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The Attacks in Bombay and India’s Terror Dossier: Further evidence of a conspiracy

by Raveena Hansa, 5 February 2009

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sacw.net, 5 February 2009

On 5 January 2009, the Indian government handed a 69-page dossier of material stemming from the ongoing investigation into the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 26-29 November 2008 to the Pakistani government. This was subsequently made accessible to the public [1], so it is possible for us to examine it.

The most striking point about the dossier is its vague and unprofessional character. Enormous reliance is placed on the interrogation of the captured terrorist, Mohammed Amir Kasab, despite the fact that there is an abundance of other evidence – eyewitness accounts, CCTV and TV footage, forensic evidence, etc. – which could have been called upon to establish when, where, and what exactly happened during the attacks. This gives rise to the suspicion that the interrogation is being used as a substitute for real investigation because it can be influenced by intimidation or torture, whereas other sources of evidence cannot be influenced in the same way.

The account gleaned from interrogation would be far more convincing if it were corroborated by evidence from other sources. Thus it seems to have been established that Kasab is from Faridkot in Pakistan, and we also know from eyewitness accounts that he was captured at Girgaum, thanks to the heroism of Assistant Sub-Inspector Tukaram Ombale. But a real charge-sheet would require the rest of the account supplied by Kasab to be confirmed by other evidence. For those who know Bombay, who were glued to their TV screens while the ghastly events unfolded, and who also followed reports in the print media, including Marathi newspapers, the account in the dossier just won’t do.

A Very Significant Omission

Let us follow one trail from the point where the terrorists landed. According to the dossier, all ten terrorists landed at Badhwar Park on Cuffe Parade in an inflatable dinghy, then split into five pairs, and took taxis to their destinations. Kasab and Ismail Khan were assigned to CST station (better known as VT), and allegedly entered the station and started firing indiscriminately at ‘about 21.20 hrs’ (p.5). But according to an eyewitness at VT, Bharat Patel, a chef at Re-Fresh Food Plaza which was riddled with bullet-holes, firing in the mainline station started at 9.55 p.m. [3]. According to CCTV footage, it was at 21.55 that passengers, who had earlier been walking around normally, began running for cover in the suburban part of the station while the railway police attempted to take on the terrorists, and at 22.13 p.m., the terrorists were still in VT station [4]. Motorman O.M.Palli said, ‘I heard the last bullet sound at 10.32,’ and when asked how he could be so sure of the time, replied, ‘I am a motorman; I keep time by the seconds’ [5]. So why does the dossier prepone the assault by 35 minutes, when there is evidence which enables us to establish its timing far more precisely?

VT station opens onto Dadabhai Naoroji (DN) Road, which runs northwards parallel to the railway tracks and becomes Mohammed Ali Road; Mahapalika Marg begins in front of VT, going off DN Road to the northwest. Travelling from VT along Mahapalika Marg, one passes, on the right, the Municipal Corporation buildings, the Esplanade Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court, Cama Hospital, and St. Xavier’s College; it then carries on to Metro Junction. The third side of the triangle is constituted by Lokmanya Tilak Marg, on which the Police Headquarters is located, which runs between Metro Junction and Mohammed Ali Road. However, a large part of the triangle is occupied by a police complex, including police residential quarters. Running between DN Road and Mahapalika Marg is a lane, at least part of which is named Badaruddin Tyabji Marg, which goes off DN Road opposite the middle of VT station, turns right, going past the back of the Esplanade court and Cama Hospital on the left, then some distance further passes the CID Special Branch Building which houses the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (the southernmost part of the large and sprawling police complex) on the right, turns sharp left, passes the side of St Xavier’s College on the left, and exits onto Mahapalika Marg (see [2]). It is important to keep this geography in mind when assessing the account in the dossier.

The dossier continues, ‘They left the station, crossed an over-bridge and fled into a lane towards Cama hospital. Near Cama hospital they were challenged by a police team and there was an exchange of fire. As they exited the lane, they fired on a police vehicle carrying three senior police officers and four policemen’ (p.6). The reader of this account is being asked to believe that Kasab and his colleague were involved in two encounters, presumably survived the first to be able to engage in the second, and that these encounters occurred in relatively quick succession. Prima facie, none of this sounds credible. In fact, what the dossier has done is to transpose an incident that occurred in Cama Hospital to the area just outside the hospital, in the lane at the back. What happened in Cama Hospital for Women and Children is that two Marathi-speaking terrorists armed with AK-47s and grenades killed two guards and spared a third who was in civilian dress and begged for his life [6], and then made a beeline for the terrace of the hospital, taking the liftman Tikhe with them [7]. After 15-30 minutes, a police party led by officer Sadanand Date arrived, was taken up to the 6th floor (which had no wards and was therefore empty at night) by another guard, Ghegadamal, after which a fierce battle ensued for 30-45 minutes, during which Date was seriously injured and two policemen died [8].

