The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Screams, silence & sea of humanity

Mumbai, June 19: Before her death, Ishrat Raza lived an anonymous life. Today, at her funeral, it seemed the whole of Mumbra had taken to the streets.

Nearly 25,000 mourners jammed traffic — some even asked for donations to help her family — as they walked praying for the soul of the 19-year-old college student.

“This doesn’t happen usually,” said Hashmat Shaikh, shaking his head.

Shaikh had never heard of Ishrat before June 15, the day she was gunned down near Ahmedabad with three others by Gujarat police, which claimed they were members of the militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba and were on a mission to eliminate chief minister Narendra Modi.

Shamima, Ishrat’s mother, arrived here from Ahmedabad about 8.30 in the morning with the bullet-riddled body of her daughter. She was stunned to see the mass of humanity — thousands praying in silence, others screaming in anger.

For most of yesterday and today, Mumbra remained shut. Mosques blared out requests through loudspeakers for men to “come out in large numbers and join the procession and make it a protest march”. In Kausa locality, a maulvi said: “An innocent girl has been killed, we have to raise our hands in protest.”

Every evening Ishrat used to give tuitions to supplement her family’s meagre income from miscellaneous embroidery work. Her father died three years ago.

Police sources, however, said they have located a diary of Ishrat which showed “transactions worth lakhs” with militant elements. But her home shows no signs of the money. A torn bedsheet separates their only bedroom from the kitchen. There are a couple of chairs, one broken, and no furniture.

Ishrat’s mother has added to the confusion. The day after Ishrat’s death, she claimed her daughter had gone to Ahmedabad but did not know with whom and for what. Now she says Ishrat had gone to Mumbai for a job interview. It becomes Ahmedabad and Surat by turns.

Shamima had also said she did not know Javed, one of the three men killed by the Gujarat police. Now it turns out he was a family friend and lived in Mumbra six years ago. The state minority commission chairman, Mohammad Naseem Shaikh, yesterday said she was in a “relationship” with Javed.

Today, Shamima again said the Gujarat police forced her to say Ishrat came to Ahmedabad on six earlier occasions and was friendly with a Lashkar operative. “I made the statement under pressure and duress,” she said. “They (the Gujarat police) told me they would not hand over her body otherwise.”

In Pune, where Javed lived, police recovered two compact discs with footage of the Gujarat riots, two passports and some “incriminating documents”. His wife, Sajida, who had yesterday said she knew nothing about Ishrat, today claimed the girl knew Javed well.

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