Shattering the Ladder
When The Indian Express reported that National Investigating Agency (NIA) officials told the Special Public Prosecutor in the Malegaon bomb blast case, Rohini Sailan, to quietly withdraw from the case, not many were really surprised. The report suggested that the agency official told Sailan that, after the new government took over in Delhi in 2014, there was little reason to pursue the case vigorously, as the political environment had changed. According to the NIA agent, there was no longer necessary to pursue the Hindu extremists whose involvement in Malegaon and other blasts was revealed by slain Mumbai Anti-Terrorism Squad chief, Hemant Karkare.
The Special Public Prosecutor essentially claimed that the NIA wanted to lose the case, as there was no other way it could be managed by the new order.
Sailan received high praise for her integrity and commitment from famous Mumbai cop, Julio Ribero, who compared her with late Hemant Karkare. In an article that appeared again in The Indian Express, the retired Police Commissioner discussed how Karkare divulged strong evidence collected against the Hindu extremists behind the Malegaon blasts. It was Karkare’s painstaking investigation that overturned the earlier probe, which forcefully suggested the involvement of local Malegaon Muslims. He later realized that the same extremist group was involved in the Samjhauta Express. Ribero says he met with Karkare, and the latter expressed unhappiness over the manner in which he was coming under the attack of BJP leader L K Advani for blaming Hindu extremist outfits for the Malegaon and Samjhauta Express blasts. Karkare shared the compelling evidence he had put together and hoped to garner Ribero’s support as he took on a formidable vested interest in the government and outside. A few days later Karkare was mysteriously killed in the Mumbai terror attack. There were many of those who alleged that he was driven to his death. One of them was the late senior Congress leader A R Antulay, who put his own government on the mat in Parliament and suggested that Karkare was killed for his probe. Home Minister P Chidambaram furiously denied these suggestions.
To be fair to the BJP government, the effort to book the guilty began to flag during the UPA term itself, despite brave noises made by former Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and his Home Secretary, R K Singh, who is now a BJP MP. Both insisted the existence of “Hinduttva terror”. Such assertions drew a lot of heat in the Parliament and outside; the BJP was critical about how religion could be identified with terrorism. Shinde may have been hounded for his remarks, but the agencies under his charge were quite lazy in taking the terror-related cases to their logical conclusion.
After Karkare was killed during the 26/11 Mumbai attack, no fresh breakthrough was made in cracking the extensive network of right-wing terrorists who had triggered series of blasts all over the country. These mysterious blasts were routinely blamed on Muslims, and although they ended—a fact underlined by the NCP leader Sharad Pawar—there was general slowdown on Karkare’s leads. One such lead was the extent to which radical groups had infiltrated the army. In fact, a day before he was killed, there was a report attributed to Karkare that suggested that he was about to take up the matter of extremist infiltration with the top brass of the army. Coincidences like these have caused many to form conspiracy theories about the circumstances of Karkare’s death.
Those marginalized and dispossessed by government versions of both truth and politics are certain that there is more to this than teaches the eye. Based on the fantastic probe conducted independently by Vinita Kamte, widow of police officer Vinod Kamte, to ascertain the circumstances of her husband’s death, as well as on the testimonies in Mumbai court, the Hardnews investigative report, “Who pulled the trigger on Hemant Karkare?” continues to get a lot of net traffic. Needless to say, our report into Karkare’s death, which was based on information that was available in public domain, was not taken kindly by a section within the UPA government. Some of the government departments stopped their bulk subscription. Also, some ‘well meaning’ friends suggested that we should not go after such stories. I recapitulate this to show that what the BJP is being blamed for started a long time ago.