The fact that an incident took place in Cama Hospital involving two Marathi-speaking attackers, and that this was widely reported in the papers, would obviously be a source of embarrassment if the dossier is bent on showing that the terror attacks of late November involved only Pakistani nationals. Presumably that is why this whole sequence of events (in Cama Hospital) has been omitted from the dossier? In fact, this omission raises several other questions. First and foremost, who were these Marathi-speaking terrorists, why were they in Cama Hospital, and what happened to them afterwards?

Second, and no less important, is the question asked by Minority Affairs Minister A.R.Antulay: if there was no hostage situation in the hospital, why was an officer of the rank of ATS Chief Karkare sent there, and not to the Taj, Oberoi or Nariman House, where battles would have been raging by this time [9]? According to constable Arun Jadhav, who is the only eyewitness cited in the dossier (p.6), Hemant Karkare and others were called to Cama only after Date was wounded and had to retreat, which could not have been before 23.40, and was possibly somewhat later [10].

This timing is corroborated by the account given by a government driver, Maruti Phad, who lived off the lane in which the officers were reportedly killed. He stated on NDTV that at 23.30 he received a call from his boss, the Medical Education Secretary, summoning him to Mantralaya. As he drove down the lane to Mahapalika Marg, there was firing, and he was hit in the hand by bullets. He had the presence of mind to duck and reverse rapidly, and when the car stopped, pretended to be dead. The last thing Mr Phad added as he concluded his account of this episode was, ‘Karkare mere pichhe thha’ (‘Karkare was behind me’) [11]. Again, a proper investigation would have to reconstruct details from his eyewitness testimony. Here the suggestion seems to be that the killers of Karkare, whoever they were, were waiting at the corner outside St Xavier’s College, and mistook Phad’s vehicle for the one which Karkare was using.

In fact, the battle in which Karkare and his companions were reportedly killed was not at the exit of the lane but several yards before the exit, in front of the branch of Corporation Bank at the side of St Xavier’s College, which bore the marks of several bullet-holes. If we accept that Kasab and Ismail conducted the massacre in VT, then they would have escaped from VT station, crossed the footbridge over DN Road and run along the lane going past the back of Cama Hospital around 22.40. If they were not involved in the attack inside Cama, what possible reason would they have for hanging around for at least an hour in a lane which is on the edge of a police complex and would have been full of cops by then due to the standoff at Cama, when they could have hijacked any number of cars from the main road (Mahapalika Marg) and escaped? Even in the event that they had been told Karkare was a target (extremely unlikely, since Karkare’s revelations regarding the Samjhauta blasts (see below) had been welcomed in Pakistan), neither they nor their handlers in Pakistan could possibly have known that he would be coming down that lane an hour later. Give all this, it seems most unlikely that they could have been the killers of the police officers and constables killed in Badaruddin Tyabji Lane. Which leaves us with the crucial question: who killed Hemant Karkare?

A.R.Antulay was by no means alone in raising doubts about who exactly had killed Hemant Karkare, nor were such questions raised only by Muslims. Starting with an investigation into a terrorist attack in Malegaon in September 2008, Karkare had begun unearthing a terrorist network linked to Hindu extremist organisations with huge ramifications, some leading to military and bomb-making training camps and politicised elements in the army, others to religious figures like Sandhvi Pragyasingh Thakur and Dayanand Pandey, and yet others to organisations and political leaders affiliated to the BJP. These revelations confirmed an earlier enquiry by the ATS, which had linked Hindu extremist groups to several terrorist attacks in Maharashtra, but had never been followed up. One of the most potentially explosive discoveries was that a serving military intelligence officer, Lt.Col. Srikant Purohit, had procured 60 kg of RDX from government supplies, some of which was used in the terrorist attack on the Samjhauta Express (the India-Pakistan ‘Understanding’ train) in February 2007, in which 68 people were killed, the majority of them Pakistanis. Leading members of the BJP and Shiv Sena had vented open hostility against Karkare and the Malegoan investigation, demanded that he be removed from the case, organised support for the accused, and planned to hold a bandh against him on 1 December. Indeed, earlier on the 26th, an editorial in the Shiv Sena’s Saamna attacked the investigation, and Karkare received a death threat [12].

