Monday, December 22, 2008

Conspiracy theory about Karkare's death: Farooq Mapkar's battle for justice may explain it

This post first deals with an ordinary person, Farooq Mapkar, who was described by Jyoti Punwani as the 'Peon who took on the government' for his struggle to seek justice.

And it also attempts to describe why Hemant Karkare symbolised hope for Muslims and why his death has given way to conspiracy theories.

Mapkar, who was in the news two days back, was a young man when policemen had barged inside the Hari Masjid near Wadala in Mumbai and resorted to unprovoked firing on the Namazis.

Seven persons were killed and Mapkar had also been critically injured with the bullets. Worse, those who didn't die in the firing, were charged by the police of rioting and murder. This extraordinarily heinous crime of police has been reported widely in the past but justice eluded the victims.

The constables, the DCP's driver and other officials apart from residents had testified that Kapse for reasons known to him only, entered the mosque and shot those in the prayers, though there was absolute peace in the area.

The Sri Krishna Commission had also found that there were Hindu houses and properties around the mosque and they were neither harmed nor touched. It was an unbelievable case of hate crime.

For 15 years, Mapkar has been waiting to see the group of policemen led by Sub-Inspector Nikhil Kapse get punished for the crime (rather he got promoted sometime back). Even FIR was not registered for the death of these seven persons while 57 persons including the injured were booked for 'rioting'.

Over the years, all efforts were made by successive governments including the Congress to bury cases like the Hari Masjid firing. The Sri Krishna Commission report was shelved and despite repeated assurances by the Congress leaders, whenever the party came in power it ignored the recommendations.

However, this week Mapkar's long battle seems to have begun showing results now. This week the High Court ordered the case to he handed over to CBI. Such was the delay in compliance  that the Court had to warn the State government of contempt proceedings if the case was not handed over by state police to CBI.

The Bombay High Court has now rejected the Additional Solicitor General's plea that FIR could be registered only after an inquiry, and has ordered the CBI to first register a case and then conduct the investigations.

The court had earlier said that it was the case that "affects the very soul of India" and held that it should be investigated "for the rule of law to survive". The CBI now has six months to investigate and file a charge sheet against Kapse and his men.

Why ATS chief Hemant Karkare's death becomes a rallying point

The case of Hari Masjid is not the first such incident. In the past, unprovoked killings by the notorious Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) of UP, in Meerut's Hashimpura-Maliana village where youths were picked up, bundled, killed and thrown in Hindon river, in the pre-TV channels era, never saw justice. [Link to a later followup report on Hashimpura killings in Indian Express]

In fact, in several cases it was never a Hindu-Muslim riot. Rather, a police-Muslim clash. In Kanpur, it became the norm for decades. However, in later riots of 90s, as the Army was sent the riots would stop immediately with both communities welcoming the army.

Former IPS officer Vibhuti Narayan Rai has written extensively on this subject and his book has now been made a part of the curriculum of the Police Academy. Police in parts of the country has been heavily communalised and the situation was too bad in the past.

It is in this backdrop that Karkare became the symbol of hope and justice for Muslims. Who (among the investigative agencies, policy makers and journos) was not aware of the Nanded blasts-Parbhani mosque attacks-Jalna-Malegaon blasts?

The fact that there were blasts on Shab-e-Barat and before that fake beards and topis were recovered from the house of Bajrang Dal and RSS workers. But the cases were never properly looked into.

Just like many Muslims refuse to believe that 'a Muslim can do it', there is a vast number of Hindus who believe that 'How can a Hindu do it?'.

Though it is these Hindus and Muslims who produce criminals, mass murders and all sorts of offenders that include child rapists but this irrational belief is present among police as well (including politicians and journalists).

Karkare led the same ATS, which never worked on these Nanded-Parbhani-Malegaon leads under the past ATS heads including KP Raghuvanshi. Karkare went on arresting a number of persons and such was his integrity that retired IPS officers including RSS sympathisers personally told the Sangh leaders that he was not someone who would 'frame or falsely implicate anybody withour proper evidence'.

In this backdrop, when the trio of three exceptional officers Karkare-Salaskar-Kampte was eliminated after reaching from one place to another and later at Cama Hospital abruptly, the 'persecuted' Muslim mind did think of theories like 'elimination by some hardcore fanatic RSS shooter or even a cop or an accomplice of the gang of Pragya Thakur-Dayanand Pandey'.

Is it so weird? It is not if one considers it in this old backdrop. A Chief Minister like Congress' Sudhakar Rao Naik or the BJP's Narendra Modi saw hunreds killed in their regimes and the outcome of cases or their accountability was almost nil.

Very few victims could get justice. However, Karkare was breaking a myth that it is only the 'Muslim who can be a terrorist'. In the last 20 year or so RSS has so strongly captured the imagination of middle-class that it has become a near equivalent of nationalism. But it is also has hardcore fanatics just like any other such organisation.

Antulay's statement, which I termed irresponsible but not anti-national, on this blog earlier, was blown up. It was made to appear that he implied that the terrorists were not responsible for the attacks. 'Karkare ki shahadat ka apmaan', were headlines in Hindi papers echoeing the line of the same Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena, VHP groups that were earlier baying for his blood and even asking his 'narco-analysis'.

Even after Mumbai terror strikes, there are signature campaigns in Cities like Indore to demand the 'release of Pragya Thakur' as a 'Hindu can't be a terrorist'. By the same logic is it not anti-national. So whither justice?

It is not at all a question in every Muslim's mind but there was the thought among those who have seen justice denied for decade. They wondered why the 'demand for an inquiry' into the three sudden deaths, has been termed as anti-national.

At the blog, India's National Interest, Rohit has raised valid points and written on the issue.

[Photo of Hari Masjid courtesy Shashi Ashiwal for Frontline]