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Minister of conspiracy theories

It’s wild and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories like these that Union Minority Affairs Minister AR Antulay seems to be basing his own conjecture on. Sujata Anandan writes.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2008 23:01 IST

Even as commandos had just entered the Taj and the Oberoi hotels to overpower terrorists holding Mumbai hostage, a hysterical e-mail went round the country screaming away at ‘RSS complicity’ in the attacks. “...This terror attack in our analysis has been planned and orchestrated by the Sangh Parivar and its allies within the security apparatus to counter the investigation of the ATS led by Hemant Karkare, so as to nullify and deflect attention from the exposé of the BJP-RSS Parivar’s involvement in fomenting terror attacks in the country,” the e-mail from ‘Awami Bharat’ began.

This was entirely conjecture and brought forth a slew of responses from people who condemned the Awami Bharat for its ‘mad-hatter’ theories and warned that liberal Muslims associated with this Left-leaning organisation were in danger of losing credibility if they persisted in sounding “like the Indian wing of al-Qaeda”.

The Awami Bharat, though, was not chastened. Soon there was another text message: about the terrorists who had entered the Cama and Albless Hospital speaking in Marathi to some people hiding in the premises and that these Marathi-speaking people (read: RSS activists) were actually responsible for killing Mumbai ATS chief Hemant Karkare. The most cutting response to this second series of hysterical mails was from journalist-activist Jyoti Punwani who said, “Please remember Marathi need not be spoken only by Hindus.’’

But it’s wild and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories like these that Union Minority Affairs Minister AR Antulay seems to be basing his own conjecture on. And the Cama and Albless Hospital has unwittingly become the centrepiece of his conspiracy theory.

I have been on the board of the hospital for the last two years. Since 26/11, I have spoken to many board members and hospital staff. No one can remember any of the terrorists speaking Marathi to anyone. On the contrary, by most accounts, Ajmal Kasab and his gun-toting companions seemed to be lost within the premises suggesting that they may have made a wrong turn into the hospital while looking for a much taller building. And the only people they ever came in contact with in the hospital were unarmed watchmen (whom they shot) and a lift-man who led them downstairs (they had reached the terrace) even as the police came after them from the nearby Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus the terrorists had abandoned after gunning down dozens.

Antulay made an insensitive remark when he insisted that the three policemen — Hemant Karkare, Vijay Salaskar and Ashok Kamte — shot dead outside the hospital, should have been at the Taj, the Oberoi and Nariman Bhavan rather than seeking to protect people at the hospital.

The Cama Hospital, a government-run institution for women and children, was set up before Independence. While many from the middle-class can trace their birth certificates to this hospital, today it is entirely a hospital for the poor and the destitute. It could not have harboured a Marathi-speaking RSS man waiting for the terrorists to point them in the direction of Karkare and as a former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Antulay should have known better than to give credence to the unsubstantiated allegations of a bunch of grossly misguided individuals who see in every terror act in India, the hand of George Bush, the Mossad and the Bajrang Dal.

In any case, the role of ‘Hindu terrorist’ organisations in the Malegaon blasts is still under investigation. Relatively unknown inspectors and constables are the actual investigators in that case; Karkare was just the public face of that probe. Antulay and other conspiracy theorists should have more faith in our police.