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Hemant Karkare: Tribute to a hero

Hemant Karkare AC was the chief of the Mumbai Anti-Terrorist Squad. He was killed in action during the 2008 Mumbai attacks. In 2009, he was posthumously given the Ashoka Chakra, India's highest peacetime gallantry decoration. He was credited with solving the serial bombing cases in Thane, Vashi and Panvel, and led the investigation of the 2008 Malegaon blasts.

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There are basic differences between India and Pakistan as well as they share the same kind of threat like that of terrorism. However, the most singular aspect of terrorism is that of grafted terrorism. It was a coincidence that six terrorists were to land at the fisherman colony. A fisherwoman Udaiya saw the dingy reaching the shore and she counted six came ashore. When the FBI found it to be a veritable fact. they sent a plane to fetch her to the US for verifying the truth.

Running parallel was the involvement of Hindutva terrorism in Malegaon in which a serving lieutenant colonel Prasad Purohit was arrested. This had filled with ire such hardcore Hindutva leader as LK Advani who complained to the President of India. Even such lawyer as Arun Jaitley turned against Hemant Karkare who was chief of Anti-Terrorism Squad of Maharashtra. Given this nutshell BJP naturally crossed swords with the chief of Anti-Terrorism Squad.

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Hemant Karkare’s reaction 

As soon as Hemant Karkare came to know of the attack,  he rushed to the action zone. Just then the man who was in charge of the terror squad before Karkare KP Raghuvanshi helped Karkare with a helmet and bulletproof jacket, Karkare’s fate was doomed. Rakesh Maria was in the control -room. Maria instructed Karkare to come to the street at Rang Bhavan in adjacence to the hospital there. Two terrorists were already planted there in wait. All the three senior officers went in the same car.

The terrorists struck and killed all three. The suspicion that the bulletproof jacket could not protect the chief and two others. And mystery deepened when the bullet-ridden jacket disappeared. What is more even the record of purchase also went missing. All these affected Prof Kavita Karkare and she was filled with anguish over the sudden death of her husband. She found some relief in composing the poem which her daughter Jui Karkare Narvare included in her book. Kavita naturally found solace in writing the poem and its appeal lies in delineating the suffering of the widow and the family. I also composed my tribute to a hero within half an hour of the assassination. It appeared in several places within such a short time. That is November 26, 2008.

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Kavita naturally found solace in writing the poem

If any Indian distinguished himself by writing history by his sweat and while doing so made history by writing it in his blood, it is this modest-looking man. This assistant commissioner in charge of the Anti-Terrorist Squad of Maharashtra will be remembered for good. Those who were breathing down his neck will breathe a sigh of relief but all others will have grief.

LK Advani and Rajnathsingh had tried to run down one of the most impeccable and distinguished men of probity. They were doing what the poet Alexander Pope penned three centuries ago: ‘willing to wound but afraid to strike.’ That hurt him deeply: “When allegations are made anyone (we) will feel hurt.”. Indeed the Pune ATS had received a telephonic message threatening to kill Karkare and blow up his house ‘within a few days.’

It was painstaking work that he undertook when the bombs went off in the Gadkari auditorium in Thane and another theatre in Vashi, Mumbai, by vowing to leave no stone unturned in search of clues. That paid off immediately. But then came Malegaon September 29, 2008 blast. The crowd had gone berserk in Bhiku chowk and had almost threatened to destroy the evidence by their overreaction. But Karkare’s reaching the spot with his team salvaged the dreadful proof of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur’s motorbike, the LML Freedom. Then came the forensic report and the number of the bike. Given the state of the political situation and the communal fragility, it was most dangerous to lay one’s hand on a sadhu let alone a sadhvi.

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That was like wearing the burning shirt of Hercules

He worked in private companies including Hindustan Lever and the National Productivity Council before joining IPS in 1985. He worked in Akola, Bhiwandi, Thane and Mumbai. A most daring stunt in a very difficult district infected by Naxalites, Chandrapur, was also in his lot. He had rich experience with the ace intelligence agency of RAW by serving a stint in Austria and then he took over in January this year as the chief of ATS. The imprint of his sang froid manner is the subtext of what he said during the Malegaon investigation: “We should do our job and it is for the court to decide.”

Of course, under the tremendous tension and pressure, he carried on his work. Only the other day the court denied police custody of Lt Col Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Singh etc. karkare did not feel browbeaten: “police custody would have helped investigations to proceed faster but still we will see how best to deal with it in a legal way”. This is ironclad perseverance.

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Karkare in his crisp blue shirt wore the helmet and took a call on his mobile before he advanced towards the Metro cinema and the Cama hospital. The security circle around him moved. His eyes shone brightly as he went to attend the call of duty.

Mustafa Khan holds a Ph.D. on Mark Twain. He lives in Malegaon Maharashtra, India. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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