New Delhi: In an exclusive interview to Times Now, former Union Home secretary (June 30, 2009 – June 30, 2011), GK Pillai has made the sensational disclosure that Ishrat Jahan and 3 others killed in what is known as the Ishrat Jahan encounter case were mentioned as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives in one CBI affidavit whereas in another this was deleted at the political level.
The Congress led UPA Government was in power at that time and the Ishrat Jahan encounter case was being investigated by the CBI following a court order.
The CBI has earlier accused officers of the Ahmedabad Police Crime Branch and the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau of the Gujarat State Police of carrying out a fake encounter in which Ishrat Jahan and 3 others were killed on 15 June 2004. The Gujarat police claimed that those killed were LeT operatives. They were identified as Ishrat Jahan Raza, (19), a young woman from Mumbai, and three men – Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar.
The Gujarat police claimed that these persons were there under a plot to assassinate the present Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was then the chief minister of Gujarat.
Recently in another interview to Times Now, a former special director of Intelligence Bureau B Rajendra Kumar had said that in the CBI there were certain greedy officers and for post-retirement benefits, these officers had manipulated the whole case.
In his interview to the same news channel, when he was asked about two “contradictory affidavits” filed by the CBI in the Ishrat Jahan case, the former Home Secretary said: “I don’t think the affidavits were contradictory to each other, what really happened was in one there was a mention of the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, now I am trying to recollect that the people were LeT operatives and in the other one that aspect was deleted.”
Pillai said in his interview: “There were allegations that it was a fake encounter and the matter had gone to the court and the court had directed the CBI to do the investigation. So on the investigation per say, I have no question at all. The CBI has to do the investigation but they have to carry out in a professional manner and ensure that confidentiality is maintained and not as they say give daily off record briefings on what is happening.”
In this context, Pillai further said that he personally would not have recommended a CBI probe particularly because the IB was involved. But the allegation in a sense differentiated itself from the IB operation. It was an issue of fake encounter and therefore the issue of fake encounter with human rights violation is a totally different issue on which the courts had directed that the investigation should takes place and he would not have any problem with that.
Throwing light on the Ishrat Jahan case, Pillai said it was a very successful intelligence operation. He said we managed to entice the LeT to send their shooters into India and were able to monitor their activities in India. According to him, it was a very successful operation from the intelligence standpoint. he further said that it was a very planned operation and this is something which the intelligence agencies all over the world do.
Reiterating that it was a trap and a very successful operation since it involved using the sources of the LeT. On former IB special Director Rajendra Kumar’s allegation that the Gujarat Police and the intelligence Bureau officers had colluded and the CBI has still not been able to prove or say anything about these terrorists or their background whether these were LeT oepratives or not, the former Home Secretary said: “Without going into the allegations – Matter is with the CBI and it has to charge-sheet and prove its case in court.”
Pillai said: “The CBI in one sense is actually a court directed investigation so the CBI is perfectly within its jurisdiction to carry out this investigation. But where I find fault with the officers of the CBI was the fact that there was almost during that period, almost a daily, what shall I say, off the record briefing of what somebody is saying, what statements are being made etc. and when the operation or an investigation of this sort includes the IB, I think the officers in the CBI should have exercised extreme discretion. There were leaks definitely, if your see the newspapers at that time, there were leaks everyday saying that so and so has said this, so and so has made this allegation, so and so has made that allegation and so on.
Pillai went on to assert that they should have kept quiet and if he was the Home Secretary he would have definitely called up the Director, CBI and told him this was totally unacceptable.
Answering another question , Pillai said that it is important to understand that whether they were LeT operatives or not is one aspect. The second aspect is whether it was fake encounter. I have no doubt in one sense that this intelligence operation involved the LeT. He further said we have to clearly differentiate between what the intelligence operation was from the issue of fake encounter.
When asked specifically was Ishrat Jahan a terrorist, Pillai said:An unmarried Muslim girl would not go with another married person to different places etc. spend night outside so far and so forth, which is not the normal pattern at all perhaps she knew something was happening. He further said She could have been a cover. In fact it was one of the claims that she was actually used because a single person is more likely to be suspicious, but if someone travels as husband and wife then people do not look at them with suspicion. So it is quite possible, but since that part of the thing has not been investigated by the CBI, I will not like to make any further comments on that.
When asked about the way the CBI was acting at the behest of the government in this particular case. Pillai said yeah, going by the past, the Supreme Court itself has said this…. It depends on the professional …the integrity of the Director CBI and the officers. There are any number of cases that are there. Drawing attention to former DG BSF Rammohan’s autobiography “Simply Khaki”, he said there is a whole chapter in it on the CBI. He gives details of how various cases were dealth with. One can see the influence political parties and the governed in power have had on the CBI, he said adding it is well documented.
The revelation by Pillai raises many questions and he will have to explain why as Union Home Secretary he had chosen to keep quiet when he had noticed that an important piece of information that those killed in the encounter by Gujarat Police were LeT operatives had been deleted from the affidavit by the CBI. He will also have to tell the public if he had at all put the anomaly on record in his official position.