The Ishrat Jahan case continues to play out as a sordid contest of versions. That the killing of the 19-year-old alongwith three others on June 15, 2004 by the Ahmedabad police in an alleged fake encounter should become the centrepiece of a prolonged tug of war between the Congress and BJP, the UPA and NDA, or for that matter, the IB and CBI, is tragic. That 12 years later, crucial questions should remain unresolved amid confusions and contentions sparked by government affidavits at odds with each other and critical papers gone missing, is outrageous. Was Ishrat Jahan part of an assassination squad whose target was Narendra Modi, as the BJP alleges and the UPA government’s first affidavit insinuated, or were the IB inputs on her terror links “not conclusive”, as the UPA’s second affidavit said? The haze refuses to clear because due process appears to have been grievously imperilled. This is a case in which, as an Indian Express report has just revealed, the officer heading the investigation into the missing Ishrat files, unabashedly tutored a witness about the questions he would ask, and the answers the latter should give — that he had not seen any documents.
It is not important here whether the missing files that Additional Secretary, Home, B.K. Prasad, was tasked with probing the disappearance of — Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had announced the setting up of the probe in the Lok Sabha — corroborate the version of the UPA’s home minister P. Chidambaram or that of those who challenge him. What is clear, and depressing, is that the episode confirms a yawning trust deficit that the truth will come out eventually because the law will take its course, that the facts will not be tripped up and mired in political partisanship and vested interests. This waning faith in the impartiality and integrity of the procedures and practices of law and justice is the real damage done by the several abdications by those in power, be it during the Congress or BJP rule, in the Ishrat Jahan case.
For the Modi-led government and party, the revelations about the efforts of a home ministry official to subvert the probe, should be particularly sobering. Just a few days ago, it was revealed that claims of a “Hindu exodus” from Kairana, UP, cited by BJP president Amit Shah during the party’s national executive in Allahabad, were actually riddled with holes. Apprehensions have also been growing about a gap between the NDA government’s tall talk and the actual delivery on several fronts. The wavering of the people’s trust in government and the neutrality of the state should be seen as a troubling burden for the government to carry into its third year.