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Antulay stands his ground on Karkare


New Delhi : Unfazed by the storm he created with his remarks on the killing of Maharashtra police officer Hemant Karkare during Mumbai’s 26/11 attack, Minority Affairs Minister A.R. Antulay Friday stuck to his ground and said he has done nothing to embarrass the government and the party.

Though highly placed government sources said Antulay had sent his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after an uproar was kicked up when he raised questions on Karkare’s killing, the minister refused to either confirm or deny whether he had put in his papers.

“I will not confirm or deny it,” he said, “I am a soldier of the party. You don’t have to ask me to resign. If I have embarrassed the party or the government, I will be the first to send my resignation.”

The Congress party’s core committee is expected to take a decision on his resignation.

According to party insiders, Antulay wrote two letters to the prime minister, the first explaining the circumstances in which he made the remarks on Karkare and the second giving his resignation after the opposition clamour for his removal became louder – both inside and outside parliament.

Asked whether he has been asked to resign, the former Maharashtra chief minister said: “Does a person like Antulay need to be told to resign?”

“I am a self-respecting person… Forget the resignation. That is a very simple thing. I had resigned from chief ministership of Maharashtra… when 100 percent Congress MLAs were with me.”

He also refused to accept the opposition’s charge that Pakistan can use his remarks on the circumstances surrounding Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare’s killing, and questioned: “How do you say that Pakistan can use this thing?”

He reiterated that he had done nothing to put the government in a tight spot, especially with it taking a tough line with Pakistan to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.

“Don’t we have common sense? How can I help Pakistan with this? I am an Indian and a Muslim. I am sorry to say but both the print and visual media have twisted my statements,” he added as the opposition chorus for his removal grew louder.

Inside parliament, his comments on the killing of Karkare during the Mumbai terror attack continued to reverberate with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee telling the Lok Sabha that the government would come with a suitable reply before the current session ends Dec 23.

In the Lok Sabha, BJP member Sumitra Mahajan demanded a probe into Antulay’s remarks. And in the Rajya Sabha, BJP members staged a walkout.

According to the BJP, the comments have weakened India’s position on the Mumbai terror attacks carried out by Pakistani terrorists.

The 79-year-old Antulay suggested that the death of Karkare could be linked to the Sep 29 Malegaon bombing he was investigating and in which members of Hindu radical groups were the main suspects.

Speaking in the Lok Sabha, he said: “Superficially speaking, they (terrorists) had no reason to kill Karkare. Whether he (Karkare) was a victim of terrorism or terrorism plus something I do not know.”

“Karkare found that there are non-Muslims involved in acts of terrorism in some cases. Any person going to the roots of terrorism has always been the target,” he said. “There is more than what meets the eye.”

On Friday, too, Antulay stood his ground. While maintaining that Karkare and his two colleagues from the ATS were killed by the terrorists who laid siege of Mumbai on Nov 26, he said: “Everyone knows that. But what I wanted to know was who directed them to drive towards Cama hospital when all the action was centred around the Taj, Nariman House and the Trident Oberoi?”

“Who directed them to the trap of death?”

Karkare was among the security personnel who died moments after the terrorists went on a killing spree, eventually leaving over 170 people, including 26 foreigners, dead. Karkare was gunned down along with his colleagues when the terrorists fired at their vehicle Nov 26 night.

The ATS led by Karkare had arrested 11 people, including Sadhvi Pragnya Thakur and a serving army official, in connection with the bombing in Malegaon town, in which five people were killed.