On December 17 Union Minority Affairs Minister A R Antulay while talking to media remarked about Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare's death in Mumbai terror attacks. This was what he said.
'There is more than what meets the eyes. Karkare found that there are non-Muslims involved in the acts of terrorism during his investigations in some cases. Any person going to the roots of terror has always been the target."
"Superficially speaking they (terrorists) had no reason to kill Karkare. Whether he (Karkare) was victim of terrorism or terrorism plus something. I do not know," he added.
The main thing to be noted here is Antulay never said Karkare was killed by Hindu extremists.He was only asking for an enquiry to confirm or reject the rumour that Karkare might have been mis-directed to go straight in to the hands of Terrorists by some one with vested interests in sabotaging the Malegaon probe.
The same day I watched CNN IBN TV channel's 9pm news.Antulay was being interviewed by Rajdeep Sardesai.
Antulay was saying the same thing.'Why Karkare went to Cama Hospital instead of Taj and Oberoi? Was he mis directed?'
Sardesai was trying again and again to make Antulay tell that he thinks it was not LeT terrorists who killed Karkare but Hindu extremists.
Antulay did not oblige.He reiterated that he want an enquiry to ascertain whether there was a conspiracy in directing Karkare to Cama Hospital where he was shot dead by Islamist terrorists.
The death of Hemant Karkare in 26/11 Mumbai terror attack did raise some eyebrows even before Antulay's statement on December 17th. Questions were asked and conspiracy theory whispered.This was mainly seen in the Urdu Press,Muslim oriented websites, but surprisingly also in some anti communalism and dissent websites. Comments to some blog posts also raised conspiracy theory against Hindu extremists.As far as I know neither the Mumbai Police nor the State and Central Governments did come out with a clarification until the controversial statement by its own Minority Affairs Minister.If such a clarification was issued earlier,especially by the Home Minister Chidambaram this controversy would not have occurred.
What was Antulay's actual motive behind this statement?
Did he really believe in the conspiracy theory he advocated?
Very unlikely. If he really believed in that first thing he would have done is to discuss it with his colleague, Home Minister Chidambaram. It appears that he have not done that.There are reports [originating from sources close to Antulay]that he tried to raise this issue with Maharashtra Government,but there is no proof. Even he was unsuccessful in raising the issue with State Government,He should have raised it in Delhi in the Government circles or with in the Party under closed doors.
Was he worried that Malegaon probe will suffer because Karkare is dead? Till now he has never asked for an assurance from the Government Home ministry that the probe will go on as expeditiously as before when Karkare was at the helm.
So the fact is the real motive behind Antulay's statement was to get maximum publicity to himself as the saviour of minority rights.Lately Antulay seems to have no backers in Congress high command.Most of the pro-minority actions of the Central Government was portrayed to be done by other Ministries like that of Arjun Singh.Even in Maharashtra Congress he had no friends.There was a high possibility that he might not get a Lok Sabha seat in coming Parliament elections. So Antulay statement was just a statement for survival for himself in Indian politics and not for the Muslim community. He was defying the Congress high command saying I am the real minority leader and you should not sideline me.
The reactions to statement was interesting.
Most of the commentators in TV news Channels were calling Antulay a traitor,an ISI agent, an Islamist terrorist etc etc. Most main stream newspapers followed suit.Even some who had raised doubts about Karkare's death joined hands to condemn Antulay.This reaction was not surprising after witnessing the jingoism and hate mongering of major section of Indian media after 26/11. Some Muslim websites tried to defend Antulay while others distanced themselves from him.But an objective analysis of the event was lacking in the media.
The reaction from the political parties were on the expected lines.BJP was parading it as yet another evidence of Muslims being always anti-national. The Congress distanced itself from Antulay statement but was not brave enough to accept his resignation. The Left was critical of Antulay's intention while Lalu Yadav and Paswan did not find anything wrong in it.
After few days Home Minister Chidambaram made a detailed statement in Lok Sabha refuting the conspiracy theory. Antulay quickly accepted it with glee[ he had never believed in that theory at the first place]. The Congress and the Government wants to close the chapter of this whole episode. But is it that easy? Can that undo the damages?
What damage the Antulay statement did?
1. Many People, especially Muslims still believe the conspiracy theory,though there is no proof.Many reasons are raised for the disbelief in Police version of events.A well meaning but naive friend of mine told me couple of days ago that it was necessary for the Government to scuttle Malegaon probe because if the truth come out it will be defaming to the Indian Army and there by to the Country.So to prevent this and also to prevent a big communal riot due to the revelations the Congress Government had to eliminate Karkare.The number of backers to the conspiracy theory must have multiplied several times due to Antulay's statement.This result in Mulims going in to a self denial mode. Muslims in India need not feel guilt for Pakistani Islamist's action.But they should be ever vigilant to prevent hijacking of Islam by these terrorists.In a self denial mode vigilance will be lacking.
2.Antulay statement helped to reinstate the general belief that politicians are just self serving opportunists. Lack of credibility of Politicians especially from the minority community may create frustration and encourage terrorism.
3.Pakistan Government under pressure from International community used the twisted interpretation of Antulay's statement by Indian TV Channels to good effect.[Indian Channels were claiming that Antulay said it was not LeT Terrorists who killed Karkare]. This resulted in the continuation self denial mode in Pakistan.
4.The BJP's accusation of 'Congress pampering the minorities against National interest will have more takers after the Antulay incident.The fact that a Minister in the Union Cabinet was not sacked for an untimely and self serving statement in this time of great trial to the Indian State showed Congress in poor light.
5. The chant of the Sangh Parivar and its supporters in the Media that Muslims always support the interests of Pakistan became more louder.
6.Instead of attacking the Sangh Parivar for its volte-face in conducting a hate campaign against Karkare before his death and now praising and parading his martyrdom,Congress was pushed to a defensive attitude.
The Central Government should have come out with a detailed clarification about the circumstances behind Karkare's death immediately.Also Congress should have been bold enough to sack Antulay the Minorities Affair Minister from the Cabinet for going public with his statement [ not for his conspiracy theory]. Such a brave action along with a proclamation of strong resolve to continue the probe to bring the master minds of Malegaon blasts to justice would have reduced most of the damage produced by Antulay's statements.
Lessons to be Learnt
1. The Media should learn to respect and unbiasedly analyse the views of those who do not toe their line. What they are doing now is distorting the views and defaming the persons holding such views instead of logical analysis.Otherwise they cease to be a [non partisan] Media.
2. Congress should learn that protecting minority rights do not mean protecting self serving and unscrupulous politicians. Such actions not only result in loss of face for the Party but will help indirectly in encouraging communalism.
3.Various religious groups in India should realise that most politicians who claim to champion their cause wants to attain and retain power at any cost including at the cost of their own Community's well being.