Today is another painful anniversary of the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai. For three days, a country of over a billion people watched in complete shock the burning buildings and bloodied bodies lying in pools of blood and the mayhem that seemed to have no end. This was an event that can never be erased from the memories of Indians nor this soil.
I often wondered about the timing and impeccable coordination of this unprecedented attack. Why a few months before the 2009 general election? Why the ensuing attempt to label the attack as ‘Hindu terror’? Why the inaction and paralysis before and during the attack by the central and state governments?
And then, the possible ‘conspiracy’ struck me.
I read RVS Mani’s book ‘Hindu Terror’ and it gave me a great amount of clarity. In this article I pick up points from his book and analyse the sequence of events and the possible motivations behind all that was done. (All the pictures and facts mentioned in the article have been taken from the mentioned book).
We witnessed terror attacks in Pulwama and Uri. We saw the 2001 Parliament and the Akshardham attacks. In the last two decades numerous other major terror attacks have happened in India. In every single one some or the other Pakistani terror organisation took immediate responsibility for the attack as doing so lifted their image in the eyes of the ISI and helped in getting them recruits. It gave them power, publicity, funds and weapons. A successful terror attack had to be taken responsibility for also to display a sense of bravado and absolute fearlessness.
However, 26/11 was a rare terror attack where no organisation came out to take immediate responsibility. Why? Let’s analyse, but first, we need to go back in time tracing two other attacks:
- Samjhauta bombings (February 2007)
- Malegaon blasts (September 2008)
Who were the accused in both attacks?
Samjhauta blasts: Swami Aseemanand, Kamal Chauhan, Rajinder Chaudhary and Lokesh Sharma (all acquitted).
Malegaon blasts: Sadhvi Pragya (charges dropped under MCOCA; acquitted by a Madhya Pradesh court in 2017; out on bail), Colonel Purohit (out on bail after 9 years of jail).
All the accused were Hindus – surprising considering how nowhere in the world has any Hindu ever been accused of taking to terror – and all have either been acquitted or are out on bail. This was the beginning of the disgraceful myth called ‘Hindu terror’ which was later taken to a zenith in Mumbai in 2008 – or at least attempted to be taken. The answer to why no terror organisation took responsibility for 26/11 lies in this myth itself.
The terrorists who attacked Mumbai in November 2008 were taught Hindi, had short hair, and even wore the sacred kalawa. (The sight of Ajmal Kasab having the kalawa on his wrist while wielding a gun is all too well etched in our brains). Every effort was made to portray them as Hindu. Or else, why would a Muslim wear it consciously? The expectation of the Pakistani establishment and some in India was for all terrorists to end up dead, which fortunately didn’t happen.
Before I discuss the point made above, I’d like to mention some shocking facts about 26/11 (taken from the book ‘Hindu Terror’):
- The then NSA, MK Narayanan, admitted in 2014 that the UPA government had sufficient inputs to anticipate a terrorist attack in Mumbai.
- Entire top management of the Home Ministry dealing with internal security was in Pakistan at the time of the attack.
- Home Minister Shivraj Patil wanted to accompany the NSG team to Mumbai but soon he went into ‘radio silence’. The NSG team reached Delhi Airport at 1:30 am but Patil wasn’t there! The delay in his reaching the airport may have cost many innocents their lives.
- The Home Ministry was requested to give permission to deploy numerous local armed assets to control the damage but the permission never came. Soldiers of the Central Industrial Security Forces were at the time in Mumbai. They are adept at securing vital installations. But they weren’t used. A battalion of the CRPF was at Navi Mumbai but permission to deploy wasn’t given. An Indian Army unit which was near Mumbai wasn’t used either (they come under the MoD). The bureaucracy was paralysed and the Home Minister seemed least concerned. MARCOS, the special forces of the Indian Navy, was deployed very late.
- RVS Mani wonders how 10 terrorists with weapons could’ve walked through a basti in the evening without being noticed. He suspects a certain political leader of the fishermen community to have helped the terrorists move safely.
- A.R. Antulay, a minister in the central government, apparently said: ’…there is more than what meets the eyes, and that Maharashtra ATS chief, Hemant Karkare, was killed by terrorism PLUS SOMETHING?’ (What ‘plus something’ when it was a clear case of Pakistani terror?) This statement came after the Pakistani media said that 26/11 was the work of Hindu terrorists.
