A section of the Congress tried to gain political mileage among Muslims by backing the theory that Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare’s death during the 26/11 attack was linked to his probe into “Hindu terrorists”, former US ambassador to India David Mulford reported back to Washington.
Then minority affairs minister AR Antulay had sparked off a controversy on December 17, 2008 — less than three weeks after the attack in Mumbai — by making this totally unsubstantiated allegation.
The secret cable — dated December 23, 2008 and released on Friday by whistleblower website Wikileaks — says: “The Congress, after first distancing itself from the comments (of Antulay), two days later issued a contradictory statement which implicitly endorsed the conspiracy (theory).”
It was swayed, Mulford alleged, by “crass political opportunism” as the allegation “seemed to gain support in Indian Muslim community”.
“The party chose to pander to Muslims’ fears, providing impetus for those in the Muslim community who will continue to play up the conspiracy theory. The entire episode demonstrates that the Congress will readily stoop to the old caste/religion-based politics if it feels it is in its interest,” the cable said.
Congress chief spokesman Janardan Dwivedi was guarded in his reaction. “Nobody has authenticated the leaked cable,” he said. His colleague Shakeel Ahmed was only slightly more forthcoming. “We do not agree with the observations. But we will have to find out if the cable is genuine or not.”
The US has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the cables. According to WikiLeaks, it has about 1,300 cables from the US embassy in New Delhi. However, only half a dozen of them have been posted by it on its website.
Despite the low-key response, the cable, if authentic, is bound to raise the government’s hackles and the Congress because of its critical, and often scathing, observations.