The public outcry that followed 26/11 forced R.R. Patil to resign as home minister on December 1, 2008. Eleven months later, he’s back in the same office, leading many to term him ‘26/11’s biggest survivor’. He spoke to the Hindustan Times on the eve of the attacks’ anniversary.
There were two major attacks — the train blasts in 2006 and 26/11 — in your tenure. Why should people have faith in you?
I have a mission to accomplish. I assure the people that their lives and assets will be safe. I will not hesitate to sacrifice my own life to protect my people. I vow to make the state police force the best in India.
But the fact remains that you and the police force didn’t live up to expectations. Your cabinet colleague Chhagan Bhujbal said you were reluctant to visit the terror sites on that fateful night.
I quit voluntarily on moral grounds. I reject the charge that the police failed. Every man fought valiantly with the arms and equipment available. The attacks were unprecedented; no security agency foresaw them. Everybody knows where I was that night and what I did.
You said in private that you had to go because you were a politician, but bureaucrats and police officers who were equally at fault stayed in office.
One has to own up to one’s responsibility. The politicians, bureaucracy and police worked together. I decided to take the blame.
The Pradhan Committee criticised some bureaucrats and the police. Former police commissioner Hassan Gafoor also levelled similar charges.
We are aware of who and what went wrong. There is no need to entangle officers in repeated probes; we have charted out a plan for the future and we expect them not to repeat the mistakes. As far as Gafoor’s comments are concerned, we have asked him to explain. The next action [against Gafoor] will be based on his reply.
The government established squads like Force One and Quick Response Teams, who are said to be fitter and mentally stronger. Do you know that some Force One commandos fainted during the inaugural parade on Tuesday?
I didn’t know, though I was at the function. [Patil calls up Force One chief S. Jagannathan, who tells him that the commandos had high fever but insisted on participating in the parade.]
What was it like after resigning?
It was the most difficult period of my life. I think the difficult times have strengthened my resolve.