- The Curious Case of Chitkala Zutshi. Zutshi was the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) in the Maharashtra government. She was INSIDE the Taj Hotel when the attack began. She was one of the very few people to have safely exited the hotel. Zutshi later said she had been there for a personal dinner. She could’ve revealed who her host was or who she was hosting, but she didn’t. There’s a book on 26/11, The Siege-Attack on Taj, which says no one escaped once terrorists took charge, but there is no mention of Zutshi. Why? The position Zutshi held, explains RVS Mani, implies that she was aware of all the intelligence inputs about a possible terror attack on the Taj. For her to have been at the place of the attack and then escape unharmed along with the people she was with is very unusual.
- In the picture below is the transcript of a conversation between the handlers and the terrorists. This instruction from the handlers was included in the dossier given to Pakistan. RVS Mani wonders how, despite such a direct command, was Zutshi able to escape?
- RVS Mani doesn’t mince his words. He categorically says that there could well have been a hand of some government members in ensuring that the terrorist attack went to plan.
- Again, in the most glaring of words, RVS Mani says that the topmost office – the MHA – wanted ‘restraint’ in counter-terrorist measures.
- The matter of Zutshi is repeatedly talked of by RVS Mani. Despite having intel why was she present at the spot of the attack? Wouldn’t a prudent person avoid a place that was under terrorists’ radar? The conversation between the handlers and the terrorists mentions ‘wazirs’ (high-value targets/ministers). Then how come Zutshi, indeed a very important part of the Maharashtra government, escape unscathed? Mani even wonders if she was with some ministers at the Taj Hotel who also escaped while innocents were slaughtered.
Now, let’s see the sequence of events in brief: Intel about terror attack from coast > Intel ignored > Terrorists easily find their way from the coast to various targets > Nobody notices 10 heavily armed men > Delay in deployment of NSG > No permission to deploy local military assets > A bureaucrat of the state government possibly having inputs is present at the Taj Hotel and escapes > Terrorists made to look like Hindus > When Kasab is caught and Pakistani involvement is confirmed Antulay signals at ‘something else’ > No organisation takes responsibility > Digvijay Singh comes out with a book to blame the RSS for the terrorist attack and pin the entire thing on Hindu elements.
I now talk of Shaheed Tukaram Omble who single-handedly fought the terrorists with inferior weapons and also unknowingly demolished the theory of ‘Hindu Terror’. (Recall the points relating to the kalawa and portrayal of terrorists as Hindus made earlier).
As Kasab was caught and his true identity revealed, Omble ensured that there was no way the carnage could’ve been pinned on ‘Hindu terror’. On the other hand, had Kasab been killed and then his body found with the kalawa along with the subsequent ‘Hindu Terror’ propaganda then it could’ve substantiated the theory.
How Congress would’ve benefited from all this was by putting the blame on the RSS, which it tried its best to do. This would’ve implicated the BJP as well as the RSS and the BJP are deeply connected with some even believing that the latter is simply a political front to the former – which of course is taking it too far.
Indians rarely voted on national security – with an exception being the last election – and the Congress would’ve gained much more by severely discrediting the BJP than the loss of face it would’ve witnessed by not taking action against Pakistan. As events have it this is exactly what happened. People completely overlooked Congress’s spinelessness post 26/11 and gave them an even bigger majority in 2009 as compared to 2004; Congress even won Mumbai and Maharashtra.
Based on facts, it becomes rather clear how many of the things that were done may positively have had sinister motivations. From the Samjhauta attack to 26/11, an entire narrative of ‘Hindu Terror’ was formulated. The timing and the flawless execution of 26/11 too was aided by many aspects, some intentional while some unintentional.
To end, I recall and pay tributes to the heroics of numerous policemen and commandos who fought in the most adverse situation and saved hundreds of lives, even if it meant sacrificing their own. Their families also have made unparalleled sacrifices. Their valour and memories may or may not be remembered by our people with apt gusto, but our soil surely will remember the same.
(Source: Hindu Terror by RVS Mani)