Encounter truth

The finding of a Special Investigation Team (SIT), appointed by the Gujarat High Court, that a Mumbai college girl, Ishrat Jahan, and three others were killed by the Gujarat police in a fake encounter in 2004 is yet another indictment of the state police and would cause more embarrassment to the Narendra Modi government.

The police had claimed that the four were Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists and were killed when they were on a mission to assassinate Modi. The Gujarat police’s communal bias and its lawless ways have already been exposed by its faulty investigation of the 2002 riots cases, a number of fake encounter and judicial disapproval of its conduct.

The Ishrat Jahan case is the fourth case where the police was found to have stage-managed an encounter and killed innocent people in cold blood. All the victims were Muslims or their associates and it was the same policemen who killed them. They are in jail now and the court-directed investigations will hopefully make them all accountable for their actions.

There was widespread public distrust in the police claim about conspiracy and encounter killing, in the light of the poor record of the Gujarat police in its dealings with the people, especially those from the minority community. A magisterial enquiry had found the police claim wrong and the SIT has confirmed the finding.

The Gujarat High Court has accepted the SIT’s conclusion and ordered further investigation of the motive for the killings and registration of a fresh case. It is unfortunate that fake encounters take place frequently, in spite of all the adverse attention they receive when they come into the open.

It is often claimed that the police forces have been sensitised against taking the law into their hands. But the criminal elements in uniform actually receive protection from higher authorities. The highest police and political authorities in Gujarat have tried to shield the errant policemen and this happened in the Ishrat Jahan case also.

The parents and other relatives of the victims of the encounter may finally win justice but the case still has a long way to go. In many such cases, the delay in dispensing justice becomes denial of justice. Modi himself owes an explanation to the people for the crimes of the state police. But the public perception is that he ignores them or may even be complicit in them.

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