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‘No truth in different versions circulated on Karkare’s movement’

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: This is the text of the statement of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on the circumstances leading to the death of Hemant Karkare, head of Mumbai’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), and other officers of the Mumbai Police, placed in both Houses of Parliament:

Recently, some questions have been raised about the circumstances in which three police officers, including Shri Hemant Karkare, head of the ATS, Mumbai, were killed while travelling in one car on Rang Bhawan Lane, near Cama Hospital on November 26, 2008.

I have ascertained the facts from the Government of Maharashtra.

At the outset, I wish to say that there are at least three eye witnesses to the incident, one of them being Mohammed Ajmal Amir, who was apprehended shortly after the incident and is now in the custody of the police. The other two eyewitnesses are Shri Arun Jadhav, a police Naik who was in the Qualis vehicle when the incident occurred, and Shri Maruti Mahavrao Phad, the driver of a government vehicle provided for the use of the Principal Secretary (Health), Government of Maharashtra.

Based on the accounts given by these three eyewitnesses and the accounts of other witnesses, the Mumbai Police have been able to reconstruct the sequence of events. Briefly, the following is the sequence.

Shri Karkare reached his residence at Dadar at about 21:45 hrs. Shortly thereafter, on receiving information over telephone from Shri Tondwalkar, Inspector-in-charge of the Control Room, he alerted his staff to be prepared to rush to the CST Railway Station. Within minutes, he and his team (one PSI and four Constables) took a Bolero jeep and rushed towards the CST. Before they reached the CST, they found that the road had been blocked due to a nakabandi. Hence, Shri Karkare and his team walked from that point to the CST. He was met by Shri K.P. Raghuvanshi, Additional DGP, Railways and other officers. They informed Shri Karkare that two terrorists, after opening indiscriminate fire inside the Railway Station, had fled towards a lane (called Anjuman Lane) between the Times of India building and Anjuman Islam High School. Immediately, Shri Karkare put on his bullet-proof jacket and helmet and along with his team rushed in the direction in which the terrorists had fled. Shri Karkare and his team reached the rear gate of Cama Hospital. They heard the noise of exchange of fire as well as blast of grenades. They took cover position behind the rear gate.

Shortly thereafter, Shri Ashok Kamte, Additional CP, Mumbai, reached the rear gate of Cama Hospital. Earlier, Shri Kamte had reached his residence at about 22:00 hrs. Within five minutes, on receiving information from the Control Room of the East Region, he instructed his wireless operator and driver to get ready to leave and he left within the next ten minutes. He took the road inside the Bombay Port Trust. When he reached Azad Maidan Police Club, he was told that he could not take the car to the rear gate of Cama Hospital. Hence, he got down from his car, directed his driver to wait in the car and, along with his wireless operator, walked to the rear gate of Cama Hospital.

Shri Vijay Salaskar, Police Inspector, Anti Extortion Squad, Crime Branch, also reached the rear gate of Cama Hospital. Earlier, he had reached home at about 21:30 hrs and relieved his driver, staff and car. However, at about 21:50 hrs, on receiving information on his mobile from the Additional Commissioner, Crime Branch, he left his residence driving his private Qualis vehicle. En route, after alerting Shri Arun Jadhav, his Police Naik, over telephone, he fetched Shri Nitin Alaknure, Police Inspector, and both drove towards Colaba Police Station via Haji Ali and Napean Sea Road. At Colaba Police Station, Arun Jadhav, the Police Naik, joined him. Shri Salaskar was instructed through mobile phone by Shri Rakesh Maria, Joint CP (Crime) to rush to Mumbai Police Headquarters. While driving to the Headquarters, Shri Salaskar spotted two armed police men standing alert at the gate of Azad Maidan Police Station. They informed Shri Salaskar about the shootout near Cama Hospital. Hence, Shri Salaskar rushed to the rear gate of Cama Hospital with his team.

