As much as Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and his right-hand man Amit Shah, India’s shadowy internal spy agency is feeling the heat following the CBI’s chargesheet in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. For the politicians, the fat will be in the fire only if the IB officers choose to squeal.
The world’s oldest intelligence agency is neck-deep in the quagmire. For the first time, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) stands formally accused of criminal conspiracy, abduction, planting of evidence and, worse, plain, cold-blooded murder. Whether the charges remain confined to a small group of individual officers, who will then stand trial in their individual capacity, or whether it snowballs into a scandal involving IB as an institution, will become clearer in the coming weeks and following the supplementary chargesheet that the CBI has undertaken to file on July 26 in the case.
The IB, which was set up by the colonial-era regime in 1887, has so far stonewalled the CBI investigation and refused to share information with the investigators. On the only occasion when one of its seniormost officers, Rajinder Kumar, special director (IB), was questioned by the CBI in June 2013, he reportedly claimed that his job ended when he shared the “input” (that “terrorists” were travelling to Ahmedabad to assassinate the Gujarat chief minister) with the police. Period. He did not remember the finer details.
As it stands, he’s at one remove from being an accused. “Evidence against Kumar is fabricated,” a former IB director told Outlook, fuming. Why would he get involved in a fake encounter, what would he have to gain? Speaking on condition of anonymity, the former dib hinted that spy agencies are forced to carry out unpleasant duties in the line of duty. “Strictly speaking,” he went on to add, “everything the IB does is illegal.”
Arvind Verma, a former IPS officer now teaching in Indiana University, US, told Outlook, “IB has a well-structured process of documenting every bit of information and keeping full records of every transaction.” But it is not willing to cooperate with the CBI or allowing it access to records dating back to 2004 and pertaining to the encounter. Which is why the CBI is wary of naming the IB officials among the accused.
What the CBI does claim to have is evidence to show that one of the alleged terrorists, Pranesh Pillai, alias Javed Sheikh, was actually in touch with the IB and, more pertinently, with Rajinder Kumar long before he was abducted and gunned down. The agency, which claims the IB asked Javed Sheikh to reach Ahmedabad, suspects he was an informer. It also has credible information that Sheikh was the “handler” for the other two “terrorists” gunned down with him.
July 7, 2011: Police officers Tarun Barot (holding revolver) and G.L. Singhal (right) during a reconstruction of the Ishrat Jahan encounter by the SIT. (Photograph by PTI)
In short, the three alleged terrorists were agents or double agents.
Why then would the IB decide to eliminate them? Once again, there is no easy answer although sources close to the investigators speculate that it is possible that their cover was blown and they were no longer useful to the IB. But still, why kill them?
This is the point where Rajinder Kumar’s role gets even more intriguing. The IB official, says former Gujarat ADGP (intelligence) R.B. Sreekumar, became friendly with Narendra Modi when the latter was a BJP general secretary and Kumar was overseeing IB operations in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Sreekumar told a TV interviewer that the then home minister, L.K. Advani, got Kumar posted to Ahmedabad following Modi’s request. “That Kumar was close to the chief minister was not exactly a state secret here and people still remember the warm send-off Modi gave him in 2005.” The insinuation is that Kumar allowed the Gujarat police to stage the encounter to claim credit for foiling a terror attack and the CM to make some political capital.
But did Kumar have a personal agenda? “If it is proved that he was physically present at the scene during the encounter, his liability will be that of a private citizen,” says a former CBI director. Any decision to prosecute him or not will depend on whether the agency has such evidence, he felt.
A glaring discrepancy is that the FIR after the June 15, 2004, encounter says that the then Joint Police Commissioner P.P. Pandey had received intelligence from his “personal” and “private” sources about terrorists proceeding in a blue Indica to Ahmedabad, a claim he reiterated when a PUCL team called on him. “Intelligence,” he told them, need not always come from “official sources”. The claim opens up the possibility that the fact or fiction of an IB input was generated as an afterthought.
The CBI’s contention in the preliminary chargesheet that Rajinder Kumar knew that the four alleged terrorists were alive and in the custody of the Gujarat police and that he had interrogated them raises yet another question. Did he send a report of his interrogation to the IB headquarters? If he did not, which appears to be the case, then it would mean that he was acting on his own. On the other hand, if he did interrogate the alleged terrorists “officially” and recorded it, he would have known that the encounter, touted as a ‘spontaneous’ field event, was fake.
