The BJP and the Congress on Thursday sparred after terrorist-turned-approver David Coleman Headley’s court deposition that Ishrat Jahan — shot dead in a shootout along with three others in 2004 — was a Laskhar-e-Taiba operative.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party demanded an apology from Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi, the opposition party questioned attempts to justify the “fake” Ishrat Jahan encounter which it said were “not permissible by law”.
Ishrat, a 19-year-old college student, Pranesh Pillai alias Javed Gulam Sheikh, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed on Ahmedabad’s outskirts in an alleged shootout with the police on June 15, 2004.
The police claimed that the four were LeT operatives plotting to assassinate the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
“Jahan was an LeT member,” Pakistan-American Headley said in his sensational disclosure while deposing before Special TADA Court Judge A. Sanap in Mumbai via video-conferencing from a US jail on Thursday.
Headley said the 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi told him about “a botched up operation in India” of shooting at the police at a check-post in Gujarat.
A LeT woman operative was involved, Headley sais while identifying her as Thane college student Ishrat Jahan, out of the three names — Noorjehan Begum, Ishrat Jahan and Mumtaz Begum — given by Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam.
BJP leader Shrikant Sharma said in Delhi that Sonia and Rahul should tender an apology following Headley’s testimony.
“These Congress leaders should apologise to the nation and to the heroes who killed LeT terrorist Ishrat Jahan and her three accomplices,” he said.
“Instead of praising the brave policemen, questions were raised on their sincerity and they were put behind bars. Now the mask has come off their faces,” Sharma said.
He said the Congress hatched a conspiracy to politicise terror in order to defame the Bharatiya Janata Party and Modi.
On the other hand, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari questioned the attempts to use Headley’s testimony to justify the “fake” shootout.
He said if the government wants to investigate further if Jahan and her accomplices were Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives or not, there was nothing which stops it.
“But the fundamental question remains: Whether Ishrat and her accomplices were killed in a fake encounter or not?” Tewari added.
Tewari said even if a person is a terrorist, he needs to be arrested and needs to be brought to justice like parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
“But to try and justify a fake encounter, I am afraid, is something which the law does not permit,” the Congress leader said.
Headley’s earlier testimony before a National Investigation Agency team in 2011 in the US claimed Jahan was a Lashkar terrorist.