Ishrat Jahan’s is a case of how not to fight terror

I heard a lawyer friend of mine arguing against extreme positions some people tend to take on issues such as terrorism, rape and corruption. In her balanced view, there was no substitute for exercising restraint and affording the accused the due process of law.

“That’s what one expects from all civilized societies,” she averred. But the constituency of sanity is shrinking fast.

Or that’s the impression one gets from the very loud, very unforgiving nature of the public discourse led by certain political parties, TV channels and newspapers.

The refrain: death for alleged rapists and terrorists; no bail for the scam-tainted.

There’s no dearth in our country of apologists for encounter specialists. They’ve come to be viewed by some as real-life heroes. Delhi has had its share of such deified policemen.

So have Maharashtra, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. Even the Khalistan movement of the eighties saw the tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye approach of Punjab’s then police chief, KPS Gill. The border state also saw retributive killings during the Naxalite movement of the late sixties and early seventies.

But eliminating innocent people in staged police encounters is the surest way of how not to fight terror. Such encounters help terrorist organizations show the State as terrorist. A case in point is that of Ishrat Jahan.

Together with three others, she was done in by a group of Gujarat policemen since charged with murder by the CBI. In the debate over a senior IB official’s alleged role in the cold-blooded killings, the BJP has not only defended the official but has accused the UPA of pitting the CBI against the IB to pursue its anti-Narendra Modi agenda.

“It will weaken the fight against terror,” the saffron party insisted. “The CBI charge sheet very clearly underplays the role of the LeT, underplays the role of terrorists and certainly indicts the security apparatus and demoralizes them,” said its spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman.

The BJP’s argument equating the official—Rajendra Kumar— with the institution of IB is an exaggeration. In recent years, there have been several instances of intelligence officials going wayward or harboring political ambitions.

A case against a special director nearing retirement cannot be interpreted as a “no trust” motion against the country’s premier intelligence outfit.

Truth is a casualty in the din and bustle of politics. The CBI indeed has been used in the past by the Congress as also the BJP. The Congress more for it has been in power for a longer period.

The CBI chargesheet is now before the Court. Rather than slugging it out politically, the ruling combine and the principal Opposition must let the law take its course.

The case after all is monitored by the Gujarat high court and the CBI cannot wrongly implicate or exonerate people.

Fake encounters even if staged against genuine terrorists cannot be justified. The rule of law must prevail. Or else the country will be reduced to a police State.

If that happens, we’d end up providing terrorist gangs with nurseries for recruitment. The effort should be to embrace alienated communities rather than pushing them into the lap of forces inimical to the country.

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