The family of Ishrat Jahan is carefully avoiding the media in the wake of accused like former encounter specialist D G Vanzara and P P Pandey getting bail in the case of reported fake encounter of the 19-year-old Mumbra girl in 2004. But Jitendra Awhad, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLA, who had been championing the cause of the family, says the legal battle would continue.
Ishrat was a resident of Mumbra suburbs in Thane district and studied in a college in Mumbai. Ishrat’s mother, Shamima Kauser, could not be reached despite repeated attempts. However, one of the aides of the family, Rauf Lala, said the family does not want to say anything. “It is wait and watch for them. They have not reacted to the recent developments. Their advocate too has advised them not to speak on the developments of the courts,” Lala said, adding that “at this stage”, they would not want to speak anything.
Ishrat, Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in an encounter by the Gujarat Police on the outskirts of the city on June 15, 2004. According to the CBI, it was a fake encounter while the Gujarat Police claimed they were part of Lashkar-e-Taiba involved in a plot to assassinate Narendra Modi, who was Gujarat Chief Minister then. Having lost her father Shamim two years before her own death, Ishrat gave tuition and did embroidery work to support her family. Since her killing, the family has been constantly under the hawk-eyed vigil of intelligence sleuths.
Vanzara was one of the accused in the case involving Ishrat’s fake encounter – and was also arrested in the fake encounters of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsi Prajapati. He headed the Anti-Terrorism Squad of the Gujarat Police and also Ahmedabad Crime Branch at one point of time. He had retired from service while under suspension. Pandey, currently an officer of the rank of Additional Director General of Police, was the Joint Commissioner of Police when the encounter of Ishrat and three others took place.
“The family is living under fear,” said Awhad, but added that he has stood by them and the legal battle would continue. Awhad, a former minister for medical education during the erstwhile Congress-NCP Democratic Front government, who often accompanied the family members of Ishrat during the press conferences, said the Congress could not handle the issue.
“It was a strong case (of fake encounter) but they messed it up…it is sad,” he said, adding that the “role of politicians” should be examined by the courts. “Today, the Congress is facing the problems,” he said, adding that the then Congress-led UPA government should have taken a strong stand on the issue of “fake encounters” in Gujarat.
“One after another, the accused are on bail,” he said, adding that the basic question remains that if it is an input of the Intelligence Bureau, it should have come to Maharashtra, but there is no such record. “Whatever may be the situation, I will continue to fight,” he added. “It is a long drawn battle, I will continue to help the family.”