It is a clear indication of the desperation being felt by the IB establishment as the heat turns on its senior officers in the Ishrat Jahan probe, that they are down to doing what they do best: use pliant sections of the media to plant stories to deflect scrutiny and create a favourable public mood. Following the summons issued to IB Special Director Rajender Kumar by the CBI (which is probing the case on the direction of the Gujarat High Court), the IB Director first sought to sell the familiar old story of ‘investigation will hit the morale of the IB’ – it seems as though a blanket immunity from any scrutiny and accountability is the only guarantee of IB morale. The IB then ran complaining to the Prime Minister; and when nothing worked, it used the agency’s tried and tested trick of enlisting the support of discredited ‘journalists’.
The 24-hour news channel Headlines Today aired tapes of telephone conversations between alleged key operatives involved in the supposed assassination plot to eliminate Narendra Modi. Suggestions have also been made in a story in the Firstpost that the interrogation by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation of David Headley has revealed Ishrat Jahan’s active involvement with the Lashkar e-Toiba.
Timing of the Telecast:
The tapes were aired less than 24 hours before a court hearing was scheduled in the Ishrat Jahan Case. The mischievous intent of the leaks and the telecast became clear when the Additional Advocate General of Gujarat Tushar Mehta arrived in the court with the two CDs and insisted that the court see these CDs, which according to him, would prove that the course of CBI investigation was wrong. The Court refused to place these CDs on record, asking the AG to hand this over to the relevant agency. The attempt was to undercut the investigation probing the conspiracy hatched by the officers of Crime Branch in eliminating Ishrat and three others by somehow tainting them with the terror tag. The Court put it in perspective, reminding the AG that no one could be killed in cold blood – and indeed that is what the CBI was investigating.
More than resolving issues, these so-called revelations have in fact raised more questions:
- Why are these tapes leaked to the press selectively now –when investigators are closing in on Rajender Kumar?
- Why have these tapes not been placed before magistrate Tamang whose enquiry in 2009 concluded that Ishrat and others were killed in cold blood?
- Why were the tapes not placed before the SIT in 2011, which similarly reached the conclusion that the encounter had been staged?
- Did the IB provide any inputs to the Maharashtra government that local modules of Lashkar were residing in the state?
- Given that telephone transcripts are said to be referring to four other targets apart from Narendra Modi, with how many states and agencies did IB share the inputs?
- What are the exact dates when these telephone calls were recorded?
- How do we believe that the ‘sasural’ being referred to in the telephone conversations means Ishrat’s home, given that there is no reference to Ishrat, or even to a woman operative?
- How many times did Rajender Kumar meet with Ahmedabad Commissioner of Police, Kaushik, apart from once ‘orally’ informing about the intelligence lead?
- Has the IB seen the NIA interrogation report of the terrorist double agent David Headley? It makes no reference to any Ishrat Jahan.
- Did Rajender Kumar have a premonition about Headley who was interrogated in 2010, when he was ‘orally’ conveying the intelligence inputs to Ahmedabad Commissioner of Police in 2004?
- How are FBI reports being cited by everyone from IB chief to sundry ‘investigative journalists’ given that former Minister of Home Affairs had said that the US had been less than willing to share information on Headley with India?
One could ask several questions of the media too which chooses to air telephone calls without any forensic tests or voice tests, asking us simply to believe them because ‘they have been working on the story”. One could tell them that being the IB’s chosen one for their dirty tricks is not something to be particularly proud of. One could tell them also that the business of investigative journalism demands that you be critical and cynical of letters that IB chiefs write –and then leak at very crucial stage of investigation. And most of all, one could also ask them to refrain from grandly declaring telephone tapes as “Ishrat Jahan terror tapes”, especially if she is neither a caller nor being referred to in those tapes. But since there is no point in talking of ethics to those who compromise knowingly, we shall not.
However, the IB must answer all these questions. It cannot hide behind its flagging morale and continue to remain unaccountable to the Indian people. It cannot pretend to be above the law of the land? Why is it fighting off any investigation, trying to scuttle the interrogation of the Special Director IB?
Shabnam Hashmi (ANHAD), Manisha Sethi, Ahmed Sohaib, Sanghamitra Misra and Ambarien Alqadar (JTSA), Mansi Sharma (Activist), Mahtab Alam (Activist), Ajit Sahi (Journalist), Sukumar Muralidharan (Journalist), Amit Sengupta (journalist), Jawed Naqvi (journalist), Azam Khan (Activist), Kavita Krishnan, CPI(ML)Kavita Srivastav (PUCL), Harsh Mander (writer and activist), Sheba George (Activist), Syed Zafar Mehdi (Journalist/ blogger), Anuradha Chenoy (Academic), Harsh Kapoor (Activist), Vineet Tiwari (Activist), Sandeep Singh (AISA), Sehba Farooqui, Secretary, AIDWA, Delhi, Kumar Sundaram, Activist, Madhuresh Kumar, NAPM, Bhasha (Journalist), Navaid Hamid (NIC) and many others