When someone who has been vilified and threatened with death is killed under mysterious circumstances, it is only logical to suspect those who had been conducting a campaign against him of having a hand in his death. The way the dossier constructs its narrative points in the same direction.

Other Anomalies and Omissions

According to Jadhav’s original testimony, Kasab and Ismail hijacked the the police vehicle in which Karkare had been travelling and drove it first to Metro Junction, where they fired three rounds at journalists and police vans (see [10]). There was indeed a shootout at Metro, captured on camera by a TV crew [13], but there is no mention at all of this incident in the dossier. Why not? Again, the implication is that the terrorists involved in the incident at Metro were not Kasab and Ismail but members of the other group, who drove there after killing Karkare and his companions.

Secondly, the dossier mentions that the return journey to Pakistan was charted on the GPS instrument (p.22-23), yet the terrorists, unlike those who hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC-814 to Kandahar, made no attempt to use their hostages to secure their own or anyone else’s escape. If, for example, they had announced, via the e-mail connection they used to claim the attacks for the ‘Deccan Mujahideen’, the names of some high-profile and foreign hostages, there would have been enormous pressure on the Indian government from family, friends and governments of the hostages to get them released. The fact that there was no such attempt suggests that this was a suicide mission; in which case, why was a return journey to Pakistan charted on the GPS when no one would be returning?

Thirdly, the intercepted calls cited in the dossier are emphatic that no Muslims should be killed (p.53, 54), yet in the carnage at VT station, 22 of the victims – well over one-third of the total – were Muslims [14]. The Walliullah family lost six members, and many of these victims would easily have been identified as Muslims from their appearance. This almost suggests that Muslims were deliberately being targeted: the exact opposite of what the Pakistani handlers had ordered! One possible explanation of this, also suggested by the fact that there were simultaneous attacks on the mainline and suburban sections of VT, is that there were two pairs of terrorists attacking the station, one of which was not from Pakistan.

Fourthly, it is clear from the translations of selected intercepted calls in the dossier (Annexure VII, p.51-54), that the cellphones of the terrorists were the main means by which they stayed in touch with their handlers and received instructions from them. What is not mentioned is that on 6 December, two people were arrested by the Kolkata police for supplying three SIM cards for these very cellphones: Tausif Rehman and Mukhtar Ahmed. Rehman was reported to have obtained the SIM cards in the name of deceased persons and other fake IDs, while Ahmed passed them on to LeT operatives.

Initially seen as a breakthrough in the investigation, the arrests soon became an embarrassment when it was discovered that Ahmed was an Indian intelligence operative who had infiltrated LeT. This incident has been used to make the charge that the whole Mumbai terrorist attack was a ‘false flag’ operation masterminded by Indian, US and Israeli intelligence services [15]. This seems far-fetched, but it certainly appears that something more sinister than a mere ‘intelligence failure’ on the part of Indian intelligence services is involved. What the SIM card episode and other reports suggest is that some parts of the Indian intelligence establishment had prior intimation that an attack was being planned. This prior intelligence was specific enough to identify seaside targets, in particular hotels. Hotel managements were in fact issued a general security alert some weeks before the attacks. Despite this, no attempt was made to prevent the attacks.

A month after the attacks, the government of Maharashtra appointed a two-member enquiry committee consisting of former Union Home Secretary Ram Pradhan and retired Indian Police Service officer V.Balachandran to investigate the occurrence of the terrorist attack and management of the ensuing crisis by the state administration. One hopes that these professionals will look at the evidence in its totality, sifting the more reliable pieces of information from those which are either patently false or contrived in some way.

Conspiracy Theories versus Supernatural Explanations

Most people react negatively to conspiracy theories. It is as if, when you are a child, someone tells you that your mother or father is a criminal: the first response is denial, even if you know in your heart of hearts that there is something in the accusation. From this comes the stereotype of ‘conspiracy theorists’ as crackpots.

