Why can’t Hemant Karkare’s death be politicised?

Why can’t Hemant Karkare’s death be politicised?
by Farzana Versey
Countercurrents, December 13

It is truly unfortunate that Kavita Karkare, widow of the slain Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief, is expressing concern about Hemant Karkare’s death being politicised when the whole investigation and the aftermath of the 26/11 trial has been. It takes away from the relevant issue of saffron terror, something that has only just come out in the open. It also negates her own earlier position and makes one rather uncomfortable to even wonder whether she has been politically co-opted.

The current controversy stems from the statement made by Digvijay Singh saying, “Two hours before 26/11 started, Karkare rang me and told me how his life was blighted by constant threats from people annoyed by his investigations into Malegaon blasts.”

Ms Karkare’s immediate reaction was, “Such statements will mislead people and benefit Pakistan. Mockery of my husband’s sacrifice for political gain should stop.”

The mockery started when Narendra Modi came to Mumbai soon after the attacks. He was not needed. He is another state’s chief minister. By announcing Rs 1 crore compensation to the kin of the victims he was only playing electoral politics. Then he visited Hemant Karkare’s widow. This same man, and the same BJP, had been critical of the ATS chief when he was investigating the Malegaon blasts.

And how will Digvijay Singh’s words mislead people and benefit Pakistan when during the course of the inquiry Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked the ISI chief to come to India? Did he imagine he would admit that Pakistan was involved?

It is not surprising that the Congress party has distanced itself from Digvijay Singh’s comments. This is reminiscent of what happened to A.R.Antulay. He too might have politicised the issue, but as the holder of a sop portfolio, Minority Affairs Minister, he had nothing much to gain. His error? “I said a man like Karkare is born among millions... Who pushed him into the trap of death? Who sent him there to be killed by the Pakistanis?’’

Many people want to know about Hemant Karkare. Many people are interested that the probe into the Malegaon blasts must not stop. Some wonder about bad timing. Actually, this was the only time to talk because the events may not be connected like Siamese twins, but the Mumbai carnage pushed the Pragya-Purohit enquiry on the backburner.

But he too copped out and said, “There was no need for a further probe. The home minister has clarified all doubts.” It is a huge tragedy for India that we are too insecure to even afford a rebel or two, whatever be the motives.

The Shiv Sena and BJP, emboldened now by revelations of former US ambassador David Mulford in the WikiLeaks cables about the Congress party’s “crass political opportunism” and how it would “stoop to old caste/ religious-based” politics after 26/11 – which for the US obviously did not exist before 26/11 – is now yapping away. The BJP spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain said, “The Congress has to apologize to the nation for its general secretary’s remarks and get him to resign...otherwise, it will mean they were instigating Singh to make remarks that trigger communal passions and later condemn it too, to escape blame.”

His party is the last one to talk about communal passions. The escapism is on the part of political parties for various reasons and in their endeavour they will manage to get anyone on their side. Digvijay Singh has altered his tune, but he reiterated, “I want to ask L K Advani and Rajnath Singh why they went to meet the PM after Sadhvi Pragya was arrested after Malegaon blast. Why did Rajnath go to jail to meet her?”

As happens often, he has had to declare that it is his personal statement and not that of the party. This is fine and needed. However, it reveals a paucity of open-mindedness when anyone raising questions about any other kind of terror is seen as a Muslim Messiah. It reduces the argument to the lowest common denominator which we as a society are so good at doing. For the sake of argument, even if he is, so what? Does it take away from the questions he is asking? How many Muslim leaders get voted in national elections because of their faith? To question something ought to be a part of democracy and civil society.

Kavita Karkare is now doing a balancing act: “When my husband was investigating the Malegaon blast and was looking for Hindu accused, there were reactions from Hindu organizations. Earlier, when he was looking for Muslim accused there was a similar reaction from that community.”

She has never talked about the latter, although it is most likely to have happened. However, what about the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) she filed? Her response to the Ram Pradhan Committee report last year was this: “If nobody had been at fault, I would not have lost Hemant. The chief of ATS died like a dog on the street, but nobody wants to take the responsibility. I expected this. Somebody had already told me that it was going to be a goody-goody report. Nobody wants to take responsibility. Everybody is giving clean chit to everybody.”

Her stance had been one of doubt:

“When his body was found, the bullet-proof jacket was missing...even at the hospital. From that time on, I have been fretting about this and I felt the need to file an RTI application. The reply I got was that his bullet-proof jacket had gone missing…I think I am being misled. Neither the police nor the government is providing me with the facts as to who killed Hemant. I now feel that they have cooked stories about the missing bulletproof jacket…I am not accusing either the state government or the Mumbai police. But my point of contention is that I want true answers to the several questions that are still lingering in my mind.”

As they are for Vinita Kamte: “(Rakesh) Maria has been negligent. Karkare had called the control room at 11.24 pm asking for reinforcement, which did not reach him till 12.05 am, even though the police were at Anjuman Islam School, behind Cama Hospital. Being in charge of the control room, was Maria not supposed to coordinate? They say they sent 200 policemen to Karkare and Kamte; where did they go? My husband has laid down his life for the country, and as his wife I am entitled to know what happened with him that night. Why don’t they tell me, if there is nothing to hide?”

