The U-turn by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the Malegaon blast case has once again brought into focus the controversial circumstances in which Hemant Karkare was killed by Pakistani terrorists in Mumbai on November 26, 2008. Karkare was the head of Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) of Maharashtra which had busted the Malegaon blast and arrested the accused including Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Lt-Col Shrikant Purohit. Karkare was decorated with Ashok Chakra on January 26, 2009. Now the NIA says the ATS headed by Karkare had fabricated the evidence.
The Sadhvi’s arrest and her sustained interrogation by the Maharashtra ATS, had opened up a new vista of terrorist activities. Several bloody incidents previously attributed to Islamic terrorism were found to have been perpetrated by what Subhash Gatage calls Hindutva Terrorism in his 400-page, well-researched book ‘Godse’s Children—Hindutva Terror in India’
When ATS Maharashtra’s investigations into Malegaon 2008 bomb blast were going on, many names had come to the fore but after the murder of Hemant Karkare during the terrorist attack on Mumbai, all such people were allowed to go scot free. May it be the case of Dr R P Singh, a leading physician working in a hospital in Delhi, or Himani Savarkar, the president of Abhinav Bharat, or for that matter the old saffron hand, B L Sharma ‘Prem’ who contested elections for Parliament from Delhi…. none of them were interrogated, let alone arrested or prosecuted, Gatage writes.
The late Abdul Rahman Antulay, then a member of the Union Cabinet, was the first to voice his doubts about the police version of Karkare’s killing for which he was made to quit the Cabinet and spend the rest of his life almost in oblivion. However, certain discrepancies spotted at the time in the circumstances of his killing were never accounted for. Encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar and Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte had also been done away with, along with Karkare.
Arun Jadhav, a constable who had been ‘working with Salaskar my entire 12-year police career’, provided to the media an eye-witness account of the last minutes of the three top police officials. Jadhav was in the same vehicle in which the three officials were gunned down, along with three constables. Jadhav was also fired at and was left by the terrorists for dead.
To recapitulate Jadhav’s account as he narrated to media persons from his hospital bed, the three top officials were travelling in the Toyota Qualis (from the CST) to Cama Hospital, just a 10-minute drive, to check on another injured officer Sadanand Date. ‘When we were informed that Sadanand Date has been injured at the firing in Cama Hospital, Karkare, Kamte and Salaskar and four constables left from CST to the spot’.
Five minutes later, said Jadhav, two persons carrying AK-47 rifles emerged from behind a tree and ‘started firing at our vehicle’. Jadhav could not recall the exact number of shots fired at the police vehicle but said that the three top officials and as many constables were killed on the spot. Though hit by two bullets in his right arm, Jadhav was the only person in the car who survived.
Salaskar was at the wheel; Kamte was in the front seat and Karkare in the second row with the four Constables, including Jadhav, at the back seat.
The major terrorist activity was going on at Taj, Oberoy, CST and Nariman House. Cama Hospital did not figure in that category. Who impressed upon the three top officials to rush there? How come the three officials headed there, abandoning other places of operation which needed their immediate presence?
The three police officials had mainly been dealing with the terrorists and such other desperadoes and they could have known, more than others, the real magnitude of the terrorist operation going in at several places in Mumbai. How did then three top officials drive together in one vehicle – and to a place where the situation was not as grave as at other places?
Lastly, and this is something which defies comprehension of an ordinary man, were they travelling unarmed (or without the arms at the ready) when the city was known to have been virtually taken over by the trigger-happy psychopaths? Jadhav’s eyewitness account and other reports do not mention that those at the Toyota Qualis had fired back at the terrorists. Vijay Salaskar was an encounter specialist. Was even he without his gun at the ready – or without a gun? Three top terrorist-hunting police officials and four constables, out to control a major terrorist operation in the city, could not take on two terrorists and allowed themselves to be fired at without resistance. One can’t say they were surprised. Doesn’t look something fishy here?
Something does not connect between Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. That something was amiss between the two was seen at the time of the 125th birthday celebration of Dr B R Ambedkar last month. The function was held at Mhow, near Indore, the birthplace of Dr Ambedkar on April 14. Modi had attached too much importance to the function, using it to launch his ‘Gramodaya se Bharat Udaya Abhiyan’ (village development to India development campaign). The tributes he paid to Dr Ambedkar surprised his supporters and critics alike.
