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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Widespread Impunity and a Tribute To a Hero – Hemant Karkare

The events that unfolded on 26/11 shook all of India and among them rose a hero who every Indian should know about. The writer sheds light on the whole debacle and people responsible behind the attacks.

For India to wake up and not follow playing politics on terror as is PM Narendra Modi doing, it is necessary to remember what Jui Narvare the eldest daughter of Heman Karkare writes of the last discovery of hers regarding the end of her father. “He had asked for the Army, he had recognized much before anyone that this was a terror attack.

The control room is to be manned by the commissioner for law and order, but that night it was manned by ‘someone else’. Till today, I have never regretted that my father followed protocol. But I will always regret that the others didn’t. If rules are flouted at times of crisis, Who can do anything?”

Who is to Answer?

Terrorism accepts no civil laws. It is barbarism. However, Karkare was a civilized man. He knew the code of behavior and had done foreign appointments when he was in RAW. He was led to the trap, wearing the helmet and going into the Rangbhavan road as instructed by the control room and Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan were on the lookout to intercept the van and take out their targeted victims, the three officers of law, Ashok Kamte, Vijay Salaskar and the third, “chief”, meaning Karkare.

However civilized rules are rules obeying the order from the above. There were those who by design did not obey the order or instruction. The police commissioner Hasan Gafoor had made his command room at the site of the attack in his official car parked near Trident Oberoi. He did not allow Rajvardhan to leave his beat nor did he know where Karkare was sent.

Terrorism accepts no civil laws. It is barbarism. However, Karkare was a civilized man. He knew code of behavior and had done foreign appointment when he was in R&AW

The person sitting in the control room was the chief of Crime Branch Rakesh Maria with an office in the same lane around where Karkare was sent, the Rangbhavan lane. The police Commissioner had ordered his assistants not to leave their allotted beat. The two who trespassed were Rakesh Maria and Rajvardhan. Maria left to confront Kasab and Rajvardhan entered the Taj hotel with his friend who was his disciple, Vishwash Nagre Patil.

Maria was ensconced in his office for seven hours. It was an assignment as if he was monitoring the unraveling events on November 26, 2008, night.  He had sent his inspector from Crime Branch to shadow (to closely follow and watch) the interrogation of Ajmal Kasab in Nair hospital. Gafoor as the Commissioner had the law and order responsibility.

Therefore Maria must have been planted to do what did not belong legally to him. He had reportedly said about Kasab, “Bring him here even if you have to put a fucking gun against the doctor’s head. Kasab’s medical report was marked: “Discharged against medical advice.” Maria fumed at this: “This is no time for the fucking of Geneva Conventions.”

Read more: US lawmakers grill India over Kashmir abuses

This shouting of Maria shows he knew the conventions of the human rights of prisoners and was deliberately violating it. That shows he was not a man of caliber to know the importance of protocol. His ordering his inspector to shadow Kasab and taking him out of Nair is tantamount to breaking laws of the country.

Thus he acted as if he was immune from consequences and enjoyed impunity. Hence the inference: that he was carrying out a hidden agenda. If this tendency is so widespread then the political bosses running the country enjoy and are cocksure of de facto impunity. They were also the same who called the terror attack in Bhiku chowk Malegaon on September 29, 2008, as an explosion of gas cylinder.

This was maintained until Karkare came on the scene and discovered the Sadhvi’s motorcycle; and, similar to the burning of the Sabarmati train compartments on February 27 2002 at Godhra in which Rakesh Asthana played the clinching part by calling it a terrorist attack mounted by ISI. Till this claim of Asthana, the collector of Godhra had maintained that the burning incident was simply a fire accident. But the gravamen of the situation was that Asthana had no proof to show.

However civilized rules are rules obeying order from the above. There were those who by design did not obey the order or instruction

Karkare’s daughter writes in her memoir: “Growing up, one of his constant lessons to us was we are too privileged and need to learn to respect the less fortunate, and do something for them. His idea of India always was that to become a stronger nation, we need to work from grassroots, reach the marginalized, the less privileged. Those lessons I heard from him are all there in his diaries — it repeatedly says, do not take anything for granted.”

Karkare was discrete and discerning: “I am the chief of the anti-terrorism squad.’ Jui was more nuanced: “He knew the ideology is the real menace that has to be defeated.” His saying that he was not chief of “anti-terrorist squad” makes it clear that he had not presupposed any designated group as thieves or terrorists.

He was not like the British who had designated certain groups as habitual thieves, like the Charras in Gujarat or Wadders in Maharashtra. This kind of presumption is erroneous. So in democracy we presume all to be equal and anyone who practices terrorism is a terrorist. But SM Mushriff’s discrimination is not very accurate in his new book: Brahmins kill and Muslims blamed.

Read more: US Lawmakers demand India to ensure transparency in Kashmir

This by no means is the case in his other book Who killed Karkare? which is based on facts. However playing politics of terrorism is different. Modi and LK Advani played politics. They opposed the arrest of Sadhvi Pragyasingh and others. But after the martyrdom of Karkare Modi offered huge sum of money to the widow Kavita Karkare which contrasts with money he donated to Swami Aseemanand.