Soon after these queries there was a news overdrive on defective bullet proof vest materials. While it is much appreciated for future action, was it a way of trying to run away from other important issues?

Soon after the attacks, in a television interview Kavita Karkare had clearly spoken about Hindu terrorism. She spoke about how questions ran through her mind about the three senior officers being together at one place at one time.

At the time I had hoped she would be able to continue as she had. She had retained her integrity and individuality. The lurking fear was that it would not take long for politicians and activists to use her. It would be a pity to see her being made into some sort of totem by those who have their own agendas.

And, yes, it is a widow’s right to express regret over her husband’s death being politicised. But he was also an officer, and for that reason his life was and his death is a matter of national concern. She may not wish to raise the questions she did earlier, but those queries must not die.


  1. Great piece. Probably Kavita Karkare feels that now when her husband is no more, it is better if he is remembered as a man who was killed fighting Pakistani terrorists, rather than giving impression to 'mainstream' society that she also believes in some conspiracy and would suggest that he was killed accidentally in shootout or by Hindutva-inspired gunmen.

  2. FV, Don't know if you saw this. Indian Express has already seen the phone records of both parties and stated that no such call was made, and phone records are authoritative in such matters.


    The response of this Digvijay Singh to the fact that no one called him around the time Mr. Karkare was murdered by terrorists is that Mr. Karkare called him from a PCO booth, but even those are recorded on telephone bills. So everyone know Digvijay singh is a barefaced liar, but the more interesting question is "why is he lying now?"

    Digvijay is such a loser that he thinks he can lie in the face of material like Phone Records, which are considered solid enough to be admissible in court. IF he thinks he can lie about provable facts and rustle up his sainted 'vote bank', he is more of an idiot than I previously figured.


  3. FV, I think the only person who loses in this is Digvijaya Singh -- lying about phone calls is just not done. To get out of the first lie, DS says "Karkare called me from a PCO so it will not be in the phone record", which is again wrong. There are only so many PCOs in Mumbai and all their call log records are still around. There is simply no way DS is going to slime out of this one.

    Nothing wrong with playing politics with 26/11, as certainly worse desecrations have been committed in the name of politics than this character assassination of Mr. Karkare's...but being caught lying about something than can be verified cannot be escaped as DS is going to find out.


    PS: Response inspired by a similar conversation between a (in)famous hacker Kevin mitnick (whose capture is detailed in the book "Cuckoo's Egg" by Cliff Stoll) and a TV reporter

    Reporter: "So what is your advice to other young hackers today that are committing crimes of hacking like you did and got yourself in prison?"

    Mitnick: "Don't get caught".

  4. Indscribe:

    Thanks. For me, Kavita Karkare's altered stance is revealing of several such altered stances that make any 'other' viewpoint invalid after a while.


    This is not about Digvijay Singh or his phone calls and their records. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater and the tub. I did not care about Antulay, either. These guys will indeed go back to their cushy seats or their back benches. It does not mean the relevant issues must too.

    This is a position I have held form day one when 26/11 happened and I stick by it.

  5. Farzana,
    A few things here....
    About Ms. Kavita Karkare ....
    Please allow me to use a cinematic anecdote here....
    The film - Insider - depicts a Tobacco Industry trying to articulate his poisition , rather fumblingly, against the Tobacco Industry's anti-public practices. As a part of his "disclosure acts" he is facing the media camera and fumbling for words. The person interviewing grumbles about "Insider's" lack of articulations. The other protagonist from film - well played by Al Pacino - retorts somewhat congruently (Sorry, don't recall the exact words here...) ".. These are ordinary folks pal - caught in extra-ordinary situation". Kind-of sums up for Ms. Karkare - caught up in extra-ordinary situation.
    Fumbling for correct position, at times balancing . But - IMHO - Overall, OK. Atleast , she has kept the communlasists and "congressian opportunists" at bay and consistently questioned about those "bullet-proof" jackets.
    Beyond that, we can debate our positions. But let us not drag her in the debates - let her fight her own battles, with the bullet-proof jackets. That should keep her plate full for now.

  6. Mahesh:

    I was all for Ms. Karkare's position, but she dragged herself into this. It started with the Kasab verdict and she started on the 'hang him publicly'. I mean, the judiciary can do what it wants, but I do believe that she should realise that there are serious issues here, and for whatever reason they involve her husband's part in scotching certain groups. She may keep political parties at bay, but they will fire the gun form her shoulder.

  7. If Digvijaya Singh lying is not an issue, and a lot of irrelevant CT horseshit is the issue. That is just fricking fascinating. really. Whatever.


  8. Farzana,

    It's a lonely life for a conspiracy theorist. And denial isn't a river in Egypt.


  9. Roadrunner:

    When the denier comes to deny the conspiracy it can never get lonely...one can just cruise along denial. Thanks for the company.


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