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'I feel let down by Gafoor and Maria'

November 27, 2009 20:03 IST
Vinita Kamte, the wife of Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte who was killed during the terror attacks, has launched a scathing attack on the Mumbai police, especially against Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Rakesh Maria, who has led the investigations into the 26/11 case.

Three days after her book To The Last Bullet was released, she tells Krishnakumar P the reasons why she blames Maria and other officers for their actions during the 26/11 attacks.

The Mumbai police contests your charge that Rakesh Maria, who was in charge at the police control room on 26/11, didn't provide Kamte and others additional forces. They have a list of units/officers and even special forces sent to the Cama Hospital.

Actually on record, more forces were sent to the Cama Hospital than the Taj Mahal hotel or Chabad House.

I am not denying that forces were sent. If they sent 200 people, where were they? Show me where they were.

Why would these officers be lying there for 45 minutes whereas it takes less than two minutes to reach that spot from where the forces were?

I am not denying that they sent forces. I am asking where those forces were.

Would you blame the control room for this or the forces that did not reach Cama Hospital on time?

Why forces? Everybody is to blame. There has to be some system of accountability. If officers haven't reached the place, they have to be asked why they didn't reach.

If there were officers with arms who chose to run away from there, they must be held guilty of cowardice. You can't pinpoint the blame on one person.

In response to your allegation that Maria didn't guide officers on the field properly, it is said that Maria wasn't aware of what transpired between the team on the ground and Hasan Gafoor, the then police commissioner, and also that he was not told that they (Kamte and the others) drove from Cama Hospital in search of terrorists.

A control room is supposed to be the nerve centre of any operation. When (Anti Terrorism Squad chief Hemant) Karkare gave a call, it was a specific, lucid message: We have been surrounded and that somebody needs to coordinate the assault. So, who should have coordinated it? The control room.

In the case that the control room could not coordinate it, they must have been told to report to one particular officer.

In the end, the control room handled it badly. There were forces being dispatched, but they were not reaching anywhere.

In a letter to the government, Maria says you have used the details in the police control log book selectively. Apparently the log book says that the control room received calls from one of their gunmen which gave incorrect information.

True. I cannot put the 50 pages in the book. I definitely have used conversations that were relevant. But if anybody has a problem with it, they can counter it, I am not worried.

If they have material evidence to counter what I am saying, let him come out with it.

As regards the calls by my husband's gunman, this is what transpired: He told the control room that they were fired at. He added that the car was in his possession, and that nobody was injured.

Now, knowing my husband was right behind, shouldn't he have been informed that 'Mr Kamte, your gunman called and this is the information'?

After the conversation with the gunman, three to four calls (starting 12.33 am, November 26) were made to the control room saying these top officers were injured. There were calls saying that they were being taken to the hospital.

If they are mentioning the back-up call of my husband's gunman, what about the calls that said they were injured.

Let them come with material evidence. I can ask questions.

It gives me no pleasure going to the press. I asked them to just sit across me and answer these questions.

As women who have lost our husbands, this is the least anybody could do to us.

But our letters were ignored. Maria directed the information officer not give the call log records. Thankfully, that document was attached by the information office when they answered my RTI query.

You had earlier mentioned that this is a failure of the system. Do you now think it is more than mere failure of the system?

Everything failed that day, it appears. Unless we accept it we are not going to bring about any change.

The officers are sitting on their chairs today because these men paid with their lives. The least they can do is to give them the honour they deserved.

Over and above all this, there is the clean chit that the Ram Pradhan Committee gave Maria and the control room.

The Pradhan Committee questioned only the officers who are interested persons. I am making some statements, he will make statements.

Maria, who was manning the control room, is now sitting in charge of the investigation. He is in a position to say what wonderful jobs they did.

Nobody is going to say I messed up. Nobody is going to say 'I didn't go there because I was scared'.

I told the committee many times that I would like to appear before them. I wrote to the home minister. He didn't even reply. If this is the response to families of officers, what about ordinary citizens?

To sum up, do you say if the control room had acted in a better manner, lives could have been saved?

Definitely. Also, in any system somebody has to be made accountable. I don't have to speak. The call logs speak. Everyone's conduct is questionable.

They (serving officers) have all been there for too long and have got away with many things. There must be some kind of inquiry against these people.

Maria has said that your husband was a good friend. Are you aware of their friendship?

They would meet once a year during the Maharashtra police games. That is the only time they met. My husband didn't believe in gossip. He was very happy with his work and family and didn't bother with what was happening around.

Considering my husband had great regard for Maria, I feel really let down by this man.

I feel let down by Gafoor and Maria. It is not my question alone. So many wives have questions. That is why I resorted to writing the book.

Buy Vinita Kamte's book, To the Last Bullet.

Krishnakumar P in Mumbai