Ishrat Jahan Case: Chidambaram has nowhere to hide

The Ishrat Jahan case is getting murkier. It now turns out that then Home Minister P. Chidambaram was being economical with the truth about the two different affidavits filed before the court-appointed Special Investigation Team.

In the first it was claimed, and truthfully, that Ishrat Jahan was a Laskhar-e-Taiba terrorist who was on a mission to eliminate Narendra Modi back when he was still the chief minister of Gujarat. However, within weeks, another affidavit was filed. And in this one, most tellingly, any reference to her being a LeT terrorist was pointedly omitted. The information that she was part of a LeT module and was out to eliminate Modi was provided by the National Investigation Agency and the US’s Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Subsequent events revealed how the notorious Pakistani-American double agent David Coleman Headley was part of the LeT conspiracy. Headley’s arrest and interrogation by the FBI had led to the disclosure. FBI shared the information with the Indian authorities which after follow-up found it credible enough to warn the Gujarat Police. Ishrat Jahan, her local accomplices and two Pakistani LeT operatives were eliminated in an encounter outside Gandhinagar.

Instead of commending the Gujarat Police, the Centre contrived to foist a case of false encounter with the sole objective of trapping Modi and then Gujarat Minister of State for Home Amit Shah. That a huge number of such encounters under its own watch had gone uninvestigated, and in quite a few of them innocents were killed, did not seem to be of any concern to Chidambaram and his party leadership. Nor did it matter that none other than senior party colleague, Digvijay Singh, had publicly questioned the Chidambaram claim about the Batla House encounter and demanded a judicial probe. That demand was never conceded and Batla House encounter was never probed independently.

But the death of Ishrat Jahan was made into a cause célèbre with an eye on foiling Modi’s onward march to Delhi. Now, till only a few days ago, Chidambaram had denied that he had signed either of the two affidavits. More significantly, he claimed that he had deleted reference to Ishrat Jahan being a LeT operative because there was no credible basis to it. However the release of the relevant papers under the RTI exposes him as a Liar, with capital L.

When seemingly well-educated politicians resort to plain lies the anger, nay, disgust ought to be greater because they think that the people are fools and can be easily duped into believing whatever they say with an air of superiority and in slow dictation speed but in a clipped English accent. As one of the more venal politicians among the educated lot, Chidambaram deserves neither the benefit of doubt in the Ishrat Jahan case nor any mercy.

He must be hauled up before the relevant investigating authority and made to answer all there is to know about the case. And while still on Chidambaram, the Enforcement Directorate is investigating the money-making rackets of his son, Karti. It is hoped that there shall be no attempt to detail the probe. Remarkably Chidambaram has always been at the Centre of a controversy right from the time he first became a junior minister in the Congress Government.

He wanted to clamp down on the free media, sponsoring a draconian legislation for the purpose. Were it not for a united media, freedom of the press would have been in jeopardy. Chidambaram’s stint in Commerce was marred by allegations of questionable dealings with a mutual fund. As Home Minister he played foul with an elected chief minister in order to please his political bosses.

As Finance Minister aside from indulging in creative accounting in the budget, he talked of clamping down on the flow of funds through the Participatory Notes and then did nothing, giving opportunity to some well-connected people to make shovelfuls of money playing the share markets. Even some of the key appointments in the banking sector were suspect, with the hand of Karti widely suspected in a number of them.

Yet, the Harvard-educated Chidambaram, out of power, has the gumption to dispense homilies week after week, lamenting how he wanted to repeal the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, how he was against this and that egregious act of the UPA Government, all the time pretending as if he was not a key part of the Sonia Gandhi-controlled Government. As they say, you cannot fool all the people all the time. Chidambaram the politician stands thoroughly exposed.

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