Independent routes

From the facts narrated above, it would be seen that the three officers, Shri Karkare, Shri Kamte and Shri Salaskar, converged at the rear gate of Cama Hospital through independent routes. While the three were discussing the situation amongst themselves, Shri Telekar, the wireless operator attached to Shri Sadanand Date, Additional CP, came out of the Cama Hospital with injuries and informed them that Shri Sadanand Date had been injured in an exchange of gunfire with the terrorists inside the Cama Hospital premises. There was some firing from the terrace of the Cama Hospital but, suddenly, there was silence. This was followed by the sound of firing from the direction of St. Xavier’s College. Shri Karkare directed his team to take position at the same spot and, accompanied by Shri Kamte and Shri Salaskar, got into the police jeep, a Qualis vehicle, belonging to the ACP, Pydhonie Division, and drove in the direction of St. Xavier’s College. Shri Salaskar was at the wheel, Shri Kamte sat on the left side of the front seat, Shri Karkare was in the middle seat, and four others, including Shri Arun Jadhav, sat on the rear seat.

Shri Arun Jadhav, the surviving policeman, has stated that the Qualis was passing the ATM centre of a bank located on Rang Bhawan Lane, of Badruddin Tayyabji Marg, 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 fire which caused injuries to the hand of one of the terrorists (later identified as Mohammed Ajmal Amir). Shri Karkare, Shri Kamte, Shri Salaskar and three others were gravely injured. The two terrorists pulled out the three injured officers from the front and middle seats and hijacked the Qualis vehicle along with the four men whom the terrorists believed were dead. Shri Arun Jadhav was covered by the bodies of his three colleagues, who were killed, and thus remained undetected. The Qualis vehicle was abandoned at Free Press Journal Marg and the two terrorists hijacked a Skoda car. At this point, Shri Arun Jadhav got out of vehicle and reported the incident to the control room using the wireless set in the Qualis vehicle. The control room received the report at 00:25 hrs, that is shortly after midnight of 26th/27th November 2008.

Ajmal’s corroboration

Shri Arun Jhadhav has accounted for the events between the time when he joined Shri Salaskar at Colaba Police Station and the time he made the report to the control room. The apprehended terrorist Mohammed Ajmal Amir has corroborated the portion of the story where he and his companion opened fire on a Qualis vehicle, believed that all the occupants had been killed, and hijacked the vehicle. Shri Maruti Mahdavrao Phad, driver of the official vehicle provided to the Principal Secretary (Health), Government of Maharashtra, had witnessed the incident from a close distance. He is a witness to the movements of the two terrorists who took cover behind some bushes and fired on the Qualis vehicle, pulled out three injured men and eventually hijacked the vehicle.

The Crime Branch of Mumbai Police is investigating the offences, including the offences suspected to be committed by Mohammed Ajmal Amir and his companion, since identified as Ismail Khan. The investigators have reconstructed the sequence of events by talking to a number of people, including police officers and policemen who were present at different locations. The investigators have reached the conclusion that Shri Karkare took the most convenient route from his residence at Dadar (East) to the CST Railway Station and, after conferring with the police officers at the Railway Station, decided to proceed to Cama Hospital. It is at the rear gate of Cama Hospital that he was joined by Shri Kamte and Shri Salaskar. The sequence of events after the three officers and four men boarded the Qualis vehicle at the rear gate of Cama Hospital and until they were fired upon near the ATM centre of a bank on Rang Bhawan Lane have been reconstructed on the basis of the eyewitness accounts of Shri Arun Jadhav and Shri Maruti Madhavrao Phad.

No conspiracy

The investigators have reached the conclusion that there is no truth whatsoever in the suspicion that there was a conspiracy to eliminate Shri Karkare or others. There is also no truth in the different versions that have been circulated about the movement of Shri Karkare on that fateful day. Shri Karkare appears to have acted, after conferring with his colleagues, with speed and purpose in response to a 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 Shri Karkare in the terrorist case. After his death, questions are being raised about the circumstances in which he was killed. In my view, both are wrong and deeply regrettable.

Mr. Speaker Sir, I wish to end this statement with an appeal to all Honourable Members and my fellow citizens. This is the time to salute the dedication and bravery of the police officers and their men. This is the time to help their families, especially their children, to cope with the tragedy. This is the time for the whole country to stand united and carry on a determined fight against terror.

>Home Minister's statement on death of Hemant Karkare

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