14-page affidavit filed by the Ministry of Home Affairs with the Gujarat High Court on 6 August 2009, in reply to a petition by Ishrat Jahan's mother Shamima Kausar, called the 19-year-old girl a terrorist. The affidavit, a copy of which is available with this newspaper, stated that "to fully appreciate the whole matter particularly killing of Ishrat Jehan and Javed Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh it was essential to look at the background and linkages of Javed Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh @ Pranesh Kumar Pillai with Ishrat Jehan."
Pillai was one of the three men killed along with Ishrat Jahan on 15 June 2004 in an encounter with the Gujarat police. Pillai, who originally belonged to Kerala, was born a Hindu and later converted to Islam and adopted the name Javed Ghulam Sheikh.
The affidavit mentions that Pillai travelled to Dubai and worked there for a considerable time. "It is suspected that while working in Dubai he was subverted to the cause of LeT. Javed obtained another passport in the name of Pranesh Kumar from RPO Cochin. Javed @ Pranesh Kumar, though had never lived in Kerala, but suddenly obtained a passport in his previous Hindu name, whereas his earlier passport obtained in the name of Javed was valid till June 2004."
The affidavit, which was filed by R.V.S Mani, Under Secretary, with the Ministry of Home Affairs says that Javed visited Oman just two months before he allegedly met Lashkar operative Muzammil.
Page 1 of the affidavit
The affidavit also mentioned the statement that was issued by Lashkar-e-Taiba on the death of Ishrat. "It is humbly submitted that several Indian newspapers such as the Times of India, The Hindu, The Indian Express published news item on July 15 2004 that Lahore based 'Ghazwa Times', mouthpiece of LeT had said that the veil of Ishrat Jehan, a woman activist of LeT was removed by Indian police and her body was kept with other mujahideens on the ground. Ishrat was with her husband, sitting on the front seat of the car." This newspaper could not verify whether Ishrat was wearing a veil at the time of the encounter.
The affidavit mentioned that there were discrepancies in the statement given by Gopinath Pillai, father of Pranesh Pillai and Ishrat's mother Shamima Kausar regarding Pranesh's profession. While Pillai's father stated that he was working in a travel agency, Shamima Kausar said that he was in the business of perfume and toiletry. The statement that Javed and Ishrat were activists of LeT comes for the first time in paragraph 9 of the affidavit: "In view of the news reports mentioned in para 8 and facts submitted and stated in the succeeding paragraphs, it is evident that Javed and Ishrat were activists of the terrorist organization, LeT."
Para 11 of the affidavit says, "The Petitioner (Shamima Kausar) has recalled in detail the schedule of late Ishrat before she joined the service of Javed as a salesgirl but has not mentioned about the address of the shop/business establishment of Javed where Ishrat was to do the job of the salesgirl. There is no mention of the duty hours of Ishrat, specific commodities of perfume and toiletries being purchased and sold by Javed, the manner and places from where these items were procured by Javed. It is also not clarified ... if Ishrat after employment with Javed had discontinued her studies in Guru Nanak Khalsa College, or the tuitions she was taking prior to her employment with Javed. It is also not clear ... whether Ishrat's nature of employment with Javed was in the nature of regularly attending shop/commercial establishment of Javed from where he was running his business, if any, or only to accompany him on tour. The Petitioner also had not stated the places and purpose visited by Ishrat while accompanying Javed. The above clearly shows lack of clarity and omissions, which appear to be deliberate with the intent of concealing the real nature and activities of Javed and Ishrat."
Paragraph 12 states that the police action against the four persons including Javed and Ishrat was bona fide: "It is humbly submitted that these contradictions clearly reflect the neither Gopinath Pillai the father of Javed nor mother of Ishrat Jehan have chosen to disclose the correct facts relating to occupation, activities and movements of Javed and Ishrat on account of the fact that both Javed and Ishrat were involved in such activities disclosure of which would result in reflection of the bona fide of the police action against these four persons including Javed and Ishrat."
Commenting on the apology submitted by Jamat-ud-Dawah (mouthpiece of Lashkar-e-Taiba) which disowned Ishrat Jahan just before Gopinath Pillai filed his petition, the affidavit says, "It is humbly submitted that it is clear from the above that Ishrat was actively associated with LeT and apology by LeT mouthpiece is only tactical to discredit Indian security agencies and police and aimed (at) misleading the court."
The affidavit further goes on to mention that both petitioners failed to explain the relationship of Javed and Ishrat with the two Pakistani nationals: "Amjad Ali was a Pakistani LeT terrorist and the company of Ishrat and Javed with him clearly proves that they were working for the common mission of LeT."
Paragraph 19 of the affidavit mentions that the MHA was aware of the LeT attempts to target Indian politicians. "The answering respondent no 1 (union of India) was also aware of the inputs that LeT was planning to carry out assassination of some top level national and state leaders. LeT in this regard had tasked its Indian based cadres to monitor their movement. Union of India and its agencies, were and are, regularly sharing such inputs with the state governments including the inputs mentioned in this para."
Continuation of paragraph 19
Commenting on the two Pakistani nationals who were killed in the encounter the affidavit says, "Two of the persons killed in the police encounter on 15.6.2004 were sent by LeT to carry out terrorist action in Gujarat. One of the killed LeT cadre and Pak national was Amjad Ali. J&K police had on June 25-28 arrested a group of 18 LeT terrorists headed by the chief operational commander for central Kashmir Shahid Mehmud and his Pakistani associate Zahid Ahmed. In their disclosure they mentioned that Amjad Ali had entered India under express instructions from Muzammil for organizing terrorist network in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Amjad Ali was in regular touch with Pranesh Kumar Pillai."
"It is also submitted that Pune Police had recovered from the residence of Pranesh Kumar Pillai documents related to the preparation of high explosive devices through commonly available chemicals, electronics, circuits for timed detonation, advanced code sheets for communication and code names assigned to various targets etc, including important political personalities. Javed visited Oman (March-April 2004) where he was briefed by Muzammil, a senior LeT operative responsible for terrorist action in hinterland areas of India for targeting VIPs," reads paragraph 21.
"Attention of hon'ble court is once again invited to a very grave contradiction between contention of petitioner about the occupation of Javed and that of his father. Javed was neither in the business of perfume and toiletry nor running a taxi. As pointed out in the paras above, claimed hiring of Ishrat Jehan, daughter of petitioner Shamima Kausar by Javed was not for the purpose claimed by the petitioner but appears to be a part of the LeT conspiracy to provide cover to Pranesh Pillai of being husband and wife during his movements to various parts of the country including Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Ibrahimpur for accomplishment of his terrorist mission."
The affidavit also gave its statement on the police action: "Police action of June 15, 2004, has been independently inquired into by the Additional Director General of Police (CID and Intelligence), Gujarat State, who is neither working under Crime Branch nor is a subordinate officer to the Crime Branch, Ahmedabad City Police."
Interestingly, the home ministry did an about-turn after a month and carefully expunged all references about Ishrat Jahan's alleged links with the Lashkar-e-Taiba in the second affidavit it filed with the Gujarat High Court in September 2009.