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Let Antulay face inquiry

Let Antulay face inquiry

Author: Balbir Punj
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: December 26, 2008
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/146065/Let-Antulay-face-inquiry.html

Abdul Rehman Antulay has written himself into history as the Mir Jaffer of the 21st century. He has given Pakistan a perfect alibi when that country was under the pressure of several nations to arrest jihaditerrorists and destroy their camps. His thesis of 'Hindu extremists' manipulating the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai to get Maharashtra's ace police officer Hemant Karkare killed was what Pakistan was looking for when the world was supporting our country in its bid to force Islamabad to act against its military/ISI-sponsored jihaditerror structure.

Not withstanding his half-hearted retraction following Home Minister P Chidambaram's clarification in Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Antulay has managed to expose his own Government to ridicule and embarrass India. What he has accomplished is a division within his own community that we thought was unanimous in its condemnation of the Mumbai terror attack as a war that elements in Pakistan are waging against India.

The Union Government, of which he is a part as Minister for Minority Affairs, has been claiming that Pakistan has all the evidence to prove that the jihaditerrorists who sought to spread mayhem in Mumbai were Pakistanis and that they were trained and directed by elements within the Pakistani establishment. Mr Antulay's utterances have made his Government's claim untenable while lending plausibility to Pakistan's claim that the evidence provided by India does not conclusively prove the involvement of either Pakistanis or Pakistan.

The question arises: Why has Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who wants Pakistan to act, not sacked Mr Antulay from his Cabinet? The answer is simple: Mr Singh is not a free agent. He holds office as the nominee of the Congress president who has maintained silence on the Antulay episode. In fact some Congress leaders like party general secretary Digvijay Singh have already come to the rescue of Mr Antulay.

The comments of the Minister for Minority Affairs are in sharp contrast to the assertions of Mr Singh, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Mr Chidambaram - they have been telling Pakistan to act, otherwise India will keep its options open. Curiously, some of the Congress's partners in the UPA have chosen to give Mr Antulay the benefit of their equivocation on the issue. It is not surprising that Pakistan, which found itself cornered by the international community till the other day, has now only to remind our Prime Minister what his colleague in the Cabinet has said - not once or twice, but repeatedly.

The strong demonstration of solidarity with other Indians by the Muslim community over the last three weeks was a welcome development for the country in its hour of tragedy. Muslims went to the extent of wearing black bands and abandoning Eid celebrations. In Mumbai, Muslim organisations refused to provide burial space for the nine Pakistani terrorists killed by the security forces. Such demonstration of unity in the wake of a challenge to the country had never happened before.

All that has been overshadowed by Mr Antulay's comments. Top film starts like Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and others may take anti-terror pledges on the small screen. But the community's angry leaders like the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid have backed Mr Antulay's strange thesis, thus pointing their fingers at 'Hindu extremists' instead of Pakistani terrorists. Of course, this myth of Hindu extremism' is itself a creation of the Congress.

India is now face to face with a serious challenge to its existence as the Pakistani intelligence agency is gloating over its success in inflicting multiple wounds on our country. The Government of India is gaining almost complete international support to force Pakistan to act against the jihaditerrorists and their handlers. It would be an act of patriotism to stand by the Government in this hour and seek to isolate people like Mr Antulay. But nobody can help the Government of the day since it refuses to help itself.

The damage that people like Mr Antulay can inflict on the country is enormous. Look at how he has helped the Pakistan Government of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani change their stand. As former Under Secretary-General of the UN Shashi Tharoor wrote recently in Time, "In India, the state has an Army, in Pakistan, the Army has a state." In the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, the Pakistan Government was eager to assure India that it would cooperate with India to track down the conspirators, whom it described as 'non-state actors'. Since then, it has taken a U-turn and now says the terrorists were not Pakistanis!

Till Mr Antulay spoke, it was evident that the Pakistan Government was being forced by the Pakistani Army and the ISI to toe their line. But with Mr Antulay offering Islamabad an escape route on a platter, Mr Zardari and Mr Gilani can claim they are not acting under their Army's compulsion: Mr Singh's Cabinet colleague has stepped forward to bail Islamabad out of a tricky situation. It won't be surprising if Mr Zardari sends a 'Thank you' note to Mr Antulay.

Meanwhile, after Mr Antulay's bizarre remarks, others have voiced their view that there could be something to what he has said, and accused the majority community of 'communalising' the issue. After lying low for some time, the usual suspects who are seen as Muslim leaders are back to doing what they do best. The division within the community suggests that the show of solidarity was a temporary phenomenon.

Was Mr Antulay's purpose to scuttle the solidarity? Was he trying to provoke Muslims into backing his bizarre theory and thus creating a division in the community? Assessing the impact of his comments, such a conclusion would not be entirely incorrect. Anybody who knows anything about Mumbai - and Mr Antulay knows the city - would not suggest anything remotely resembling what he said. In any event, it's absurd to ask why Hemant Karkare and his senior colleagues rushed towards Cama Hospital instead of Taj Mahal Palace or Oberoi-Trident. The sequence of events, telecast live, answers this question.

Mr Antulay's remarks were not off the cuff. We know why Mr Singh has not accepted his resignation. But there should be an inquiry into why Mr Antulay said something so unfounded and damaging.

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