VIEWPOINT: When Martyrs become Traitors
According to the NIA, the ATS probe led by Hemant Karkare had 'planted' evidence. This is a defamatory allegation that seeks to sully the name of Karkare posthumously
Faraz Ahmad Delhi
Most Muslims including yours truly have a fetish for conspiracy theories and therefore it is natural that the world at large dismisses a conspiracy theory propagated by a 'mian bhai'. Never mind if the proponent of such a theory is a decorated Indian Police Service officer. S M Mushrif, who is now retired, was then a serving IPS officer when he wrote his famous book: “Who killed Karkare” . It is interesting that he hasn’t disowned his allegations till date despite substantial controversy.
Way back in 2008/9 when the book was published Mushrif had accused the Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) and saffron terror outfits of being complicit in the killing of Karkare. Most people laughed it off as a typical case of seeing phantoms where none exist. The counter-argument to Mushrif's thesis was that what possible link could Hafeez Saeed and his acolytes have with saffron terror outfits?
Mushrif had stated, “There is clinching evidence about the IB's involvement but all efforts to establish their role have been stone-walled. Unless there is a massive public movement, their complicity will never come to the surface."
There are new developments which prompt a relook into Mushrif's allegations. The premier National Investigation Agency (NIA) has given a clean chit to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, the main accused in the motorcycle blasts which rocked Malegaon in September 2006. Thakur is likely to walk free soon. Since the NIA has debunked the evidence diligently collected by Karkare and his team mates as 'planted,” there is reason to have a fresh examination of Mushrif’s thesis. The NIA has argued that although Thakur had owned the motorcycle, she was not using the vehicle at the time of the blasts. According to the NIA the mere possession of the instrument of destruction is no evidence of her complicity. It is a sad reality that the law is different for different people. For the 1993 Bombay bomb blasts case investigation, the entire family of Tiger Memon returned voluntarily to India. They were then rounded up and charged with complicity in the conspiracy. Tiger Memon’s sister-in-law Rubina is currently serving a life sentence because a Maruti van used for those bomb blasts was registered in Rubina’s name, even though she kept pleading that she neither knew how to drive nor was in any way aware of the movements of that van. Clearly the investigating agencies interpret the law differently for different communities.
The public outrage is not merely over the fact that with a RSS backed regime ruling the nation, the NIA has gone ahead and “honourably” acquitted saffron terrorists. The insult to injury is that it has castigated Karkare and his teammates as conspirators against the so-called "patriots."
On closer examination a pattern of sorts emerges. It is now that many realise that there is a clear cut link between the killing of Hemant Karkare and the acquittal of the saffron brigade. A quick jog down memory lane will be helpful in this regard. On September 8, 2006, which also happened to be the holy day of Shab-e-e-Barat most Muslims in Malegaon were out visiting mosques and dargah to offer Friday prayers. A little while later bombs exploded in a muslim cemetery adjacent to a mosque, killing 37 people on the spot and injuring 125 others (all Muslims) some of whom later succumbed to their injuries.
The then Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) chief K P Raghuvanshi immediately rounded up a dozen or so Muslim youth, pronouncing a hand of the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in this terror operation. The accused were tortured and made to sign forcibly confessional statements prepared by Raghuvanshi and his men.
Raghuvanshi as ATS chief relentlessly continued his communal inquisition against Muslim youth whenever a terror attack in Maharashtra. There were times when he went one step further and arrested Muslim youth on the pretext of having foiled a terror plan. Every time he did this he was summarily lauded by Right wing elements of every hue.
As time passed, many who were charged with terrorism by Raghuvanshi were acquitted for lack of any corroborative evidence and it became evident that Raghuvanshi had a blatant communal bias. The Maharashtra government was forced to replace Raghuvanshi with Hemant Karkare in January 2008.
Karkare together with a dedicated and unbiased team worked day and night to get to the bottom of the Malegaon blasts. Finally in late October 2008, barely a month before he was gunned down, the Maharashtra ATS arrested eleven suspects. These included former ABVP student leader Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Dayanand Pandey, retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay and a serving Army officer Lt. Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit. Most of the accused belonged to a radical Hindutva group called Abhinav Bharat with proven links to Sangh Parivar outfits. Karkare's ATS had identified, for the first time, Hindutva organisations as being responsible for terrorism in India. Needless to say, this did not sit well with the Sangh.
The ATS under Karkare also aired their suspicions that the saffron hand could be behind the series of blasts which rocked the country in 2008. A series of bomb blasts rocked Malegaon again, these were followed by bomb blasts at the Ajmer dargah in Rajasthan, in Hyderabad’s famous Mecca masjid and the Samjhauta Express bombings. Karkare had begun probing each of these cases.
Meanwhile at the same time Dawood Gilani alias David Coleman Headly, working with the Pakistani terrorist groups patronised by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)was making several recce trips to India to identify the targets that the Jamaat-ud-Dawaah was planning for its upcoming terror strikes in Mumbai.
It should be known that the Indian intelligence does a routine check on all Pakistanis even if they have a British or American passport and therefore it is next to impossible that Indian intelligence was unaware of Headley’s movements and activity. So why did they let him carry on without making any attempt to catch and interrogate him?
When Sadhvi Pragya, Lt Col Shrikant Prasad Purohit and others were arrested by Karkare the BJP and Shiv Sena, along with sister affiliates like the VHP and Bajrang Dal raised a hue and cry accusing the UPA government of targeting nationalists and patriots to appease Muslims. The then chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, had accused Hemant Karkare of being a traitor to the nation.
Ironically upon Karkare’s death, Raghuvanshi returned as the ATS chief once again and continued in that post till Rakesh Maria, who is accused of having surreptitiously and deviously aided Karkare’s killers, by Ashok Kamte’s widow Vinita Kamte, succeeded Raghuvanshi. Thus notwithstanding a Congress-NCP led government in Maharashtra till October 2014, the Maharashtra police remained predominantly saffron in shade.
So in effect it was when P. Chidambaram replaced Shivraj Patil as Home Minister that the investigating agencies had to pursue the line of investigation begun by Karkare.
Now that BJP is in control of all the levers of power, the NIA has predictably dubbed Karkare’s probe against the key accused as “dubious” and the evidence that established the involvement of those accused as being “planted.” Maybe the NIA should also investigate the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and seek to exonerate Nathuram Godse as well.