Ishrat Jahan case: BJP asks Sonia Gandhi to take responsibility

File Photo of Ishrat Jahan Photo: PTI
The Ishrat Jahan case, which once hung like an albatross around then chief minister Narendra Modi's neck, has become a stick for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to beat the Congress with. 

The BJP on Monday levelled serious allegations against the Congress in the shootout case, saying that the Congress had tried to use the case to get a political rival, who it could not otherwise overcome, eliminated. The ruling party did not pull any punches and said that Congress president Sonia Gandhi "worked actively" to make it look like there was no terrorism-related threat to Modi's life. 

Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman took aim at the Congress matriarch and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, saying that they should take responsibility for the alleged actions of then home minister P Chidambaram in the case. 

Read more from our special coverage on "ISHRAT JAHAN"

Sitharaman was citing a media report which claimed that the Chidambaram, in his capacity as Union home minister, had signed the first affidavit in the encounter case. 

The then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had submitted two affidavits. The first said that the four persons, including Jahan, who were killed in an alleged fake encounter were terrorists, while the second stated that there was no conclusive evidence. Both affidavits were filed within two months of each other, in 2009.

G K Pillai, the then home secretary, had in February claimed that Chidambaram had recalled the file a month after the original affidavit was filed in the court, which had described Ishrat and her slain aides as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives.

"You underplayed a terror plot that could eliminate (Modi). You are clearly admitting that you cannot fight this politically. So eliminate or allow to eliminate or encourage elimination of the leader who you are mortified of fighting politically," Sitharaman said. She didn't stop there, adding, "They (Congress) wanted to quietly watch the terror plot bloom to eliminate a political opponent....A very serious fallout is the way this country's intelligence and counter intelligence have been weakened."

Sitharaman's allegations, however, are nothing new. 

In March this year, the BJP had alleged that the decision to change the affidavit in the case was taken at the "political level", involving Chidambaram, then prime minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi. 

Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu had also alleged that the Central Bureau of Investigation was misused by the then UPA government to harass its political opponent and "defame" the then Gujarat chief minister Modi.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had also alleged that the Congress had tried to use the incident to "defame" Modi.

Singh and Naidu's remarks came in the backdrop of former under secretary (Internal Security) in the Union home ministry RVS Mani's allegation that the changes in the second affidavit "were made at the political level by the then UPA government" and that he was "tortured" to sign it.

Since February, when Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley told a special court that Jahan was an operative of terror outfit LeT, the issue has only seen more allegations and counter-allegations come out. 

Congress sticks to its guns 

Reacting to the latest allegations made by the BJP, Congress hit back by saying that there were deliberate attempts being made to dilute the basic issue of fake encounters.

"The issue was whether it was a fake or genuine encounter. The court has held that it was a fake encounter... Now reports are being planted to dilute the main issue," Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said.

Congress has not budged from its stand on the issue in the last few months.

Reacting to Pillai's allegations, the then law minister Veerappa Moily had justified the UPA government's decision to file a second affidavit in the case and criticised Pillai for distancing himself from it.

"Here is a home secretary who disowns his responsibility today. I think (this is) highly condemnable," said Moily, during whose tenure as law minister the controversial second affidavit was filed. 

Defending Chidamabaram, Moily had tried to bring up the veracity of the encounter and said, "You bring them, arrest them and in the custody you shoot them down. It is unknown in international law or in our own law." Not stopping there, Moily had added that "People can have weak memory. That was a period when there was a series of encounters which are unknown in the history of any state".

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel