IN THE light of BJP Bhopal candidate Pragya Thakur’s “distasteful remarks” against slain cop Hemant Karkare, who was the chief of the state’s Anti-Terrorism Squad, residents gathered to pay their respects to the “city’s hero” who was killed in the Mumbai terror attack in 2008. Thakur is an accused in the 2008 Malegaon bombings.
Some, who gathered outside Police Gymkhana at Marine Drive, gave work a miss to protest the remarks. Members of the civil society and political parties also gathered at the memorial with placards with messages such as ‘Lest we forget’, a phrase used widely during protests against the 26/11 terror attacks in which 166 people were killed. Karkare was killed near Cama Hospital on November 26, 2008.
Dr Archana Amoulik from Chembur said, “Instead of going to my clinic, I came here after I received a WhatsApp message about the protest. Hemant Karkare gave his life for the city’s safety.”
Sanjeev Batra, a consultant based out of Worli, heard of the gathering through friends. “Karkare is our hero. He received the Ashoka Chakra, the highest peacetime gallantry award. On the one hand you honour him and on the other, you have this person, contesting the elections, who is badmouthing him. I wanted to express solidarity and took the evening off to be here,” he said.
A placard carried by 50 people at the spot read, ‘Karkare sir aamhi saare Mumbaikar tumchya sobat aahot (Karkare sir, we Mumbaikars are with you).’
Activist Teesta Setalvad, who was also present at the spot, said she remembered when Karkare’s funeral took place, 25,000 Mumbaikars had assembled and accompanied the IPS officer on his final journey from his Dadar home to Shivaji Park. “It was not a planned thing. That was the gratitude Mumbaikars felt for him,” Setalvad said, adding, “in the aftermath of the 1993 riots when there was a trust deficit in police-public relations, it was officers like Julio Ribeiro, Satish Sahney and Karkare, who healed the relations. To hear such venomous remarks about him for political gain is really sad.”
Retired High Court judge Justice Abhay Thipsay, a member of the Congress, said, “This protest was not an organised one. It is just a simultaneous outpouring after hearing such comments. Pragya Thakur, a terror accused, is making such statements; it’s a sad state of affairs.”
Kishore Mandhyan, an AAP member, said, “On the one hand, India is asking Pakistan to act tough against terrorists. On the other, if they give tickets to terror accused, it does not show them in a good light internationally.”