Yet there are occasions when the conspiracy theory makes sense, and it is those who deny it who have to resort to supernatural explanations. A famous case is the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Warren Commission, set up to enquire into the assassination, came out with the theory that he was killed by a lone assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, who was subsequently himself assassinated. But several books, as well as Oliver Stone’s film JFK, showed that the official version rested on the assumption of three bullets fired from the same location, one of which changed direction more than once, went through President Kennedy and Governor Connally, and emerged in an almost pristine condition. Against this ‘magic bullet’ theory, the alternative explanation – that there was more than one assassin – sounds more plausible, especially given eyewitness accounts that there were more than three shots, and that they came from different directions. But the failure to pursue this line of investigation strongly suggests a conspiracy, and a large majority of Americans believe in it.

Closer to our time, the 9/11 Commission report gave rise to considerable criticism in the US; by November 2008, there were apparently some 150 million web pages devoted to 9/11 conspiracy theories, several books had been written, and a large number of Americans believed the attack had been an ‘inside job’ designed to provide a pretext for military attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq [16]. (For these people, incidentally, the claim that ‘26/11 was India’s 9/11’ would mean that the Indian state is implicated in the Mumbai attacks!) It would be hard to prove that all these people are crackpots: many are scholars, pilots, architects, engineers and other professionals with specialised knowledge, as well as eyewitnesses. One of the criticisms related to the claim that it was the fire generated by the planes crashing into the WTC towers that led to their collapsing on their own footprint. Never before or since has fire led to buildings collapsing in this way, they argue, whereas this is exactly what happens when a controlled demolition takes place. They clinch the argument by referring to WTC Tower 7, which collapsed on its footprint without even being hit by a plane. Controlled demolitions imply that explosives had been laid beforehand, and that evidence for them was covered up afterwards: i.e., a conspiracy. But, like the JFK assassination, this is a case where the conspiracy theory complies with the laws of nature whereas the official version does not.

It is not necessary to allege that the government or head of state is involved in a conspiracy: it would be absurd, for example, to suspect that President Kennedy was involved in a conspiracy to assassinate himself. All that is required is that some elements in the state are involved. So what would a conspiracy theory of the Bombay terrorist attacks look like? One hypothesis is that Hindu nationalist elements in the Indian state had fairly precise intelligence of the planned terrorist attacks in Bombay, but instead of acting to prevent them, decided to enhance them instead, by adding more terrorists to the operation at VT, putting bombs in the taxis which blew up at Dockyard Road and Vile Parle, and positioning gunmen throughout the area, including Cama and the vicinity of the Metro.

Why would they have conspired in this way? Two reasons. The first and most pressing reason was that Hemant Karkare was rapidly uncovering just how extensive their network was, and how deeply they were implicated in a large number of terrorist attacks which had previously been attributed to Muslim jihadi groups. He had to be stopped at all costs, but an obvious murder by Hindutva terrorists could lead to a backlash against them. A terrorist attack by Pakistanis provided the perfect cover for the assassination. The second reason was that several Assembly elections were pending, and the BJP would be able to take advantage of the attack to accuse the UPA of being ‘soft on terrorism’. In fact, the disappointment and dismay of BJP leaders after the election results came out was very evident, when they discovered that they had not gained as much as they hoped from the Mumbai attacks. But this disappointment was offset by the elimination of Karkare. The Minister of External Affairs, Prime Minister, Defence Minister, etc. immediately blamed ‘Pakistan’ for the attack, and the whole discourse of the media, which had been following the Malegaon case, shifted decisively back to ‘terrorists from Pakistan’.

This ‘conspiracy theory’ is able to explain several things which remain unexplained in the ‘official version’, for example: (a) why, despite prior intelligence of the attacks, nothing was done to prevent them; (b) the Cama Hospital incident involving Marathi-speaking terrorists, and the outbreak of firing and general mayhem at Metro Junction; (c) the carnage at VT, where far more people were killed than at any other location, and the high proportion of Muslims killed there (contrary to the instructions given to the main group of terrorists); and (d) last but not least, the murder of Hemant Karkare at a time when Pakistani terrorists could only have been present at that location if time had stood still during the hour or more when the battle at Cama Hospital was raging.