Normally, Chouhan would mobilise the entire government machinery to make a grand show of an event which Modi was scheduled to attend, irrespective of whether it was State function or the Central government’s function or a party event. He would himself take control of the preparations and his PR department would be working overtime to ensure publicity of the ongoing preparations and then speeches at the function. The PR department would also exhort media persons to attend the function, with all facilities provided for their visit to the place of the function. If the passes for media persons had to be issued by Central authorities, as is usual when PM is visiting, the PR department would help.
However, the State government was conspicuously indifferent to the preparations for the function except whatever the protocol expects of the State government when the Central government is organising a function and the Prime Minister is scheduled to attend it. There was so much silence in the State government that many in the media were wondering till three days before the event if the Prime Minister had cancelled his proposed visit to Mhow. The PR department of the State government had made no arrangements to take journalists from Bhopal to the function site, as it had always done on such occasions. Not only that, the reporters who made inquiries with the PR department about passes about the Prime Minister’s function did not get an encouraging or satisfactory reply.
What, however, really flummoxed the people in the State was Chouhan’s glorification of Veer Savarkar on the eve of the 125th anniversary celebrations of Dr B R Ambedkar. It is not a secret that Ambedkar and Savarkar were antithesis of each other in their thinking and ideological leanings. A Rs 82-crore railway overbridge at Habibganj railway station of Bhopal was lying ready. Chouhan, curiously, chose to wait till April 13 for its inauguration. He named the overbridge after Veer Savarkar and declared Savarkar a ‘martyr’, causing consternation in many circles. He announced in his inaugural speech that those wishing to visit the memorial of Shaheed (martyr) Savarkar at the cellular jail in Andaman would be paid travel expenses by the State government — something unique. Needless to say that this had shadowed to a large extent the Prime Minister’s Mhow function in the media. At the Mhow function also, Chouhan devoted a major part of his 15-minute speech to praising Narendra Modi or highlighting the schemes he has started in the State, making only casual references to Dr Ambedkar.
Recall of Madhya Pradesh BJP general secretary (Organisation) Arvind Menon by the RSS is considered a setback to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan as the two had developed quite a cosy relationship over the years. In his place has come Prant Pracharak of Madhya Bharat Suhas Bhagat, a low-profile hard-core full-time RSS activist. Bhagat’s name had now and then figured among those RSS leaders who were reported to have conveyed to the RSS high command that all was not well with Chouhan’s way of governance, particularly on the corruption front. The Chouhan camp thus gets the two-pronged shock – transfer of Menon and appointment of Bhagat in his place.
General Secretary (Organisation) is a senior RSS activist lent by the parent organisation to BJP. He is mainly responsible for keeping a check on the workings of the party organisation and the government (if it is a BJP government) and act as a link between the State and the RSS high command. Arvind Menon was sent on this position around six years ago.
Those deputed by the RSS to the BJP had mostly been working behind the scene, rarely attracting the people’s attention to themselves. Things, however, changed with BJP becoming the ruling party. Having spent their whole life in the RSS in utter starvation (in every sense of the word), few of them could resist the temptations suddenly before them and theirs just for asking. From humble Swayamsevaks, they found themselves in the role of dictating to the party organisation and the chief minister. They become arrogant. Besides, allegations of making money and indulging in carnal pleasures have also been made against quite a few of them.
If Arvind Menon was subjected to more tales of unsavoury nature than his predecessors, it was because Chouhan, his protégé and protector, had become more audacious in his second term as chief minister, the police had become more tractable and the judiciary more submissive. A woman made a complaint of sexual harassment against Menon on a stamped paper to the State Human Rights Commission which forwarded it to the police for investigation. The police in such complaints from undesirable elements takes its own time in making the inquiries. By the time it decided to question the stamp vendor if she had really purchased the stamped paper from him, the stamp vendor had died. How could the police proceed without recording the statement of the stamp vendor? The file had to be closed.
Menon had acquired such a clout in the past few years that many in the party and the government had started fearing him. He, though, had become like a shield for Chouhan facing numerous allegations of corruption. The decision to pull Menon out of Madhya Pradesh was said to have been taken by the RSS leadership about a month ago. Chouhan had of late been making frequent trips to Nagpur and the grapevine has it that he was trying to persuade the RSS chief to allow Menon to continue in Madhya Pradesh. He, though, did not succeed.
Menon’s removal from Madhya Pradesh against Chouhan’s wishes shows that the RSS had found Chouhan wanting in something vital and Menon had failed to make Chouhan mend his ways.