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26/11: The questions we need to ask

Last updated on: November 25, 2011 18:07 IST

Three years after the event the country is still waiting for the answer to these questions. But instead what it is served is harebrained theories, half truths and downright lies to rope in 'politically correct' suspects to throw dust into the eyes of the public, says Colonel (Dr) Anil Athale (retd)

No, the aim of writing this article is NOT to add to the plethora of 'conspiracy theories'. The conspiracy theorists all have one thing in common, their aim to somehow justify or deny the involvement of terrorists in the act.

The mother (or father) of the conspiracy theories is the one about 9/11. It is alleged that it was a CIA/Mossad (Israeli spy agency) operation. The yarn is spun on the basis of rumour that Jews had prior information and did not come to Twin Towers that day -- a patent lie on the basis of the fact that many Jews lost their lives in the attack.

The conspiracy theorists then go on to dispute the role of Al Qaeda by pointing out the difficulty in organising such a difficult operation. While in case of the 26/11 amphibious attack on Mumbai, the same set vehemently denies involvement of ISI/Pakistan Army or any locals. In the past as well even serious analysts across our Western border have claimed the attack on Parliament was launched by Indian agencies themselves, evidence how come there were TV cameras there?

The worthy do not know that when ever Parliament is in session, the TV media is always present there in strength. In 1999 in a bizarre meeting on Kargil conflict (where the author was invited to speak) one 'secular' politician claimed that the Kargil conflict was instigated by the Nantional Democratic Alliance government in cahoots with the army to win elections!

But returning to the 26/11 terrorist attack, one bizarre question that has been asked needs to be tackled. A retired police officer, backed by a very loud mouthed politician, has raised doubts about the death of three top police officers on that night. (rediff.com: Right-wing angle into Karkare's death must be probed') This is despite the fact that the policeman who was in the same car has testified that it was the two terrorists who fired on passengers at CST and Cama hospital were responsible.

If one has to give credence to this bizarre theory then the Indian 'right-wing' has to be the one that planned and executed the Mumbai attack with the lone captured terrorist being their member! Even granting the most evil intention to the 'right-wing' extremists, would it not have been far easier to deal with late Karkare in his Dadar, Mumbai residence itself, or is the contention of this 'genius' police officer that the Mumbai attack itself was launched by the same right-wingers so as to attack and kill Karkare?

The absurdity of it all is so palpable and clear that no one ought to even take a note of this, but such has been the publicity given to this sick 'joke' that one has to deal with it. But this raises another interesting question- knowing the absurdity of this theory why have the Indian conspiracy theorists persisted with raising this issue? One possible motive could well be to pre-empt and forestall any serious questioning on the 'local' involvement in the attack. There are series of questions that ought to have been raised but have never been raised so far.

Question 1

The ten terrorists came into Mumbai at night, how did they manage to land at the precise spot and move away so quickly? Picture one self say landing in a slum area of Karachi, first time in life, finding one's way out through the narrow lanes and getting a taxi, all in a jiffy! Unless one has a local guide, in the urban jungle that is Mumbai, one has to ask ten times for directions. The choice of the area near Badhwar Park is itself a dead give way. Logically, landing at the Gateway of India itself that has large number of boats and constant tourist traffic should have been far easier.

One can understand the fishermen in the locality ignoring the landing of a boat if it was a 'normal' fishing boat. But this was a typical rubber dingy -- more an assault boat used by navy! How did it not raise any suspicions? And finally, the terrorists just left their boat at the landing point with no care or worry about any one stealing it etc!

Question 2

The ten terrorists engaged the NSG and police for nearly 60 hours. It is accepted that the operation took that long because the NSG and police had to worry about the safety of the hostages. The delay was also due to the fear of explosives being planted, their detection and neutralisation and finally, the need to minimise damage to a heritage building like the Taj hotel. But the fact remains that the terrorists continued to fire for almost 60 hours. They also killed over 150 people. If one takes that on an average at least 5-10 bullets were needed to kill one, then that accounts for over 1,500 rounds of ammunition.

When the sites of terrorist attacks were finally cleared, it should have been possible to know precisely how many bullets they fired from the count of the empty cases. Since the police, the army, the NSG used weapons different from the terrorists, it should be possible to know exactly how much ammunition they brought with them? In addition the terrorists also threw hand grenades. If the precise figure is known then that would raise the question as to how much is the capacity (weight wise) of the dingy? Was ammunition already stored in the Taj?

The questions raised here are all based on objective and verifiable facts. The government will do us all a favour if it discloses the exact quantum of ammunition with the terrorists and their swift and sure footed movement in the urban jungle that is Mumbai.

Those with experience of this kind of warfare know that the local 'guides' play a very crucial role in the infiltration and movement of the terrorists, be they the mountains of Kashmir or concrete jungles of Mumbai.

Three years after the event the country is still waiting for the answer to these questions. But instead what it is served is harebrained theories, half truths and downright lies to rope in 'politically correct' suspects to throw dust into the eyes of the public.

Colonel (Dr) Anil Athale (retd) is coordinator of the Pune-based Indian Initiative for Peace, Arms-control & Disarmament.

Also read: Complete 26/11 coverage

Colonel (Dr) Anil Athale (retd)