Monday, December 22, 2008

Comparison:Nawaz Sharif & India's Minority Affairs Minister A R Antulay

"I have checked myself. His (Ajmal Kasab) house and village has been cordoned off by the security agencies. His parents are not allowed to meet anybody. I don't understand why it has been done" [Former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Nawaz Sharif]

Ajmal’s village sealed: Sharif

And now read the Indian Union Minister for Minority

India's Minority Affairs Minister A R Antulay

Weekend Edition: I am proud of my comments, says Antulay

Published on Sun, Dec 21, 2008 at 02:18, Updated on Mon, Dec 22, 2008 at 11:03 in Nation section Rajdeep Sardesai / CNN-IBN

Minority Affairs Minister A R Antulay remains defiant in the face of intense criticism for his comments questioning the circumstances of Anti-Terrorism Squad Chief, Hemant Karkare's death in the Mumbai terror attack. Speaking to CNN-IBN's Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai on the show The Weekend Edition, Antulay was unfazed, even saying he was proud of what he had said and had no regrets whatsoever.

Antulay had suggested that there should be a probe into the circumstances of Hemant Karkare's killing on 26/11.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Do you have any regrets at the end of the day, for all that you have said this week? Do you think you have embarrassed the country, the Congress party?

A R Antulay: None. No regrets. I haven't embarrassed anyone. On the contrary, those who have twisted my statement have embarrassed the country, helped Pakistan and they have done grave injustice to the nation.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You said very clearly that there should be an enquiry into Hemant Karkare's death. Why did he not go to Oberoi and Taj, why did he go to Cama hospital? Essentially, you are raising a question over someone's death who it has been confirmed has been killed by Pakistani terrorists. Why did you have to raise questions on his death, thereby suggesting that there was some foul play in Karkare's death?

A R Antulay: In all humility I submit that Karkare and his two colleagues were killed by Pakistan. It has never been in doubt. Only a fool would say so and Antulay is no fool. No Indian and no human being can say that. The only question which is correct and which I continue to stand by and will for the rest of my life - is that from CST station, rather than he going to Taj hotel, Oberoi hotel and Nariman House, how is that he went in the opposite direction to Cama hospital where there was nothing?

Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir but you are a responsible member of the Cabinet and as a result, the insinuation that you are making somewhere down the line is that because Hemant Karkare was investigating the Malegaon blast in which some Hindu right wing extremists had been caught, that is why this could have been foul play - that one of them could have called up Hemant Karkare and led him to his death. You have no evidence to that effect or do you?

A R Antulay: You are from Maharashtra. I was the Chief Minister of Maharashtra for 18 months and three days. I have been in Maharashtra all my life. Did you ever sense any communalism or communal tinge in me?

Rajdeep Sardesai: That's exactly it sir. You are not a communal politician and yet today, you are being embraced by fundamentalists because you are seeing as catering to the worst kind of stereotypes and prejudices and vote bank politics. Today who is supporting you Mr Antulay? The number of those supporting you are fundamentalists. You are weaking the position of the liberal Muslims, by somewhere down the line suggesting that Hemant Karkare was killed because he was investigating the Malegaon case.

A R Antulay: Let me now explain. I did not even the raise the name of Malegaon. Anybody can interpret, misinterpret and say anything. I cannot control anybody. My only question is what made a brilliant man and a brave soldier who jumped into the fray to defend his country go to Cama hospital.

Rajdeep Sardesai: But Mr Antulay you are a member of the Cabinet - a Cabinet which is conducting an investigation which has already nailed the involvement of Pakistani based terrorists - and you are raising questions on Karkare's death that can be exploited by others. The Pakistan Nation's editorial says: "The truth behind the carnage is not be established beyond any doubt, since Indians continue to refuse to share the evidence with Pakistan. Although the death of ATS Chief Hemant Karkare had raised eyebrows, the Indian Minority Affairs Minister's remark that 'he was a victim of terrorism plus something' has caused an uproar. If New Delhi were really serious about getting to the root of this attack, it would do well to investigate them." Effectively, you are voicing what Pakistan is saying here, sir.

A R Antulay: Rajdeep ji, you are so intelligent and hold a lot of esteem in my eye and in the eyes of many Indians, so are you taking the words of what a Pakistani newspaper writes as the Bible?

Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir you have given Pakistan a stick in some way to sort of obfuscate the issues of 26/11.

A R Antulay: This has been done by the media. Not that you intended to do it, or it was deliberate, but the media twisted it and said it the first time that I said Pakistani terrorists did not kill Hemant Karkare.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You are always saying that Pakistani terrorists killed Hemant Karkare, but you are still raising doubts over his death. You are asking for a probe. Why do you want a probe into his death?

A R Antulay: No, because I don't think that Hemant Karkare should be treated like any Tom, Dick and Harry. Please. He was a great man and a great soldier for the country.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir, your intentions may be honest but the manner in which you played them out in the end and the timing of it - a Cabinet Bill is passed and the next day you raise questions over Karkare's death. Haven't you embarrassed the Prime Minister and the Cabinet?

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A R Antulay: No that is where you know I want to say that I did not say anything. I was told in Parliament that CNN-IBN had been carrying the statement since the morning and then with the permission of the Speaker I had to clarify my stance.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir, noted lyricist Javed Akhtar had said to CNN-IBN on Friday: "I don't know why we have these kind of fears that if his resignation is accepted, Muslims will get upset and if we ban organisations like the Bajrang Dal, Hindus will get upset. How long are we going to accept things which are not secular because we are afraid of upsetting one community or the other?" Please respond to Mr Akhtar's statement. Today you seem to be catering to some kind of prejudice of the worst kind, to the fears and anxieties of those Muslims who perhaps now fear that Hemant Karkare was killed for reasons other than just him being a victim of a terrorist attack.

A R Antulay: My dear son, in my constituency, there are hardly eight per cent Muslims. I don't have to cater to the constituency of Muslims at all. Predominantly, it is the Hindus who have been voting me in power continuously.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir, but tell me one thing. At a time when the country needs to be united, you seem to be in some way dividing the country. Doesn't that worry you? Because you are raising an issue which could divide the people. Suddenly Hemant Karkare's death is becoming the focus, rather than the focus being on Kasab and Pakistan-based terrorism.

A R Antulay: Why do you think that somebody from the Opposition got Hemant Karkare to go to Cama hospital? I know it is in your mind and you do not say it, but you imply it. Why can't you think of someone who might be an enemy and gave him a call.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You are saying someone may have given a call to Karkare and asked him to go to Cama hospital? You don't have any proof of this.

A R Antulay: If I had the proof for this, I would not have asked for any investigation. Investigation is required when you don't have a conclusion or conclusive proof.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir, effectively you are damaging the case that the entire Mumbai Police had built up that this was an operation by Pakistan-based terrorists by bringing in another agenda into it.

A R Antulay: Ten lads between the ages of 19 and 22 came to Mumbai over a period of a few days and then took the city hostage for three days. A man of the stature of Hemant Karkare would have made the terrorists shiver.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You have given your resignation to the Prime Minister. Are you serious about this or is this one big drama that you are enacting? Are you basically putting the ball in the Prime Minister and Congress Chairperson Sonia Gandhi's court?

A R Antulay: Whether I gave the resignation to the Prime Minister or not is a moot question, I will not say yes or no - I will neither confirm it nor deny it.

Rajdeep Sardesai: Do you believe that you have embarrassed yourself, the party and India?

A R Antulay: I have done India proud, by raising the question of Hemant Karkare's death.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You don't think that you have given BJP a handle for targetting your party, you don't think that you are dividing the country, you don't think that you have given Pakistan a handle? You don't think that you have misled people? You don't think that you have politicised an issue and made a political capital out of it? None of this?

A R Antulay: On the contrary, what I want to know is who pushed Karkare in the throes of death at the hands of Pakistani terrorists. He was bold and intelligent. He would not have gone to Cama, he would have gone to the Taj hotel. I feel that I have united the country with what I have said.

Rajdeep Sardesai: You were getting marginalised in the Cabinet and this was your way of building yourself in the party, of building a Muslim constituency for yourself?

A R Antulay: Who says I was being marginalised in the Cabinet?

Rajdeep Sardesai: You have not played vote bank politics?

A R Antulay: No not at all. I have never done it and I will never do it. And I will do whatever the Party President and the Prime Minister ask me to do.

Rajdeep Sardesai: A R Antulay, appreciate your joining us and giving us your position, showing us where you stand on the issue.

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