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No conspiracy to eliminate Hemant Karkare: Chidambaram

The central government Tuesday said there was "no truth whatsoever" in the suspicion that there was a "conspiracy to eliminate" Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare and two other police officers.

india Updated: Dec 23, 2008 14:44 IST

The central government Tuesday said there was "no truth whatsoever" in the suspicion that there was a "conspiracy to eliminate" Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare and two other police officers.

The circumstances in which they were killed were "tragically fortuitous", Home Minister P. Chidambaram stated in the Lok Sabha.

The much-awaited statement seeks to put to rest the controversy over Minority Affairs Minister A.R. Antulay's remarks questioning the circumstances surrounding the killing of Karkare when terrorists struck Mumbai last month.

"The investigators have reached the conclusion that there is no truth whatsoever in the suspicion that there was a conspiracy to eliminate Karkare or others," Chidambaram stated.

"There is also no truth in the different versions that have been circulated about the movement of Karkare on that fateful day," the statement said.

"Karkare appears to have acted, after conferring with his colleagues, with speed and purpose in response to the crisis situation. While it is indeed unfortunate that three brave officers and their men boarded one Qualis vehicle the circumstances in which they came under fire and were killed were tragically fortuitous."

"In the days before his death, questions were raised about the genuineness of the investigations that were being conducted by Karkare in a terrorist case," said Chidambaram, who was not allowed to read out his statement and had to table it instead.

"After his death, questions are being raised about the circumstances in which he was killed. In my view, both are wrong and deeply regrettable."

For the last four days, the opposition has been demanding that the government clarify its position over Antulay's controversial comments - he had hinted that Karkare's death could be linked to the Sep 29 Malegaon bombing he was investigating and in which members of Hindu radical groups are the main suspects.

The opposition, which has virtually stalled parliament proceedings, has been demanding Antulay's resignation, arguing that he had compromised the country's position in the war against terrorism and given a handle to Pakistan by his remarks.

Chidambaram began his statement in the Lok Sabha by explaining the sequence of events that led to death of three police officers travelling in a car near Cama hospital on the night of Nov 26 when terrorists struck Mumbai.

The three officers were Karkare, Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte and anti-recovery squad chief and 'encounter specialist' Vijay Salaskar.

"Based on accounts given by three eyewitness and the accounts of other witnesses, the Mumbai police reconstructed the sequence of events," Chidambaram said.

The accounts were from Mohammed Ajmal Amir alias Kasab, the only terrorist who was caught alive, Arun Jadhav, a police naik who was in the same same vehicle when the incident occurred and Maruti Madhavrao Phad, a driver working for the Maharashtra government.

"Karkare took the most convenient route from his residence at Dadar (East) to the CST (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) railway station and after conferring with the police officers at the railway station decided to proceed to the Cama hospital," said Chidambaram.

"At the rear gate of Cama hospital that he was joined by Kamte and Salaskar."

"Arun Jadav, the surviving policeman, has stated the Qualis was passing the ATM centre of a bank located on Rang Bhavan lane when two terrorists opened indiscriminate fire from behind the bushes on the other side of the lane. One of the occupants of the Qualis vehicle returned the fire which caused injuries to the hand of one of the terrorists... Karkare, Kamte and Salaskar and three others were gravely injured."

Following Chidambaram's statement, Antulay, who has been attending parliament right through the political hullabaloo, said: "I never doubted that Karkare and his friends (Salaskar and Kamte) were killed by Pakistani terrorists. I never even said that ATS chief's death was a conspiracy."

"My query was why Karkare on that fateful night went the opposite direction to Cama hospital and not to Taj Palace hotel," he said.

"My demand has been met with the sequence of events presented by the home minister in the house."

"Right through my life I have never heard such words that I am being touted as a Pakistani agent. My loyalty to the nation is much more than people who have been using this issue. And if you doubt my loyalty then you are doubting the loyalty of the whole nation."

First Published: Dec 23, 2008 14:41 IST