Unanswered questions still haunt
The manner in which the first anniversary of the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai is being observed has the makings of the theatre of the absurd. While there is a schizophrenic embrace of the US' script for commemorating the brazen attack, there has been little evidence of the Indian government displaying professional rigour similar to the kind seen after the New York carnage in September 2001.
In spite of, several "dossiers" handed over by the Indian home ministry to Pakistan to establish its complicity in the attack, there are major gaps in our understanding of what happened in those fateful hours when Mumbai was at the mercy of 10 terrorists. Questions about how the terrorists, after navigating 700 kilometres between Karachi to the shores of Mumbai were fresh enough to wage war against the Indian state, remain unanswered? Did they stay in Mumbai overnight and then land at the Gateway of India to take over the Taj Mahal Hotel and Oberoi? There are testimonies of some women that suggest that they saw the killers in Mumbai's Leopold café a few days before 26/11.
What about local support? Were they just guided from long distance by their handlers across the border or they had some people in Mumbai helping them along? Also, what happened to the rag-tag outfit of the Indian Mujahideen? One wonders where all of them have disappeared after revealing their hand.
There are also gaping holes in our understanding about what happened in those 60 hours that the terrorists held the city to ransom. Widows of three slain police officers - Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar - have been running from pillar to post to ascertain the circumstances in which their husbands were killed. Surprisingly, their efforts have been stonewalled by the Mumbai police. Kamte's wife had to take recourse to the right to information (RTI) to get the radio transcripts of the communication between her husband and the police control room. The information she received conveyed only a partial picture of what happened on the first night of the attack. Karkare's killing is far more mysterious.
Head of anti-terror squad (ATS) of Maharashtra, Karkare was investigating a case about the involvement of Hindu fundamentalist gangs in blasts at Malegaon and other places in the country. Blasts in Samjhauta Express, the train that moves between India and Pakistan, were also linked to this gang. Karkare was able to lay bare the links of the Hindu fundamentalist gangs in the army and their support from Israel. His painstaking investigation was front page news till the Mumbai attack. On November 25, 2008, he had sought permission from the army headquarters to interrogate some of the officers whose names had popped up in his probe. An anonymous phone call had threatened to blow him up if he did not relent.
Karkare had little reason to be present when the terrorists struck. He was investigating terror related cases and not expected to fight them in a gun battle. It is akin to asking the CBI director to go and fight terrorists when they sneak in through the Kashmir border.
The question is: who drew him out to take on the terrorists and how did he get killed?
Kavita Karkare found it unusual that the bullet proof jacket that her husband was shown to be wearing went missing after his death. Also, he was not taken to the hospital for 40 minutes when he was just a few hundred metres from it. Congress leader, AR Antulay, had given expression to popular suspicion about the circumstances of his death amongst the minority community when he raised it in Parliament. A police officer, SM Mushrif, in his book believes that there were some rogue Intelligence Bureau gangs who were behind his killing. After Karkare's death, the Malegaon investigation has meandered into nothingness. Many people find it difficult to reconcile these two developments without being sceptical about the government's version.
And there are more issues that we raised in Hardnews, but found no explanations anywhere. Some of the dead terrorists were found to be carrying credit cards and SIM cards of their hostages. There is worrying opaqueness whether the value loaded cards were used by terrorists or their handlers. Any terror expert would testify that these radical outfits use mobile banking to transfer money and they have the skills to hack accounts. Many of those who were killed were millionaires like the partner of Yes Bank, Ashok Kapur.
Many of these answers are unavailable due to the shoddy politicisation of the probe and the fear in the home ministry that any new information would dilute the dominant thesis about Pakistan's involvement in the terror attack.