Antulay won’t confirm resignation, government to clarify remarks (Lead)

December 19th, 2008 - 5:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Dec 19 (IANS) Minority Affairs Minister A.R. Antulay Friday refused to either confirm or deny whether he had submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as the government said it would issue a statement on the snowballing controversy over his remarks on Maharashtra’s slain police officer Hemant Karkare. Though government sources said that Antulay had indeed resigned, the man in the eye of the proverbial storm said enigmatically: “I will not confirm or deny it.”

“I am a soldier of the party. You don’t have to ask me to resign. If I have embarrassed the party or government I will be the first to send my resignation,” Antulay told reporters outside parliament.

Inside, his comments on the killing of Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Karkare during the Mumbai terror attack continued to reverberate with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee telling the Lok Sabha that the government would come with a suitable reply before the current session ends Dec 23.

In the Lok Sabha, BJP MP Sumitra Mahajan demanded a probe into Antulay’s remarks. And in the Rajya Sabha, BJP MPs staged a walkout.

According to the BJP, the comments had weakened India’s position on the Mumbai terror attacks carried out by Pakistani terrorists.

The 79-year-old Antulay, who is also former Maharashtra chief minister, had indicated that the death of ATS chief Karkare could be linked to the Malegaon bombings he was investigating and in which members of Hindu radical groups were the main suspects.

He had said: “Superficially speaking they (terrorists) had no reason to kill Karkare. Whether he (Karkare) was a victim of terrorism or terrorism plus something I do not know.”

“Karkare found that there are non-Muslims involved in acts of terrorism in some cases. Any person going to the roots of terrorism has always been the target,” he said. “There is more than what meets the eye.”

On Friday, too, Antulay stood his ground. While maintaining that Karkare and his two colleagues from the ATS were killed by the terrorists who laid siege of Mumbai on Nov 26, he said: “Everyone knows that. But what I wanted to know was who directed them to drive towards Cama hospital when all the action was centred around The Taj, Nariman House and The Trident Oberoi?”

“Who directed them to the trap of death?”

He reiterated that he had done nothing to put the government in a tight spot, especially with it taking a tough line with Pakistan to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.

“Don’t we have common sense? How can I help Pakistan with this? I am an Indian and a Muslim. I am sorry to say but both the print and visual media have twisted my statements,” he added as the opposition chorus for his removal grew louder.

Karkare was among the security personnel who died moments after the terrorists went on a killing spree, eventually leaving over 170 Indians, including 26 foreigners, dead. Karkare was gunned down along with his colleagues when the gunmen fired at their vehicle Nov 26 night.

The ATS led by him had arrested 11 people, including Sadhvi Pragnya Thakur, in connection with the September 2006 blasts in Maharashtra’s Malegaon town in which six people were killed.

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