So the question of impunity is non-negotiable. Kavita refused the offer. Karkare won universal admiration for his fairness and integrity. But beyond the pale, the others including Maria are mired in abysmal turpitude and the one who is seen donning him bulletproof jacket, helmet and giving a phone, KP Raghuvanshi, do not show even the worth of their little education that got them their jobs in police.

It is they who surrounded Maria and suggested the path of impunity which is habitually practiced by the so called protectors of law. Their venal suggestions to Maria was to let Kasab run and then shoot him and throw blame on him for attacking the police and attempting to escape, or, equally heinous, hang him to death and show it as he committed suicide.

The collector of Godhra had maintained that the burning incident was simply a fire accident. But the gravamen of the situation was that Asthana had no proof to show.

There were 6 assistant commissioners who simply decamped, they were apprehensive about their becoming target of the terrorists. They went out of Mumbai! The other police officers were also in the know of the things. That had dismayed Karkare. He was apprehensive of his own security. Advani had severely criticized him for arresting Sadhvi Pragyasingh. The BJP leader even wrote to the president of India against the move to arrest the sadhvi.

Karkare’s premonition proved correct because he was summoned to the Army in connection with the arrest of Lt Col Prasad Purohit on November 9 2008. He read the signs of the time and therefore he took time off and visited the American embassy in Delhi and talked about his insecurity and they had offered sanctuary before he returned to Mumbai just before the November 26 2008 attack.

He also came to know that those arrested in the September 8, 2006 attack were framed. In contrast, was Vijay Salaskar who was sitting in the Kurla police station at 1.40 pm on that Friday when the first bomb attack began. The news of the explosion made him shout that the Hindus had reacted now! It was Salaskar’s wife who said that Ajmal Kasab should be hanged publicly.

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This shows the family was prejudicial in their view of Muslims and gives credence to the newspaper report of Salaskar’s reaction. How far did the police force in Maharashtra know the truth of 2006? The police force is group ridden and those who had framed innocent Muslims in the 2006 attack were angered by the fact that Karkare was changing their investigation in the light of the facts he came to know and therefore the conspiracy to remove Karkare took deep roots.

The 9 innocent were arrested because of the police informer Abrar Ahmad. When Abrar complained to Raghuvanshi and Rajvardhan they assured him that they would take him out of prison when those who were changing their investigation will be removed. This is the sinister hint that Karkare would be removed. That meeting in prison was in early days of September 2008.

Then happened the second attack on September 29 2008. Following this within two months Karkare was killed. In November 2019 Fahim Ansari was also acquitted in the final case of attack on Rampur CRPF camp. Hemant Karkare had met him in jail and had studied his case and told him that he was innocent. Lawyer Shahid Azmi proved his innocence in court.

Fahim

Fahim Arshad Ansari was arrested on February 12, 2008 for the attack on the CRPF camp in Rampur, UP. He along with Sabbaudin was also charged with providing important details of location in Mumbai of strategic buildings and sites for possible terrorist attacks by Lashkar-e-Taiba. Such locations included offices of Mumbai Police Commissioner, Director General of Police, Gateway of India, Colaba, Tajmahal hotel, Churchgate railway station, Reliance energy, and AKSA beach.

Hemant Karkare had met him in jail and had studied his case and told him that he was innocent. Lawyer Shahid Azmi proved his innocence in court

Judge ML Tahilani of Mumbai high court dismissed the charges because Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan were directed to remain in VT now known as CST.  Ismail Khan was killed and Kasab was shot at and injured and was hanged in 2013. The judge also laughed away the prosecution presenting a hand-drawn map of the sites in the handwriting of Fahim when better and accurate maps by Google Earth with GPS and VoIP were used by the handlers of the terrorist attackers.

This is a serious flaw in the investigation because it proves the involvement of the police in Mumbai in framing innocent educated Muslim youths in terror charges. Fahim lived in Goregaon and his own city’s police framing him is a betrayal. The judge had closely ascertained from Kasab and found that Kasab and Ismail Khan were not instructed to go to Chowpatty or the Gateway of India and some other places.

Read more: Indian Muslim Women suffering because of abuse of Islamic Law

It shows up the Mumbai police added names of location according to the whim and calculation in framing the Muslim youths. The leading public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam acted like cock of the walk in presenting the case and collecting huge amount of money as his fees.

Fahim Ansari on acquittal

The Maharashtra government had appealed against the high court verdict but the Supreme Court upheld the acquittal in August 2012. A year later Fahim was still languishing in jail as the Bareilly court was trying for his alleged involvement in the Rampur attack.

Faheem walked out of the jail on November 4, 2019 after 12 years of imprisonment on cooked up charges like what David Colman Headley had done was attributed to him, reconnaissance of Mumbai for 26/11 attack, attack on CRPF camp at Rampur, etc.

“The two men that I wanted to meet were lawyer Shahid Azmi who defended me in the 26/11 case and ATS Chief Hemant Karkare who had told officials that I was innocent. Sadly both have fallen prey to the bullets of terrorists.” One should know that Maria was also in power when Azmi was gunned down.

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.