Providing Justice to the Victims and Security to the Public

The main requirement for providing justice to the victims of the attack is to identify and punish all those involved in perpetrating it. This should be done in a manner that satisfies the requirements of the law. The Lockerbie case, which involved a terrorist attack on a plane over Scotland, victims from the US, UK and France, and accused from Libya, was tried by a Scottish court sitting in The Hague. A similar model would be ideal in this case: trial by an Indian court, since the attack took place in India and most of the victims were Indian, but in The Hague, since there were also victims from fifteen other countries (see p.14 of the dossier) and the accused are from Pakistan. It is especially important to have transparent legal proceedings that conform to international standards in order to help ensure that the case is conducted to the satisfaction of all parties, and also help to defuse the tension between Pakistan and India.

The broader aim of providing security to the public requires that members of terrorist networks in both countries should be rounded up and put behind bars. It is good that the international community is putting pressure on the government of Pakistan to do this in their country, and it is essential that this pressure should be sustained till results are achieved. As long as the Pakistan-based terror networks remain intact, further strikes cannot be ruled out, and these could have catastrophic political consequences for the subcontinent. But focusing simply on those networks will not, by itself, provide safety to us in India. Our security in addition requires the government here to eliminate terrorist networks in this country, including Hindutva ones. It is heartening that the ATS is proceeding with the prosecution of the Malegaon blast accused, and has presented the 4250-page charge-sheet that Hemant Karkare risked his life to work on, although it remains to be seen whether convictions will follow or the accused will be acquitted on some pretext. But even if there are convictions, that is not enough; Karkare was only able to uncover the tip of the iceberg before he was struck down, and a great deal more remains to be done. If it is not, we can predict with a fair degree of certainty that the Hindutva terrorists would strike again before the Lok Sabha elections, and the parties that are linked to the terrorists would use the opportunity to accuse the UPA of being ‘soft on terrorism’ in order to come to power. If they succeed, we could be faced with the horrific prospect of a military conflict between India and Pakistan that escalates into nuclear war.

[1] See http://www.hindu.com/nic/dossier.htm for a scanned copy of the dossier.

[2] See http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=badaruddin%20tyabji%20marg&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wl (the link takes you to a map of the US, and asks, ‘Did you mean: Badaruddin Tyabji Marg… etc.’ If you click on this link you go to the correct map.)

[3] Rahi Gaikwad, ‘Retracing the CST Attack,’ The Hindu, 4 December 2008, http://www.hindu.com/2008/12/04/stories/2008120461882000.htm

[4] http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/1950266-see-cctv-of-chhatrapati-shivaji-terminus-cst-terrorist-attack-at-mumbai

[5] Rahi Gaikwad, ‘A hero at work,’ Frontline, 20/12/2008, http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2526/stories/20090102252602800.htm

[6] Maharashtra Times and Navakaal of 29/12/2008,; see also http://www.twocircles.net/2008nov29/mumbai_attack_terrorists_spoke_marathi.html

[7] http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/southasia/news/article_1445785.php/SIDEBAR_Hospital_staffer_recounts_escape_from_terrorists_

[8] http://spoonfeedin.blogspot.com/2008/12/india-mumbai-attackscama-staff-rose-to.html

[9] Manoj C.G. and Seema Chishti, Indian Express, 17/12/2008, http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Antulay-selfgoal-sees-a-Malegaon-mystery-in-Karkare-Mumbai-murder/399670/

[10] Indian Express, 29/12/2008 http://www.indianexpress.com/news/witness-account-of-karkare-kamte-and-salaskars-death/392181/

[11] Prachi Jawdekar Wagh, ‘Mumbai driver recounts battle for survival,’ 6/12/2008 http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/mumbaiterrorstrike/Story.aspx?ID=NEWEN20080075496&type=News

[12] Y.P.Rajesh, Indian Express, 27/11/2008, http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/ATS-chief-Hemant-Karkare-dies-a-heros-death/391325/

[13] ‘ATS Chief Hemant Karkare Killed: His Last Pics: IBNLive.com,’ http://ibnlive.in.com/videos/79133/ats-chief-hemant-karkare-killed—his-last-pics.html

[14] Srinivasan Ramani, ‘Attack on “Everyday India”,’ Pragoti, 9/12/2008, http://www.pragoti.org/node/2720

[15] Kurt Nimmo, PrisonPlanet, 7/12/2008, http://www.prisonplanet.com/arrest-provides-more-evidence-india-israel-and-the-us-behind-mumbai-attacks.html

[16] See, for example, http://bushstole04.com/ , http://www.911truth.org/ , and millions of other websites that come up if you type ‘9/11 truth’ into Google.