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'Policemen who faced 26/11 bravely were blamed'

November 23, 2012 11:36 IST

The 26/11 chapter is not over yet for Vinita Kamte, police officer Ashok Kamte's widow, who is preparing to reveal fresh facts about what occurred that night, discovers Devidas Deshpande.

She has expressed her satisfaction about the execution of Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist arrested during the 26/11 terror attacks, on Wednesday.

But Vinita Kamte, widow of slain additional commissioner of police Ashok Kamte, is gearing up for a new battle.

Kamte was killed on the night of 26/11, along with Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar, by Kasab and his accomplice Ismail Khan near the St Xavier's College in south Mumbai, where Kamte was educated.

Days before the fourth anniversary of the most horrific terror attacks in India, Vinita is preparing to reveal the glaring discrepancies in the Mumbai police's records about what actually happened that night.

It has been widely reported that Karkare, Kamte and Salaskar were killed after rushing to the scene without adequate preparation as they did not realise the gravity of the situation.

To bring the truth to the fore, Vinita sought information from the police department. She initially asked for records from the Mumbai police wireless control room and mobile phone logs.

The Mumbai police refused to divulge this information and only agreed to do so after Vinita used the Right To Information Act.

"We have got two sets of information and they show different timings and messages in the wireless records. It is clear that they were tampered with. How can that happen in the case of wireless messages?" Vinita told Rediff.com

These questions were raised in her book To The Last Bullet, published in 2009, which stated that all three senior policemen were martyrs who died heroes' deaths.

Speaking about her efforts to seek information for her book, Vinita says, "I did not get any support from either the establishment or the media. It was portrayed (in the media) that I was fighting with some officers in the department (in particular, Rakesh Maria, then joint police commissioner, crime, and head of the 26/11 investigation) which was not true. I was raising questions about the system."

"The information unearthed by me showed that when the three officers were injured and lying in a pool of blood, they had messaged for help, but did not get the attention required," she says.

"When Ashok and Mr Karkare were lying in an injured condition, in their uniforms, a police van passed by them without taking cognisance. I am not saying that it should have stopped, but not even a message was sent from the van to send help for the injured officers," she adds.

"When the officers called for help, the deputy commissioner of police did not heed the calls. How can this happen?" she asked. "If we do not expose it, the faultiness in the system will never come up for discussion."

When her attempts to obtain more information did not elicit a response, Vinita decided to approach Maharashtra's information commissioner, but that post had been lying vacant for some time.

After Ratnakar Gaikwad took over as the state's information commissioner, the matter was put before him for consideration, but a stay from the Bombay high court put the issue in limbo.

"We desisted from pursuing it too much because we were clear that it should not hinder the proceedings against Kasab. Since he has been hanged now and that stage has come to an end, we will take up the matter with renewed vigour," she promises.

Vinita believes it is a grave issue as such findings could be detrimental to the morale and conduct of the police force in the state.

"Like the conflicting information provided to us, the police department must have provided misleading records of communication to the Ram Pradhan Committee, which was constituted to look into the 26/11 attacks," she alleges.

"Because of this, the committee absolved the officers who were accused of dereliction of duty and put the onus on those who were the victims," she adds.

"The policemen who faced the situation bravely were blamed while those staying away from their duties got away. This will send a very wrong signal to the force," she says.

Soon after 26/11, Ashok Kamte's family moved to Pune where Vinita grew up. The state government allotted her a petrol pump at Dapodi. In June 2010, four thieves brandishing knives looted nearly Rs 70,000 from the petrol pump.

"The police arrested those involved in the crime," she says. "Our employees were called to identify them. Since they were wearing masks, our employees could not identify them and we could not recover our cash."

Devidas Deshpande in Pune