So the minister of minority affairs, A.R. Antulay, is back in limelight and every TV channel is busy covering his antics. He is the same person who was promoted by Indira Gandhi in the early 80s to become the first Muslim CM of Maharashtra and later removed from power when he turned her name into a commercial enterprise. By the 1980s, he was a spent force and barely able to win his seat. Disgraced, ignored and denied access to the high command, it took him years before he could crawl back into the corridors of power. Even then, he could never regain the prominence and command the center stage as he once did.
But now he has come up with a brilliant move. By linking the BJP and Hindutva brigade to the recent attacks in Mumbai he has scored a major victory. The Congress will find it hard to denounce him for fear of ‘hurting’ Muslim sentiments. The right wing Hindutva lunatics will target him which inter alia will help rally the Muslims behind him. He has already earned the support of Syed Shahbuddin who himself lost no opportunity to jump into the arena once again. Like Antulay, Shahbuddin is a spent force. After hogging the limelight in the sorry saga of Shah Bano, he too has been languishing away from the front pages and TV studios. The folly of the Shah Bano episode perhaps dawned on the Muslim community for they refused to elect him as their leader. Now, he too has gained a foothold and we can be certain that he will soon make his way back to the TV and radio studios.
Clearly, both these gentlemen and their brethren cutting across party lines have no interest in independent and impartial investigation into the Malegaon bombing or, for that matter, any other case. Since it is absolutely clear that Hemant Karkare died at the hands of the two terrorists attacking the railway station and the hospital, Antulay wants us to know why he went ‘in the wrong direction’. After all, he reasons, police officers should run to help the VIP rather than the common folks. Why would Karkare act differently unless forced by someone else? This perhaps implies that the Hindu terrorists must have acted in cohort with the Pak militants to get Karkare out of his investigation! Antulay does not have to say this directly but his questions certainly raises an interesting possibility of cooperation between extremists breaking religious and ideological divides. (But Syed Shahbuddin is around to say what Antulay will not say. He has issued a statement saying, "What Shri Antulay has hinted at, and which I endorse, is that there might have been a parallel conspiracy to silence Karkare and an elimination squad may have been following him. When they got an opportunity in the noise and dust generated by the terrorist attack, they killed him.)
Now, it is one thing to question the facts of an encounter, which by itself is a perfectly legitimate exercise. It is also perfectly legitimate to articulate the apprehensions held by sufficiently large sections of the population. But in this case, the whole manner seems to be an exercise designed to do nothing but feed the fears and rumour-mongering that has not abated since the "encounter" at Delhi's Batla House. Far from alleviating any legitimate Muslim grievance, Mr Antualy seems actually to be ensuring a further deepening of a persecution complex and damaging the credibility of the justice system in the country.
Now, to come back to the facts of the case. There can be many plausible reasons for Hemant Karkae to choose the particular direction he did. I think a simple one is that as the head of ATS and, perhaps realizing the danger to hundreds of commuters in that area, he preferred to first lead his men towards the north rather than to the hotels which had a smaller number of people. Obviously, just as was the case with news channels, the information coming to him would also have been hazy and unclear. It would have been natural for the two senior officers to rush to different spots if the gravity of other attacks had been properly communicated. There are radio communication logs that could be investigated to determine the reasons why he and his colleague made that particular fatal choice. But clearly, he anticipated trouble and wore the thin bullet proof vests and the helmet as a precaution.
So far, from all available eye-witness accounts, it would seem that the two terrorists had no idea who he was when they killed him with their superior weapons. We now know that these two terrorists had lost their way and were coming down from the hospital roof when they encountered Hemant Karkare in his vehicle. The Mumbai police are investigating the case and it is natural for the investigators and the leadership to focus upon the reasons for so many casualties of their brave officers. There is no doubt that this case will be examined from all perspectives to understand how the two terrorists could kill three senior police officers and run off in their vehicle. Conclusions will be drawn and lessons learned to develop better ways of engaging dangerous killers.
It is also clear that the Malegaon investigation will not slacken. Hemant Karkare was only the leader of a brilliant team that used forensic evidence and painstaking efforts to identify the new face of terrorism in the country. The team remains intact and will undoubtedly pursue with greater determination to crack this case. After all, the reputation of their leader is at stake in their inquiry. There are all kinds of problems with the Indian police but fraternity and strong sense of solidarity with fellow officers remains strong. The Malegaon case along with this dastardly attack on Mumbai are now inter-related from the sacrifice of Hemant Karkare and nobody should doubt that his comrades will not move heaven and earth to take the investigation into the two crimes to their logical end.
But Antulay, Shahbuddin and all their comrades, from the left to the right, east to the west, from the hand or the lotus to the elephant have no interest in any impartial investigation or good policing. That will go against the interests of their fraternity. The truth will shatter all their pretenses and insinuations. Independent police investigations and functioning will destroy their politics. They will then really have to serve the people and do something about hunger, education, health, shelter and other mundane issues that have paralyzed the country. It is better for them to raise bogeys, cast aspersions, divide communities and play upon unspoken fears. This helps get them visibility and garner votes and places no accountability on their actions. After all, these formulas have worked for 60 years and will work again in the coming months.
For the politicians, it would seem, there are other dangers too in making the police independent. The investigators will begin looking into their shenanigans. They may examine the source of crores that every politician mysteriously seems to possess today. They may pursue the links to the criminals and financiers who grease their political machines. They may even make the politicians redundant: by becoming accountable to the citizens and ensuring the rule of law in the country. Then who will go to the neta for redressal of grievances? Good police will make the present set of politicians irrelevant to the citizens who may then elect only those representatives who will develop the country and provide equal opportunities. Clearly, the threat of independent police in the country is absolutely clear to these politicians. It is best therefore to play to the galleries, shed tears, eulogize the dead, throw money and talk tough but not do the needful -- which is to reform the police system.
The politicians do not want to reform the police so that it functions to uphold democratic ideals. Nor do they want to work to make citizens co-producers of their own safety and security. None of the political parties and netas will lift a finger to implement the Supreme Court judgment and to release the police from political bondage. Antulay will not support the recommendations of the National Police Commission to create a security commission that can prevent direct interference in the functions of police. He will not question why SPs/ Commissioners and DGPs lack operational autonomy and fail to police the society professionally. Because that would not help resurrect Antulay’s fallen political fortunes, while raising ghosts and bogeymen will bring him back into politics. Little does he -- or other politicians for that matter -- understand that what perhaps killed Hemant Karkare and will surely continue to kill many other khaki wearing brave souls of the country will be their politics.
Dr Arvind Verma is a former IPS officer who is now with the Dept of Criminal Justice,
Indiana University- Bloomington, USA