By raking up a conspiracy theory regarding the death of Hemant Karkare, the Mumbai ATS chief, Minority Affairs Minister Abdul Rehman Antulay may have expressed the feelings of many members of his community. Several Muslim MPs and ex-MPs feel that what Antulay has said reflects the Muslim psyche post-Gujarat, post-Batla House and post-Malegaon investigations. However, at the same time, the minister who made his statement, after due consideration, has given a handle to elements in Pakistan to carry forward the false propaganda that the Mumbai attacks were not the handiwork of Islamists, but others within India.
The unfortunate and ill-timed statement regardless of what happens to Antulay’s future in the government or in the Congress reflects the state of affairs. He has obviously taken advantage of the vacillating political climate that exists in the country and also the failure of the Prime Minister to exercise any kind of control over his own Cabinet colleagues. The statement has provided enough ammunition to the BJP and the Sangh Parivar to put the government on the back foot. But what stands out is that Antulay’s views are an attempt at mixing terrorism with communalism. His language has a definite communal tinge to it. When the country is still trying to recover from the impact of the Mumbai attacks, his views have inadvertently or deliberately echoed the objectives of the perpetrators of the latest terror— that of creating communal discord.
It is nobody’s case that investigations against those connected with Malegaon and other such blasts should be put on the backburner. The law has to take its own course. Let’s hope there will be greater clarity about the probe once the ATS gets a new chief. But there is no purpose in any kind of speculation over how Karkare and his colleagues were killed. Kasab and his associate gunned them down in cold blood. There is no ambiguity about that. Therefore, doubts on this score are unfounded.
Anyone familiar with Pakistan’s recent tactics will be able to comprehend that Islamabad has been very keen to revisit the partition of India with the sole purpose of creating communal confusion and tension within this country. It also tried to replicate the techniques used during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan by sending foreign mercenaries into Kashmir in 1993-94 for the first time. The tactics have continued since then.
But in the latest instance, the Pakistani game is to create total distrust amongst the two major communities in secular India. Pakistan would be happy if the terror attacks lead to communal tensions and also riots in parts of India. Pakistan is a country, which is controlled by several forces within its own territory. Therefore, it cannot be trusted. It presents one face to the West and a different one to India.
In fact, the West must see terror in South Asia differently from the terror towards western countries. While Pakistan is a part of the war against global terror alongside the US and NATO allies, it is the perpetrator of terror against India. After 9/11, the Americans apparently failed to diagnose the problem correctly. More than Afghanistan, it is Pakistan that is the epicentre of terrorism and most fundamentalist groups are based in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The al-Qaeda attacks western countries with help from the Taliban and they operate from the NWFP region on both sides of Pakistan. Both have linkages with the Pakistani intelligence. But Lashkar-e-Tayebba, which owes allegiance to Ahle Hadeez (an umbrella Islamic fundamentalist group) focuses only in India. The Laskhkar is controlled by elements within the ISI.
The schizophrenic western view of terror from Pakistan has always been responsible for the lack of clarity on this matter. The West perhaps feels that as long as Pakistan serves its interests, it is best to leave well alone. But this view is bound to change after the Mumbai attacks.
Antulay’s remarks cannot be allowed to go uncontested by describing them as reflecting the concerns of an insecure minority in India. His party, the Congress has exemplary secular credentials. Therefore, the Prime Minister must assert himself forcefully and reiterate that he is the first among equals. Otherwise, a very warped message is going out. Between us.