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Coming next: 26/11 never happened

Coming next: 26/11 never happened

Author: Kanchan Gupta
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: December 31, 2008
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/147111/Coming-next-26/11-never-happened!.html

The Congress appears to have embarked upon a dangerous venture fraught with disastrous consequences for the nation. If the recent assertions of Minister for Minority Affairs Abdul Rehman Antulay and party general secretary Digvijay Singh, and the Government's official response to them, are any indication, the Congress is seeking to make political capital out of India's sorrow through the expedient means of 'politicising' the issue of terrorism.

The party has been harsh in its criticism of the BJP's perceived partisan approach towards dealing with the menace of jihad and has rudely rebuked the Opposition for criticising Government policy - or, the absence of it - that has emboldened butchers to slaughter innocent citizens, firm in the belief that the state shall neither wreak vengeance on the perpetrators of mind numbing brutality nor ensure justice is done to the victims of Islamofascism.

But facts suggest that it is the Congress which, while preaching the need for national consensus at this hour of crisis, has decided not to allow public and political opinion to coalesce into a unified stand against terror. The purpose is two-fold. First, it is hopeful of being seen, at the time of the general election, as the party which has acted 'firmly' and 'decisively' against terrorism, and thus benefit from the popular view reflected in the slogan, "Enough is enough", heard across the country after the horrendous bloodshed in Mumbai. And, second, it wants to slyly placate Islamists at home who are distressed by the amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act by letting them know that they need not fear the new 'tough' anti-terror law.

So, the Congress allowed, or perhaps even encouraged, Mr Antulay to voice his outrageous conspiracy theory in the most cunning manner. The Minister who has reduced the definition of minority communities to mean only Muslims, the least of India's minorities, let it be known that Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare and two of his senior colleagues were not necessarily felled by terrorist bullets during the siege of Mumbai.

When cornered by media and faced with a huge political backlash, he did not deny his comments, as is the usual norm with cynical politicians caught with their pants down. Instead, he brazenly reiterated his 'opinion', insisted that Karkare and the others were 'directed' towards Cama Hospital and their death by certain individuals, alluded to 'Hindu terrorists' playing a role in this sinister plot, and even indirectly exonerated Mohammed Ajmal Kasab and the other Pakistani terrorists of killing the police officers. He demanded an inquiry into Karkare's death, saying there was more to it than what was telecast live by 24x7 news channels while all this was happening.

The Congress spokesman craftily distanced the party from the Minister's comments while the Prime Minister, who notionally heads the Cabinet and is on the verge of completing a full five-year tenure in office without being in power for even a day, maintained an enigmatic silence. Curiously, Mr Digvijay Singh chose to speak up for Mr Antulay, claiming the Minister had been "misreported", which is not true, and defending the indefensible: "What Antulay has asked for is a probe... What is objectionable in his statement?"

Days later, after allowing Mr Antulay to gloat over his despicable deed and revel in the support extended to him by those who unabashedly justify jihadi terror as a legitimate expression of Muslim frustration and anger over what they refuse to admit is imagined victimhood, instead of summarily sacking him and packing him off in sack cloth and ashes, the Government broke its eloquent silence by way of a statement by Minister for Home Affairs P Chidambaram.

If there were any expectations of the Government hauling Mr Antulay over the coals, those were belied by Mr Chidambaram who merely stated the sequence of events and concluded with an amazing balancing act: "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. After his death, questions are being raised about the circumstances in which he was killed. In my view, both are wrong and deeply regrettable."

It is such chicanery that gives the Congress's game away. The task of removing lingering doubts is left to party leaders like Mr Digvijay Singh. Hence, it is not surprising that the former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh should have used his visit to Indore last Sunday to make the astounding revelation that the jihadis who attacked Mumbai had "demanded the release of certain terrorists", but the Government bluntly refused their demands.

That guests at Taj Mahal Palace and Oberoi-Trident hotels and the residents of Chabad House were held hostage by the fidayeen during those 62 hours of relentless terror is common knowledge, as is the fact that many of the hostages (including all of them at Chabad House) were killed in cold blood. But at no stage has the Government disclosed that the terrorists had demanded the release of "certain terrorists" - the Minister of State for External Affairs did not mention it in the United Nations Security Council on December 9; the Home Minister's statement of December 11 in Parliament is silent on this point; and the numerous briefings by security agencies do not reflect Mr Digvijay Singh's assertion, "We did not compromise, rather we went ahead and eliminated them."

Taking a cue from Mr Antulay, Mr Digvijay Singh refused to retract his statement portraying the Congress as being rough and tough with terrorists - unlike the BJP which 'capitulated' at Kandahar when it was in power - after it fetched protests. On Monday he told PTI: "I stand by what I said in Indore."

On Tuesday, the Government contradicted the man who, soon after the July 26 Ahmedabad bombings, which came in quick succession to the terrorist strikes in Bangalore and Jaipur, had wondered why "only BJP-ruled States are being targeted"; his wonderment hopefully ceased after Congress-ruled Delhi was bombed on September 13. Asked for his response to Mr Digvijay Singh's claim, Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee said there were no demands by the terrorists and, therefore, there was no question of any negotiations or rejection of those demands.

And so a pattern emerges. A Cabinet Minister raises doubts about jihadi terrorists letting loose a reign of terror in Mumbai and darkly hints that we should not discount the Islamist bunkum about the massacre being a 'Hindu-Zionist' plot. The Government responds with a non-response. Then a Congress general secretary says the Government refused to release 'certain terrorists' in exchange of hostages to prove its 'zero tolerance' of terrorism. The Government reacts with a rejection of 'reports' of any negotiations over release of prisoners.

Yet we are expected to believe that the nation is safe with the Congress in power!

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