Hemant Karkare was a cop known for his integrity and resilience. The Mumbai anti-terrorism squad (ATS) top cop, was working on the Malegaon blasts before he was shot dead by the two assailants Ajmal Kasab and Abu Ismail in the 26/11 terror attacks.
During the terror assault on November 2008, several bravehearts had lost their lives. But Karkare’s death was mired in controversy right from the beginning─there were whispers that it was a conspiracy to eliminate the man, in which some Mumbai Police officials were complicit.
Karkare’s investigation began after the Malegaon blast in September 2008. The blast in Maharashtra’s Malegaon was allegedly fitted onto a motorcycle and rigged to detonate. The blasts had ripped through Malegaon in Maharashtra, killing seven people.
The incident took place when special Ramzan prayers were being offered inside the mosque.The Maharashtra ATS unearthed links within Hindutva terrorists, the Sangh Parivar (RSS) and the governments in certain states.
While Karkare was working on the case, he got anonymous phone calls, with threats of dire consequences if he did not leave the case that would lead to the expose of vast network of Hindu terror cells that were involved in similar terror incidents all over India. Just two days before he was killed, Karkare had received one such call.
A skeptic former IG of the Mumbai police, SM Mushrif pointed to KP Raghuvanshi, the man who took over the charge of Maharashtra ATS after Hemant Karkare. Allegedly, Raghuvanshi led Karkare and two other officers into a trap, and got them eliminated in one go.
Then Union Minister AR Antulay stirred a hornet’s nest when he raised his suspicions. The minister had said that that someone could must have told Karkare and the other cops to go to Cama Hospital, suggesting that the ATS chief fell victim to a ‘set-up’.
Antulay’s doubts were not entirely baseless. Karkare and other top cops travelled in the same vehicle. The official norm is that senior officers can’t travel in the same vehicle, for the very reason that an attack might lead to wipe-off an entire top team.
Also, Karkare was wearing an a dilapidated helmet and an outdated bullet-proof vest that did cover his chest, but left his neck exposed. What makes Karkare’s death more mysterious is the disappearance of his bullet-proof jacket.
Apparently, the Mumbai Police was initially reluctant to handover his autopsy report. The postmortem report stated that Karkare received a “total of five wounds on the shoulder blade, top region between neck and right shoulder, four entry wounds in one line.”
The report further revealed that he received one bullet in the neck and the other four were in a line entering the shoulder and exiting from the armpit. There were reports about two bullets being found in his body in the autopsy.
Ballistic experts could not clarify the most crucial dimension of these killings: whose bullets killed Karkare and others? Did the gun which killed Karkare and others belong to the terrorists? Also, he was shot at close range, which makes skeptics wonder why would an ATS head come close to suspects without being armed?
The death of Karkare still remains a puzzle. May be he died at the hands of the assailants. Or may be some invisible hand pulled the strings that drew the curtain on his death.