Whatever be the final outcome, the controversy has served to highlight the fact that the IB does not work under any statute or legal framework. While the government describes it as a civilian organisation, it is manned largely by police officers and acts somewhat as a police organisation. In the absence of any statute, the IB is open to abuse, as the Shah Commission of inquiry had emphasised when it was appointed to look into Emergency excesses in 1977. The commission’s recommendations, however, have never been acted upon by successive governments.
A PIL questioning the legally grey status of the IB is also pending before the Karnataka High Court. Filed by former IB officer R.N. Kulkarni, it observes that the finest intelligence agencies in the world operate in secrecy, but within a legal framework. It asks: if other countries, including the United States, can have statutes guiding their agencies, why can’t India?
The case has been dragging in the court for the past two years, with the next hearing due in August.
However, in May this year, the Union of India filed an affidavit to claim that the IB’s operations as a wing of the MHA was constitutional because its budget is voted by Parliament; its expenditure, barring the secret funds, is audited; and there is already an oversight committee, which includes the leader of the opposition and which meets once every three months to review the working of the IB.
The CBI has been under pressure to leave the IB alone. But the agency is believed to have told the MHA that it would not be possible for it to gloss over the evidence it already has on record, especially in a case monitored by the judiciary. Agency insiders admit there was enormous pressure on them to let Kumar off the hook. But in the face of media frenzy, selective leaks and the close watch kept by the court, a quiet burial, they hinted, was unlikely.
While the present IB director, Asif Ibrahim, and the outgoing home secretary, R.K. Singh, did try to broker peace between the two agencies, it came to nothing. The two agencies admit to ‘bad blood’ between them and blame each other for the current impasse.
The IB, say its apologists, works on trust and in national interest and it would demoralise the cadre if they were hounded for generating intelligence. The CBI sympathisers scoff at such claims and question whether the IB can ride roughshod over due process and take the law into its own hands in the name of statecraft and national security. The duel rages on, with neither opponent willing to back off.
Why The BJP Defence Does Not Wash
While BJP questions CBI credibility and has put up a brave face to defend the Ishrat Jahan encounter, there are many questions for which it has no answers
BJP points to the LeT website endorsing Ishrat Jahan’s terror links after June 15, 2004
If the Gujarat police has any proof of her terror links before the encounter in June 2004, it is yet to reveal them. It has instead fallen back on the LeT website owning Ishrat as one of its own after the encounter.
BJP cites David Headley telling FBI that she was a suicide bomber
In reply to an RTI query from NCP leader Rauf Lala, National Investigation Agency (NIA) said David Headley had made no mention of Ishrat Jahan to them.
BJP mentions an affidavit filed by the MHA in 2009 before the Gujarat High Court, acknowledging her terror links
In a second affidavit, the Ministry of Home Affairs clarified that intelligence inputs were not always conclusive, correct or to be taken as evidence. The clarification was accepted by the Gujarat High Court.
BJP maintains that the encounter was genuine and that the accused are innocent till found guilty by court
The party’s stand is at variance with its position on fake encounters in other states where it has demanded the resignation of chief ministers. It is also questioning the findings of the CBI, SIT and a judicial magistrate.
BJP denies the encounter was fake. Gujarat police, it holds, acted on inputs given by IB under a UPA government.
It is hard put to explain why an ADGP rank officer is absconding, why another IPS officer, G.L. Singhal, has virtually turned approver, and why 12 policemen implicated superiors for the fake encounter
BJP says with CBI holding it a joint operation of the IB and the police, MHA needs to explain what happened.
The MHA and IB have taken the stand that the latter had passed on the input to the state police and the encounter was carried out by the latter with rogue elements within the IB.
