On 15 June 2004, Ishrat Jahan Raza, a 19-year-old girl from Mumbai, was killed along with three other men in what was later alleged as a 'fake' encounter. But even after 10 years, justice is yet to be served and it now seems the truth will never come out.
The encounter still remains an ongoing criminal case. The killings, of Ishrat and three men - Pranesh Pillai (alias Javed Gulam Sheikh), Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar - who allegedly had links to terrorists, has only gotten clouded after 10 years and the facts of the case look hazier each passing year.
The operation was allegedly carried out by a team led by DIG DG Vanjara, who was later jailed for his involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter. He is still in jail but mainly for his role in the other encounter.
In the briefing, the police alleged that Ishrat and her associates were Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives, involved in a plot to assassinate the then-Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
However, an investigation was later launched into the allegations that Ishrat was killed in a fake encounter. In 2009, after a long investigation, an Ahmedabad Metropolitan court ruled that the encounter was staged.
The decision was challenged by the Gujarat state government, and taken to the High Court. On 3 July 2013, the CBI filed its first chargesheet in an Ahmedabad court, stating the shooting was a staged encounter carried out in cold blood.
One of the key officers involved in the encounter was GL Singhal, who was in charge of the Anti-Terrorism Squad. Singhal, fearing that he would meet the same fate as his senior officers, began taping the conversations, starting from Advocate General of Gujarat to the Chief Secretary and top cops. The recordings revealed that the Gujarat government was discussing ways of disrupting and misleading the investigation.
The audio tapes revealed that senior BJP leader Amit Shah, who was the state Home Minister at that time, was aware of all developments. But 10 years down the line, all previously arrested senior police officers, including Tarun Barot, JG Parmar, N K Amin, Bharat Patel and Anaju Chaudhary, are out on bail.
Similarly, Singhal was also released on bail, and was recently reinstated by the Gujarat government. The court gave a clean chit to Shah as well, as the CBI noted in its report that the evidence against Shah was not strong.
Ishrat's family, as well as several politicians and activists, maintain that the teen was innocent but the CBI has not given her a clean chit. Though the CBI declared that the encounter was staged, it did not make any comments on the LeT links.
Back in 2004, while a Lahore-based publication affiliated with LeT claimed that Ishrat and her companions were operatives, Jamaat-ud-Dawa - the political wing of the LeT - retracted the statement as a "journalistic mistake", offering an apology to Ishrat's family.
Again back in 2010, the Indian media reported that convicted terrorist David Headley had implicated Ishrat as an LeT female suicide bomber. However, these reports were said to be fabricated.