Unnao rape survivor, Sanjiv Bhatt and Ishrat Jahan: What's the link?

Unnao rape survivor, Sanjiv Bhatt and Ishrat Jahan: What's the link?
The container truck that killed Unnao rape victim.

Call it accidental coincidence, but the uncanny similarities among the three 'highly suspicious' road crashes that captured national attention in recent times are hard to ignore. The latest in this series happened last Sunday (July 28) when a truck rammed into a car in Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh.

The innocuous incident, which would have otherwise ignored as any other road accident, gained attention because one of the seriously injured passengers was Unnao rape survivor. The critically injured woman has been struggling for her life in a hospital in Uttar Pradesh.

The 19-year-old, who cannot be legally named, accused that BJP's legislator in Uttar Pradesh, Kuldeep Sengar, had raped her when she was 17. Sengar was charged under POCSO, the stringent law to protect children from sexual offences.

The rape survivor's family alleged that Sengar hatched the conspiracy to kill her. On August 1, the Supreme Court shifted all five cases registered in connection with the Unnao rape incident from a court in Uttar Pradesh to a court in the national capital.

Unnao rape survivor, Sanjiv Bhatt and Ishrat Jahan: What's the link?
The car in which Unnao rape victim travelled.

The apex court directed the Uttar Pradesh government to provide Rs 25 lakh to the rape survivor as an interim compensation. It assigned a special judge to conduct day-to-day trial. The court granted the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) two weeks' time to conclude the investigation into the truck-car accident that left the rape victim and her lawyer in critical condition and her two aunts dead.

The rape survivor's uncle Pratap Singh alleged Sengar was behind July 28 road crash. "The truck (which rammed into the car) had been following her car," he told Onmanorama over phone from Raebareli recently. "Sengar hatched the conspiracy to eliminate my niece. The cops, who were supposed to escort the girl, refused to accompany her that day. The over-speeding truck came from the wrong side," he said.

The truck's number plates were smeared with black paint.

Unnao rape survivor, Sanjiv Bhatt and Ishrat Jahan: What's the link?
House of BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar who is the prime accused in Unnao rape case.

Not the first incident

This was not the first 'highly suspicious' road crash in India.

On January 7, 2019, a container truck rammed into a car in which former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife Shweta Bhatt and their son Shantanu Bhatt were travelling. Incidentally, the truck had no number plate.

Unnao rape survivor, Sanjiv Bhatt and Ishrat Jahan: What's the link?
IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt.

Sanjiv Bhatt is a vocal critic of prime minister Narendra Modi. He alleged that Modi, the chief minister at the time of Gujarat riots, directed officials that Hindus should be allowed to attack Muslims. A sessions court in Gujarat convicted Sanjeev Bhatt of murder in June this year. It is in connection with the death of a person in police custody.

Shweta recounted her experiences and uncanny similarities in the attacks to Onmanorama.

I escaped Unnao-like murder attempt: Shweta Bhatt

Shweta was on her way back home with her architect son Shantanu Bhatt when she noticed that a container truck without number plate was following her car. They were on the Indian Institute of Management (IIM-A) road in Ahmedabad, which had restricted heavy vehicles. "I was driving the vehicle. Shantanu was sitting next to me. We went out to prepare a portfolio for Shantanu who was planning to migrate to England. The truck came from the wrong side, rammed into the car and dragged it through the road for some distance," she said.

She said the truck had no number plate and the driver had no licence. "I escaped an Unnao-like murder attempt," she said. The truck driver was handed over to the police but nothing happened in that case.

Unnao rape survivor, Sanjiv Bhatt and Ishrat Jahan: What's the link?
Shweta Sanjiv Bhatt said she escaped an Unnao-like murder attempt on January 7, 2019.

Man who followed Ishrat case died in accident

Another uncanny coincidence is the suspicious accident at Vayalar Junction in Kerala's Alappuzha district on April 11, 2018, in which 77-year-old M R Gopinatha Pillai was injured and he died on April 13. The curious twist in the case is that Gopinatha Pillai was the father of Javed Ghulam Shaikh alias Pranesh Kumar Pillai, who was killed in the encounter with Ishrat Jahan by Gujarat police in June 2004. The car in which Gopinatha was travelling was also rammed by a truck. He was fighting a legal battle against the Gujarat police in the Ishrat Jahan case. He had always maintained that his son could never be a Lashkar terrorist as alleged by the Gujarat police.

There were allegations at that time that it was not an accident but a planned murder to eliminate the person who had been pursuing the Ishrat case in courts.

However, sub-inspector Jijin Joseph of Pattanakkadu police station, under its jurisdiction the accident occurred, ruled out any such possibilities. He said the truck, owned by Alappuzha native Anilkumar, lost its control and hit Pillai's car.

"A chargesheet has been filed against the truck owner," he said. The case is still in the preliminary phase.

Unnao rape survivor, Sanjiv Bhatt and Ishrat Jahan: What's the link?
Ishrath Jahan, who was shot dead by Gujarat Police along with Pranesh Kumar Pillai.

Pranesh fell in love with neighbour Sajida alias Ishrat Jahan in Pune and they married in 1995. Just weeks later, the couple were killed in a police encounter near Ahmedabad. Gujarat cops claimed Pranesh and Ishrat were Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives on a mission to assassinate then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The CBI had filed a chargesheet in the case in which it claimed that Ishrat and three others were killed in a fake encounter by the cops. The case took several twists after this. On May 2, a special CBI court dropped all proceedings against retired IPS officers DG Vanzara and NK Amin in the fake encounter case.

The CBI later submitted before the court that it had accepted the special CBI court's order and will not appeal against the IPS officers' discharge.

Vanzara and Amin had filed an application in the special CBI court, seeking that all proceedings against them be dropped following the Gujarat government's order declining sanction to the CBI to prosecute the two in the Ishrat Jahan alleged fake encounter case under section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Vanzara and Amin were facing charges of murder and conspiracy among other charges in the case.

Unnao rape survivor, Sanjiv Bhatt and Ishrat Jahan: What's the link?
Pranesh Kumar Pillai alias Javed Ghulam Shaikh and his father Gopinatha Pillai.

Pranesh's father Gopinatha Pillai was fighting the legal battle against Gujarat police. After his death in 2018, Ishrat's mother Shamima Kauser had opposed the discharge applications of Vanzara and Amin.

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