New Delhi: In a major embarrassment to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), former home secretary G.K. Pillai said its government got a reference to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group deleted from an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court naming Ishrat Jahan as a terrorist.

“One affidavit said these people were LeT operatives and in the other affidavit that aspect was deleted. I really won’t know why it was deleted. It was done at a political level," Pillai told Times Now on Thursday.

Ishrat Jahan, who was a resident of Mumbra near Mumbai, was shot dead along with three men on 15 June 2004, by Gujarat police officers in an encounter. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is investigating allegations that their killing was staged.

The affidavits were filed by the CBI in 2009. The focus of the affidavits was the fake encounter case and not the investigation about whether Ishrat Jahan was an LeT member.

Pillai’s revelation comes at a time when the Congress party is locked in a political battle with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over nationalism. While the BJP leadership has accused the Congress of supporting “anti-nationals", the Congress has charged the government with muzzling dissent.

Pillai said he believed that the operation conducted by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) was “very successful" because the intelligence agency had managed to lure the LeT to send its terrorists to India.

“It was a very successful intelligence operation. We managed to entice LeT to send its shooters to India.... It was the court which directed CBI to investigate the case. There were allegations and the matter went to the court, so the court directed CBI to investigate. I have no doubt that the intelligence operation involved LeT," Pillai added.

On being asked if Ishrat Jahan was a terrorist, Pillai said, “Ishrat knew something was wrong, otherwise an unmarried Muslim girl would not go with a married person and spend nights, which is not a normal pattern. Perhaps she knew something was happening. She could have been a cover. People can be suspicious of a single person but if someone travels as husband and wife then people don’t look upon them with suspicion."

Pillai’s revelations come nearly two weeks after David Coleman Headley, a Pakistan-born American terror operative and accused-turned-approver in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, told a Mumbai court through video conferencing that Ishrat Jahan was an operative of the LeT. Shrikant Sharma, national secretary of the BJP, said, “There was a deliberate attempt by the Congress leadership to defame Narendra Modi who was the chief minister of Gujarat at that time. Sonia Gandhi should apologize to the people. It is a fact that Ishrat Jahan was a terrorist. It was an operation carried out by the intelligence agencies."

Two Congress party leaders declined to comment on the issue.

The controversy has spilled into the ongoing budget session of Parliament. While the Congress party is trying to corner the government on the recent row over Jawaharlal Nehru University and the death of a Dalit student at Hyderabad Central University, the BJP wants a discussion on the Ishrat Jahan case. Senior BJP leaders have accused the Congress-led UPA of trying to falsely implicate BJP leaders from Gujarat in the case.

Political analysts said Pillai’s allegations will hurt the Congress party both inside and outside Parliament. “People of the country will not like any compromise on national security and defaming a political rival. This kind of revelation will hurt the Congress party both inside and outside Parliament. The BJP will obviously try to make the most out of this revelation," said A.K. Verma, a Kanpur-based political analyst and political science professor at Christ Church College.

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