By Uttam Sengupta in Delhi and R.K. Misra in Gandhinagar
Self-appointed custodians of the unbridled police raj in Gujarat are raising a hue and cry over the arrest of senior police officials, saying it would demoralise the police force (Hear Them Skeletons in the Bureau?, July 15). This would have been true if the encounter killings were genuine. However, an analysis of encounter deaths from October 2002 to April 2007 in Gujarat, where the bulk of the victims were from the minority community, casts doubts on the veracity of these claims. For one, the Gujarat police failed to provide evidence of the background, pre-planning, material and human resources, communication network, shelters and sanctuaries of the persons killed in the encounter or any corroborative intelligence or information from the central or state intelligence. There was also no probe, just a perfunctory inquiry, diluting the stipulations of the Gujarat police manual about custodial deaths and encounters as well as a conspicuous suspension of the normal monitoring process of encounter incidents by superiors, thanks to the extra-legal nexus of ‘encounter experts’ in the highest echelons of the Modi government.
Kishore Dasmunshi, Calcutta
It was what you call fake encounters that rid Punjab of terrorists. They are a necessary evil to combat terrorism. Which is why we should not shed tears for Ishrat Jahan and her accomplices and sacrifice bright IPS officers.
S. Raghunatha Prabhu, Alappuzha
It is now alleged that one of the terrorists was in IB’s custody for eight weeks before being killed in an encounter. This means Rajendra Kumar must have informed his director in Delhi who in turn was supposed to inform the NSA—M.K. Narayanan at the time—and then home minister, Shivraj Patil. Even when the fake encounter took place, the details ought to have been supplied to the IB director and the HM and PM. The home ministry justified the encounter in the courts thrice before withdrawing its opinion after five years for no reason. The defence counsel will now ask the courts for the testimonies of Narayanan, the then HM and home secretaries and the heads of the five state forces. They will also insist on calling in the NIA officials who interviewed David Headley. The Congress has opened a Pandora’s box.
A.K., on e-mail
The IB has failed disastrously before, you only need to recall the so-called ISRO spy case, where a distinguished scientist and a semi-literate Maldivian woman were arrested as spies and prosecuted, only to face a spectacular failure in the courts. Apart from the loss of money spent in investigating and prosecuting the non-case, the GoI, as I recall it, ended up paying the Maldivian defendant Rs 50 lakh back then. Now a similarly flawed investigation may have led to the tragic killing of a young woman. There is just no justification to the argument that investigating where the Intelligence Bureau went wrong might demoralise the agency. If things aren’t set right, it might end up looking idiotic instead of intelligent.
M.K., on e-mail
One question that remains unanswered even after so many years is what a college girl studying in Mumbai was doing in the company of three males—accomplices or not—in an Ahmedabad hotel.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
Someone who is great follower of a person who kept a state a Bimaru state under his rule is likely to be suffering with Bimaru Mind....
He or she needs urgent treatment!!!!
rajinder singh might as well have joined parivar formally
Ishrat case: Digvijaya links IB officer with L K Advani, Narendra ModiD K Singh : New Delhi, Thu Jul 11 2013, 08:40 hrs
"The CBI chargesheet mentions the involvement of (IB Special Director) Rajinder Kumar who had worked closely with Swaraj Kaushal (husband of Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj) and was posted at IB, Chandigarh, when Modi was general secretary in charge of Himachal Pradesh. When Advani was the Union Home Minister, he was appointed Joint Director, IB, Ahmedabad," Singh told The Indian Express.
Asked whether he was linking top BJP leaders with Kumar, he said, "I am not saying anything. I am only stating facts. Is it not a fact that Kumar was a close associate of Swaraj Kaushal when he was a Governor in the Northeast (in Mizoram)? Is it not a fact that under Advani, Kumar was posted in IB, Ahmedabad? Is it not a fact that G L Singhal (then ACP in Ahmedabad) has said in his statement to the CBI that Kumar was involved in helping the Gujarat Police in the fake encounter?"
The Congress leader's veiled suggestions about Kumar's links with BJP leaders came days after he had reportedly alleged that the whole idea of the Gujarat Police and Kumar working together was only to raise the pitch and leadership of the Gujarat Chief Minister "so that he becomes a hero in the mind of all people who believe that terrorism and acts of terror are only being done by the Muslims"
Modi is in thw news only because he made the big mistake of authorising a female to be murdered
There is this old funny video:
and the female version:
Although these videos are suppose to be made for fun, but they seems to reflect on our secus quite accurately.
In their zeal to nail Modi, they seems to lost sight from the monster they are feeding.
Can't be any bigger moral crime in today's India, than supporting Congress.
Hear Them Skeletons In The Bureau?
Nice play on the word "Bureau". There is a Bureau and there is a Bureau. : )
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