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Teachers praise Ishrat, police spy no militant link

Mumbai, June 17: Yesterday, it was only the impoverished family that had protested feebly that “their Ishrat” could not have been a terrorist.

Today, it was the whole of Mumbra, the faculty at Khalsa College and even the police department that vouched for the “good behaviour” of Ishrat Raza, the 19-year-old science student killed along with three others by Gujarat police near Ahmedabad on Tuesday.

But it was Thane police, under whose jurisdiction Mumbra falls, that dealt the biggest blow to the credibility of the “fidayeen theory” of Gujarat police, which claimed they had information that a four-member Lashkar-e-Toiba suicide squad was on a mission to eliminate chief minister Narendra Modi.

After searches yesterday at Ishrat’s Mumbra house, police said they found “no evidence” to show she was either a militant or linked to any militant organisation. “We have still not found any evidence that could connect the girl with any terrorist group,” ACP Amar Jadhav said.

Thane police scanned every piece of paper and looked into every corner of the one-bedroom house before they made this statement. They continue to grill her mother Shamima Shaikh and the eldest of her four sisters, Zeenat, about Ishrat and her whereabouts before she left for Ahmedabad on Saturday. A CID team visited her college and quizzed her teachers and friends.

The Maharashtra government seemed equally enthusiastic to get to the bottom of the case. Home minister R.R. Patil has ordered a probe to find out if Ishrat had a criminal record even as the Opposition Congress in Gujarat termed the encounter “fake” and demanded a CBI inquiry.

“I have asked authorities to conduct an inquiry whether the girl was involved in any criminal activities and had any crime record,” Patil said. “I will make the information public within three days.”

At Ishrat’s college, where she had enrolled for BSc second year with mathematics and statistics as her main subjects — her sisters said she wanted to be a maths professor — her class teacher and principal expressed shock.

“I don’t recall her, she must have been the quiet type, but that she had opted for mathematics and statistics makes it obvious she was serious about studies,” vice-principal S.C. Dhume said.

Principal Ajit Singh said: “She seemed to be very particular about her classes and her practicals. I have had no complaints about her.”

But if the posthumous accolades have come in torrents, there are questions too. Like, why did she not tell her mother the reason for visiting Ahmedabad'

“Only further investigations will tell if Ishrat will go to her grave as an earnest student toiling hard to mitigate the financial mess of her large family or leave them to fend off charges of having had a terrorist in their midst,” said a police officer.

Ahmedabad police today sent teams to Maharashtra. Besides Ishrat, Javed, who was among those killed, was from Pune. They have also asked the foreign ministry to contact its Pakistani counterpart to inform the parents of the two Pakistanis killed.

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