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Mumbai 26/11: Two Years Later, Unanswered Questions

By Ram Puniyani

06 December, 2010

This 26/11 (2010), the nation remembered with pain and grief about the incidents which had taken place two years earlier. In this a group of jeans clad terrorists rampaged the parts of Mumbai killing over two hundred innocent people. The lone survivor from terrorist groups Ajmal Kasab is facing the trial in the Courts. While tributes were paid to those who died in the episode and those who laid down their lives while trying to save the nation, some of the old questions raised by this episode remain unanswered, showing the gaping holes in the investigation and showing that the real truth of the tragedy is not out yet. As the things have uncovered it seems that Ajamal Kasab is the hand maiden of players much beyond easy visibility and reach of Indian agencies. The phenomenon is not just an attack launched from the soil of Pakistan; it probably has its planners who are not visible easily and who may be beyond the landmass of our neighbor.

The first major question which came up was about the role of Pakistan. Sections of powers that be from Pakistan, especially the army did have a central role as is obvious from some of the clues. It also may be a game between different sections of Pakistan society struggling for supremacy and so clashing with each other within Pakistan. Pakistani army is trying to maintain its grips on the levers of power, despite the fact that civilian government is ruling formally. Prior to this incident, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, had extended the hand of friendship for India. The Pakistani army does feel if the relations between Pakistan and India improve, if a friendship is established between two nations, army’s place in the power equations will go down. Has this observation something to do with what happened? These are questions and the answers to these are a matter of conjuncture. It is important to keep this in mind and not to label Pakistan as awhole for what happened. The need is to distinguish between different power centers within Pakistan while firmly dealing with her.

In this sequence the role of FBI-ISI agent James Coleman Headly is very curious. The role of Headly is unmistakably there in the whole episode. Headly’s links with ISI, FBI are there for all to see. So is it a mere game emerging from the soil of Pakistan or are there much bigger players with more sinister plans behind this attack on Mumbai? Hope one day the truth will come out and the false perceptions will give way to the identification of the real culprits.

The second major point confronting the nation was the death of Hemnat Karkare along with two senior officers of Mumbai police force. Karkare was investigating the case of Malegaon blast and came across the motorcycle of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and others, those associated with organizations associated and inspired by RSS ideology, some of them being the office bearers of this organization. With Pragya Singh Thakur coming under the scanner her associates from Abhinav Bharat, Bajrang Dal etc. also came to light. One of them, Swami Assemanand, of VHP, has been caught hold of recently, as he was been absconding for long. During the period when Karkare was investigating these links of Hindutva terror network some from this camp labeled him as anti national (Deshdrohi) and one of their leaders went on the say that they spit on Karkare’s face! So when Karkare was murdered there was lot of suspicion about his murder along with two other top police officials.

The then minister of Minority affairs, A.R. Antulay stated that there is terrorism plus something in the whole incident. Antulay was strongly criticized all over and he retracted his statement. But the question persisted. The versions of Karkare’s death, the gaps in the police version of incident were too glaring, so the demand came up for an independent probe. Ram Pradhan committee was constituted to probe the tragedy. One does not know what the report has to say about the incident as Maharashtra Government is refusing to table the report. Meanwhile widows of the slain police officers have raised lot of uncomfortable questions, meeting with a silence form the authorities on the matter.

The most damning thing on the issue has been the publication of the book ‘Who Killed Karakare? by S.M. Mushrif, the retired Director General of police Maharashtra. The book is the detailed analysis of the events of the acts of terror which have taken place in Maharashtra. About the 26/11 incident, the book says lot of things. The major of these have been that IB had the prior information about the impending terror attack. During the terror attack there were two teams which were on the job, one doing the major damage of lives, while another team took the life of Karkare and senior police officers. The book has met with stony silence from the state.
Meanwhile a case has been filed and Court has asked the Government of Maharashtra to clarify various aspects related to Karkare’s murder. One point about this is the intelligence report received few days before 26/11 warning that Karakre’s life is in danger. So the logical question is what was the response of Government to this information?

In popular perception what has been instilled revolves more around Ajmal Kasab, the small player in the whole game. Questions have been planted as to why he is being treated in a royal manner? Why he is not being hanged straight away, etc.? The norm of a democratic country, the democratic Constitution is being by passed while spreading these types of rumors. Should not the process of law take its own course in all matters related to crime? Why this propaganda is on that Kasab should be hanged straight away? Is it that his deposition may spill some other beans which may be uncomfortable to those spreading such opinions? The whole idea of justice is to ensure that legal procedures are followed to bring out the truth behind the crime. In case of Mumbai terror attack, the tragedy is worst confounded as the truth is somewhere hidden and attempts to unravel it don’t seem to be satisfactory.

The Mumbai terror attack once more proves that what comes to social awareness is just a tip of the iceberg. Sometimes what is presented is obvious and the deeper truth remains under the hue of the hysterical response. We need to learn a lesson in public life to treat all uncomfortable questions with utmost seriousness and not to be dismissive of the truth hidden in the missing links of the story.