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Why Can’t Hemant Karkare’s Death Be Politicised?

By Farzana Versey

13 December, 2010

It is truly unfortunate that Kavita Karkare, widow of the slain Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief, is expressing concern about Hemant Karkare’s death being politicised when the whole investigation and the aftermath of the 26/11 trial has been. It takes away from the relevant issue of saffron terror, something that has only just come out in the open. It also negates her own earlier position and makes one rather uncomfortable to even wonder whether she has been politically co-opted.

The current controversy stems from the statement made by Digvijay Singh saying, “Two hours before 26/11 started, Karkare rang me and told me how his life was blighted by constant threats from people annoyed by his investigations into Malegaon blasts.”

Ms Karkare’s immediate reaction was, “Such statements will mislead people and benefit Pakistan. Mockery of my husband’s sacrifice for political gain should stop.”

The mockery started when Narendra Modi came to Mumbai soon after the attacks. He was not needed. He is another state’s chief minister. By announcing Rs 1 crore compensation to the kin of the victims he was only playing electoral politics. Then he visited Hemant Karkare’s widow. This same man, and the same BJP, had been critical of the ATS chief when he was investigating the Malegaon blasts.

And how will Digvijay Singh’s words mislead people and benefit Pakistan when during the course of the inquiry Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked the ISI chief to come to India? Did he imagine he would admit that Pakistan was involved?

It is not surprising that the Congress party has distanced itself from Digvijay Singh’s comments. This is reminiscent of what happened to A.R.Antulay. He too might have politicised the issue, but as the holder of a sop portfolio, Minority Affairs Minister, he had nothing much to gain. His error? “I said a man like Karkare is born among millions... Who pushed him into the trap of death? Who sent him there to be killed by the Pakistanis?’’

Many people want to know about Hemant Karkare. Many people are interested that the probe into the Malegaon blasts must not stop. Some wonder about bad timing. Actually, this was the only time to talk because the events may not be connected like Siamese twins, but the Mumbai carnage pushed the Pragya-Purohit enquiry on the backburner.

But he too copped out and said, “There was no need for a further probe. The home minister has clarified all doubts.” It is a huge tragedy for India that we are too insecure to even afford a rebel or two, whatever be the motives.

The Shiv Sena and BJP, emboldened now by revelations of former US ambassador David Mulford in the WikiLeaks cables about the Congress party’s “crass political opportunism” and how it would “stoop to old caste/ religious-based” politics after 26/11 – which for the US obviously did not exist before 26/11 – is now yapping away. The BJP spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain said, “The Congress has to apologize to the nation for its general secretary’s remarks and get him to resign...otherwise, it will mean they were instigating Singh to make remarks that trigger communal passions and later condemn it too, to escape blame.”

His party is the last one to talk about communal passions. The escapism is on the part of political parties for various reasons and in their endeavour they will manage to get anyone on their side. Digvijay Singh has altered his tune, but he reiterated, “I want to ask L K Advani and Rajnath Singh why they went to meet the PM after Sadhvi Pragya was arrested after Malegaon blast. Why did Rajnath go to jail to meet her?”

As happens often, he has had to declare that it is his personal statement and not that of the party. This is fine and needed. However, it reveals a paucity of open-mindedness when anyone raising questions about any other kind of terror is seen as a Muslim Messiah. It reduces the argument to the lowest common denominator which we as a society are so good at doing. For the sake of argument, even if he is, so what? Does it take away from the questions he is asking? How many Muslim leaders get voted in national elections because of their faith? To question something ought to be a part of democracy and civil society.

Kavita Karkare is now doing a balancing act: “When my husband was investigating the Malegaon blast and was looking for Hindu accused, there were reactions from Hindu organizations. Earlier, when he was looking for Muslim accused there was a similar reaction from that community.”

She has never talked about the latter, although it is most likely to have happened. However, what about the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) she filed? Her response to the Ram Pradhan Committee report last year was this: “If nobody had been at fault, I would not have lost Hemant. The chief of ATS died like a dog on the street, but nobody wants to take the responsibility. I expected this. Somebody had already told me that it was going to be a goody-goody report. Nobody wants to take responsibility. Everybody is giving clean chit to everybody.”

Her stance had been one of doubt:

“When his body was found, the bullet-proof jacket was missing...even at the hospital. From that time on, I have been fretting about this and I felt the need to file an RTI application. The reply I got was that his bullet-proof jacket had gone missing…I think I am being misled. Neither the police nor the government is providing me with the facts as to who killed Hemant. I now feel that they have cooked stories about the missing bulletproof jacket…I am not accusing either the state government or the Mumbai police. But my point of contention is that I want true answers to the several questions that are still lingering in my mind.”

As they are for Vinita Kamte: “(Rakesh) Maria has been negligent. Karkare had called the control room at 11.24 pm asking for reinforcement, which did not reach him till 12.05 am, even though the police were at Anjuman Islam School, behind Cama Hospital. Being in charge of the control room, was Maria not supposed to coordinate? They say they sent 200 policemen to Karkare and Kamte; where did they go? My husband has laid down his life for the country, and as his wife I am entitled to know what happened with him that night. Why don’t they tell me, if there is nothing to hide?”

Soon after these queries there was a news overdrive on defective bullet proof vest materials. While it is much appreciated for future action, was it a way of trying to run away from other important issues?

Soon after the attacks, in a television interview Kavita Karkare had clearly spoken about Hindu terrorism. She spoke about how questions ran through her mind about the three senior officers being together at one place at one time.

At the time I had hoped she would be able to continue as she had. She had retained her integrity and individuality. The lurking fear was that it would not take long for politicians and activists to use her. It would be a pity to see her being made into some sort of totem by those who have their own agendas.

And, yes, it is widow’s right to express regret over her husband’s death being politicised. But he was also an officer, and for that reason his life was and his death is a matter of national concern. She may not wish to raise the questions she did earlier, but those queries must not die.

Farzana Versey is a Mumbai-based author-columnist. She can be reached at http://farzana-versey.blogspot.com/