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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

Hemant Karkare: The officer who cracked 2008 Malegaon case

On September 29, 2008, a bomb planted on a motorcycle went off in Malegaon, killing six people and injuring 101.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2019 14:36 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Hemant Karkare, the Indian Police Service (IPS) officer who Pragya Singh Thakur claimed died in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks because she had cursed him, led the probe by the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) into the Malegaon blast case of 2008, in which Thakur is a suspect.
Hemant Karkare, the Indian Police Service (IPS) officer who Pragya Singh Thakur claimed died in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks because she had cursed him, led the probe by the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) into the Malegaon blast case of 2008, in which Thakur is a suspect.
         

Hemant Karkare, the Indian Police Service (IPS) officer who Pragya Singh Thakur claimed died in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks because she had cursed him, led the probe by the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) into the Malegaon blast case of 2008, in which Thakur is a suspect.

Thakur, who is out on bail, has been nominated as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate for the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat against the Congress’s Digvijaya Singh, and her remarks triggered a furore in Maharashtra. She said had cursed him because of the way Karkare treated her during her incarceration

On September 29, 2008, a bomb planted on a motorcycle went off in Malegaon, killing six people and injuring 101. The first breakthrough for Karkare’s team came within a month, with the restoration of the engine number of the motorcycle used in the blast, which was found to be registered in Thakur’s name.

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On October 24, 2008, the state agency arrested Thakur, Shiv Narayan Gopal Singh Kalsangra and Shyam Bhawarlal Sahu. According to the ATS, one of the accused, Lt. Col. (retd.) Prasad Purohit ,played a key role in formation of Abhinav Bharat with “the intention to propagate a separate Hindu Rashtra with its own constitution”, and had supplied RDX for the blast. He was arrested on November 5, 2008.

The ATS under Karkare arrested a total of 11 people between October and November 2008, claiming the attack had been planned by Hindu rightwing groups to target Malegaon’s Muslim population. Bharatiya Janata Party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders, among others, accused the ATS of being on a witch-hunt; some even demanded that ATS officers be subjected to a narco-analysis to establish their motives.

The state agency invoked the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in the case, which later became a controversy and led to all cases of so-called “Hindu terror” being transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). On May 13, 2016, the NIA submitted a supplementary charge sheet, stating that a shoddy probe by state authorities had forced them to drop the stringent provisions of the MCOCA.

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A special court, on December 27, 2017, ordered dropping charges under the MCOCA. The NIA special court in October last year framed charges against the seven accused – Thakur, Ramesh Upadhyay, Sameer Kulkarni, Ajay Rahirkar, Purohit, Sudhakar Dwivedi alias Swami Amritanand and Sudhakar Chaturvedi – claiming their prosecution was not maintainable in the absence of evidence.

In its supplementary charge sheet, the NIA gave a clean chit to Thakur, which led to questions over the state agency’s probe.

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On December 3, 2018, a special court began its trial in the case against the seven booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), along with the charge of murder.

Karkare, along with senior police officials Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar, was killed outside Cama Hospital in south Mumbai while fighting terrorists during the November 26, 2011 attacks.

Born in 1954, Karkare hailed from Madhya Pradesh and completed his schooling from Wardha in Maharashtra. He graduated in mechanical engineering from Nagpur in 1975. Karkare joined the IPS in 1982 and served in the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) as well as the Indian mission in Vienna, Austria.

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He was the superintendent of police in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra in 1991. Chandrapur is an area in which Maoist rebels, known as Naxalites, were active. Karkare also did stints with the Mumbai crime branch and anti-narcotics department. He was posted as the joint commissioner of police (administration) in the Mumbai police, before taking over as the ATS chief.

PK Jain,an IPS officer and former additional director general (special operations), remembers Karkare as a hardworking and dedicated officer. “I knew Karkare well. As an officer, he was committed to his duty,” said Jain.

KP Raghuvanshi, former director general of police of Maharashtra who was chief of the ATS before Karkare, said: “He was a fine officer. He was extremely focused.”

Karkare was posthumously awarded the Ashok Chakra, India’s highest peacetime military decoration

First Published: Apr 20, 2019 07:14 IST