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Indian Probe Finds 4 People Were Killed in Staged Encounter by Police

  • Anjana Pasricha

In the Indian state of Gujarat, a judicial probe has found that the police killed a female student and three other people, in a staged encounter. The Gujarat government says it will challenge the finding. But, human rights groups have frequently voiced concern about rights violations in Gujarat state.

Nineteen-year-old Ishrat Jahan Raza was picked up by the Gujarat police, along with her boyfriend, in 2004 in Mumbai. Days later the police said she, along with two Pakistani nationals, had been gunned down after a police chase in Ahmedabad.

Police said the four were members of the banned Laskkar-e-Taiba militant group and were plotting to assassinate the hardline Hindu head of the state, Narendra Modi.

But a judicial probe into the incident has found the four were killed in police custody. It has blamed top police officers for their deaths, saying they were staged to win promotions and rewards.

The probe into Ishrat Raza's death was ordered after her family said she was innocent and the Mumbai police said she had no criminal background.

At a news conference after the release of the report, Raza's family said their faith in the country's judicial system has been vindicated. Mussarat Jahan is her younger sister.

She says they want severe punishment for those who are guilty and are confident of getting justice.

But Gujarat Health Minister Jai Narayan Vyas says the government will challenge the report and denies that the four people were killed in a staged encounter.

Vyas says the law of natural justice demands that the suspected police should have been given an opportunity to prove their innocence, but this had not been done.

The probe is a setback for the Gujarat government, which is ruled by the opposition Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

This is the second time police in the state have been blamed for extra-judicial killings. Several of the policemen held responsible for the death of Ishrat Raza are in jail, facing trial in connection with the killing of another man and his wife in a staged encounter in 2005. The police had said two were terrorists.

The state government has faced strong criticism by human rights groups for rights violations, since the state was wracked by religious riots in 2002. Many of the 2,000 people killed in those riots were Muslims.

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