The Ishrat Jahan false encounter case is not about politics. It is about something more fundamental.
The discourse on encounter killings in Ishrat Jahan encounter case is wavering between extreme persuasions. There are views strongly opposing it — and rightly so — while there are those who are justifying fake encounters. Some of them are even giving the fake encounters a bizarre constitutional sanction. Dr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta wrote an illuminating piece after Sohrabuddin encounter. The same can be repeated word-to-word today.
Whether Ishrat Jahan was a Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist or not is a matter for investigation agencies and courts to decide. That decision, however, does not alter the manner in which the horrific encounter was carried out. There is absolutely no justification for killing anyone in cold blood. As this report in Hindustan Times rightly states, the investigation was initiated by courts intervention and not by the Congress government. Well before the subject degenerated into a political football, Metropolitan Magistrate and SIT have found that the encounter was fake and recently CBI came to the same conclusion.
Look at it in another way. A notorious terrorist like Ajmal Kasab, who committed mass murder and was caught red-handed, was given a fair trial, with the investigation agency filing an 11,000 page charge-sheet. The Supreme Court then upheld the verdict in a 398 page Judgment. Kasab, unlike Ishrat, was a Pakistani and the evidence of his being a mass murderer was seen by millions on their TV screens across the globe. Even then, the manner in which we gave every possible opportunity to him to prove his innocence was an indication of a functional Republic. There is no reason why that opportunity should be denied to someone else.
The “disproportionate” media —including social media—attention which the Ishrat case has received is now being used to question the intentions of those seeking justice. Given the history of communal incidents in Gujarat under the same government, it is not very surprising that this case has received more attention than the others. In any case, it is extremely difficult to explain why a particular case receives more attention than others? Isn’t it true that Delhi rape case received more attention than any other rape incident? Does it mean that other rape incidents are less condemnable? Should people divert attention from that case by bringing in the data of Madhya Pradesh which records the highest number of rape cases in this country? That a particular fake encounter case received more attention than others does not alter the fact that all fake encounters — even in areas facing violent insurgencies — are reprehensible crimes. Those involved in fake encounters should be severely punished by due process of law.
In short, no matter who Ishrat Jahan was and what she was up to, she deserved a fair trial. There is no excuse for taking someone’s life in such a horrific manner. That is the only constitutional and moral touchstone for those who believe in the Republic of India.