Ishrat's last call to sister: Strange men trailing me

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By SAMYABRATA RAY GOSWAMI AND BASANT RAWAT in Ahemdabad
  • Published 9.09.09
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Mumbai/Ahmedabad, Sept. 9: Ishrat Jahan Raza was scared when she last spoke to her sister from Nashik on June 11, 2004.

“She said she was being followed by some strange men. She was there to meet Javed Sheikh — he was known to our family and used to take her out of town at times on work. She used to help him with accounts in return for a salary. Our family needed that to survive after our father’s death,” said Ishrat’s sister, Musharat Jahan, 20, sitting in the family’s one-bedroom home near Mumbai.

An inquiry by the Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate has concluded that Ishrat was kidnapped by Gujarat police from near her Mumbra home (60km northeast of Mumbai) on June 12, 2004, along with Javed, and killed in “cold blood” two days later.

Magistrate S.P. Tamang has held 21 police officers, including retired director-general K.R. Kaushik, who was Ahmedabad commissioner then, responsible for the killings.

The police version was that Ishrat was killed along with Javed and two others in an encounter on June 15, 2004, and that they were all Lashkar-e-Toiba killers out to shoot chief minister Narendra Modi.

The Gujarat government today said it would challenge the report, which it described as being “bad in law”.

Jaynarayan Vyas, the spokesperson for the government, cited an affidavit filed in the high court by the Union home ministry last month, detailing the “criminal” background of all the four killed, including Ishrat, branding them Lashkar members.

He pointed out that a three-member probe committee set up by Gujarat High Court was to submit its report by November 30. “Couldn’t the magistrate wait till November 30? Why was he in such a hurry to submit the report?” Vyas said.

For Ishrat’s family, the report has, however, come as a godsend. “The summons the court sent for us to be present on August 21 reached us yesterday at 3.30 in the afternoon. Two hours later, we got news that Ishrat’s name had been cleared. It felt like Id had arrived early,” said Musharat.

The family stays in Rashid Compound, a famed den of police informers. The Razas shifted from their earlier apartment in the compound to the current one-bedroom flat after Ishrat’s death. “We could not pay the rent and the landlady was not comfortable about having us,” said mother Shameema Kausar.

“Ishrat was a bright student and taught in a private tuition school nearby and also did odd jobs,” Shameema said.

But, as a mother of a pretty teenager, Shameema did not like Ishrat travelling out of town with Javed on work. “That’s the reason she did not tell Amma anything when she left for Nashik on June 11, 2004,” Anwar, Ishrat’s younger brother, said.

He is now 19, the same age as Ishrat was when she was killed.