 2007. Our sole demand was to set up a CBI enquiry as we consider the encounter a faked one and the deceased had no terror link. The court appointed Satish Verma as a member of CBI enquiry team. Verma had earlier played an important role as a member of the SIT which had said in its report that the encounter was a staged one. The report of the CBI is now before the country. Half the truth has been exposed and another half is yet to be exposed. Those who brutally killed Ishrat and others have been identified by the court and those who monitored the killing are likely to be exposed soon.
We have got “half justice” with this report of the CBI which has mirrored the earlier report of Magisterial Enquiry and the report of Special Investigation Team. Now the whole world is saying what we said earlier that the encounter was staged. And—Alhamdulillah—for the first time—and no doubt as a result of our constant hard work—the Intelligence Bureau has been exposed and its Special Director, Rajindra Kumar, would be charge-sheeted soon in the case. Until now, individually some officers have been found guilty for some unholy nexus but this time the whole team of IB has been exposed.
It is, in fact, more noteworthy than the names of some political tycoons because all the innocents killed so far have been killed at the behest of IB and today the report of CBI makes it clear that IB, on “certain” occasions, circulates wrong information for “some reasons”. Rajindra Kumar and NaMo share very close relationship and, as per the information I have, Rajindra Kumar was completely involved in the plan right from sketching the script until it was executed. He was present at the encounter site as well. There were several phone calls from the cell phone of Kumar to Modi and Amit Shah that day. After Rajindra Kumar, we hope NaMo, Shah and others would be in jail next door.
Ishrat and others were allegedly out to kill Modi. There were earlier several warnings of this sort in the state. But all such warnings later proved groundless. It was a political gimmick of NaMo to project himself as a “hero” doing some great work in public interest and hence “villains” are rushing to kill him so as to continue running their “unfair” business. But the real story is when NaMo was sent to Gujarat and the sole target of him was to put a complete control on the state machinery at any rate, he started his scheme from Godhra carnage. First, he got his own men killed and then a state-sponsored riot started for the first time in the history of the nation and then started a battery of encounters—which numbers around 21 until the encounter of Ishrat—to en-cash the massacre. In this period Modi projected himself as a hero. And when this scheme of his was over and he gained whatever he wanted to, he propagated a second story of development.
Here one might say that the ruling Congress Party is playing this card to appease Muslims before general elections as it has earlier irked them on many occasions, especially by hanging Afzal Guru last year. Also the CBI and others have been blamed on many occasions for working for the ruling party. But I do not think it a handiwork of the Congress because the party, as I experienced, has always created hurdles in the case instead of benefitting us. As far as the autonomy of CBI is concerned, it is true that it works under pressure of the ruling party. But this time it was a completely different situation. The CBI was being monitored by a bench of Justices Patel and Avinas Kumar of Gujarat High Court. The two judges are widely known for their fair, uninfluenced and impartial decree. So it is not fair to say that the CBI worked under pressure at least in this case.
The case took a nine-year-period to reach here. It is enough time to make one give up the case. But we have started our fight reposing our faith in Allah alone. We never pinned our trust on either any individual or any organisation. And I have to say, at this stage, with great sorrow that no organisation came forward to help us and the handful of persons who backed us were either non-Muslims or communists. Among those who supported us are Shabnam Hashmi, Vrinda Grover, Jitendra Awhad and some others. Also Mukul Sinha and Shilpa Shetty extended their help in Gujarat and there is a group of 15 social activists with Grover helping us at every stage. For our greatest distress, no Muslim organisation came offering their help to us during this period. I am sure everyone includes us in his special prayers and Dua but only this act of Muslims will not support us. What we needed is to encourage us in our service by standing with us or at least by extending their support through a single phone call. Also, we did not approach any group asking for its help. Once we organised a meeting of all Muslim parties in Mumbra on the issue and – Alhamdulillah— we get representation from almost all the organisations.
Any way, we never felt nervous as we had started our work basing our trust in the Almighty and the Omnipresent Allah. This only was enough to encourage us in our disappointing times. Apart from this, we were mentally prepared for all types of sufferings. We were fighting for a martyr and we were sure since the beginning of the case that the decree will be in our favour. And finally it is so.
At last I want to add that everyone should fight for the right cause with patience and must be ready to face difficulties. We have travelled to Gujarat once in every month for nine years on a stretch and on many occasions we had to run away to save our lives. Many a hotel refused to accommodate us under the pressure of state authority. On some occasions, we reached the city to appear in the court on given date but left it without appearing. Singhal has always abused us even in courts. I remember the time when a hotel owner made us check-out at 3 AM saying some Bajrang Dal activists are coming here to protest.
But we never even thought of giving up and I think when a person has complete trust in Allah and believes that the ultimate decision is of Allah’s, he should never give up. Today the case of Ishrat has become a national issue. This goes to suggest that if you start fighting for a good cause even though you have limited resources, it is the Almighty Allah who will help you. I request all the citizens in general and Muslims in particular to take all such cases seriously and go through legal proceedings instead of issuing emotional and political statements. There are many a non-Muslim activist who is fighting for human cause and ready to help on humanitarian ground. Take assistance from them and be constant while fighting for social causes. Leave behind the idea of giving up.
[ABDUL RAUF LALA is NCP Corporator, Mumbra.
[As told to Zaid Arif]