Hemant Karkare (1954-2008), the Former Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) Chief, emerged himself in his profession and had an enviable death while fighting the terrorists in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008. He was conferred with India’s highest peacetime gallantry award – Ashoka Chakra – in 2009.
Hemant Karkare was born on Sunday, 12 December 1954 (age 54 years; at the time of death) in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh. He completed his primary education at Chittranjan Das Municipal Primary School, Maharashtra, and his high school education at New English High School, Nagpur. In 1975, Hemant graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Mechanical Engineering from Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur.
Hemant Karkare belonged to a Maharashtrian Brahmin family.
Parents & Siblings
His father, Kamlakar Karkare, worked as a guard in the Central Railways, and his mother, Kumudini Karkare, was a teacher at D Dinanath School in Nagpur.
Wife & Children
Hemant Karkare got married to Kavita.
They were blessed with two daughters – Jui and Sayali Karkare, and a son – Akash Karkare. Akash Karkare is a freelance writer and filmmaker based in Mumbai.
In 2014, Kavita, 57, died of a brain haemorrhage at P. D. Hinduja Hospital & Medical Research Center in Mahim, south Mumbai. Reportedly, the children of Kavita Karkare decided to donate her organs for the treatment of needy patients.
Hemant Karkare followed Hinduism.
Reportedly, after completing his graduation, Hemant worked at National Productivity Council and Hindustan Lever Limited (now Hindustan Unilever Limited) and later appeared for the Civil Services Examination.
Indian Police Service
In 1982, Hemant Karkare joined the Indian Police Services – batch 35RR.
Hemant served in the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) as well as the Indian mission in Vienna, Austria, as a counsellor for seven years. Former Research and Analysis Wing chief AS Dulat said,
The breakthrough came from Mumbai when one of our officers, working continuously without a break for days, found a major link. He found a man who had worked with the hijackers to fund and execute the plot and that suddenly opened up an intelligence treasure trove for us. The man was our intelligence commissioner in Mumbai, Hemant Karkare.”
Reportedly, in 1989, he was posted in the Anti-Narcotics Cell Branch in Thane. According to his daughter, Jui, he would often visit municipal schools and tell them about the importance of studying and staying away from drugs. Hemant, however, was handed over the responsibility to nab drug peddlers. In 1991, he was posted as the Superintendent of Police in Chandrapur – the Naxal-dominated district of Maharashtra. Reportedly, he worked at the Mumbai crime branch as well as the narcotics department. He was posted as a Joint Commissioner of Police before superseding as the chief of the Anti-Terrorist Squad.
Chief of the Anti-Terrorist Squad
In January 2008, Hemant Karkare succeeded K. P. Raghuvanshi as the Chief of the Anti-Terrorist Squad.
The Malegaon Blasts Case
On 29 September 2008, a blast near a mosque in Malegaon, a city in the Maharashtra state of India, left the citizens shaken. According to the sources, the explosives were tied to a motorcycle, parked at the Bhikku Chowk in Malegaon. Reportedly, nearly six people were killed and around 101 people were injured. As per the reports, Hemant Karkare led the Malegaon blast case. Reportedly, Hemant Karkare, during the investigation, tracked down the owner of the motorcycle which was used to execute the attack. it, however, belonged to Sadhvi Pragya, an Indian politician and Member of Parliament representing Bhopal. The ATS also alleged that the accused arrested in the Malegaon blast case were part of a Hindu extremist group which carried out the blast. Reportedly, after a month of investigation, the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), claiming that the execution of the plan was done by the Hindu rightwing groups to target Malegaon’s Muslim population, arrested eight people including Pragya Singh Thakur aka Sadhvi Pragya; however, she was exonerated from all the charges by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2016, but the court didn’t release her. Reportedly, he was painted as a villain in investigations of the Malegaon blasts.
The Attacks of 26/11
Reportedly, at 9.45 pm, Hemant Karkare, the head of Mumbai’s anti-terrorism squad, received an urgent phone call while he was having dinner at his home in Dadar, central Mumbai. Karkare was clued-up on the firing at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, in south Mumbai, where he found terminal 01 desolated.
The targets of the ISI-backed terrorists, dressed as tourists carrying travelling bags, included Cafe Leopold, Chabad House, Rang Bhavan Lane near Cama Hospital, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, and the Taj Hotel at the Gateway of India.
As claimed by some sources, despite the fact of having a rudimentary bulletproof jacket that could only resist 9 mm bullets and a service pistol, Hemant, along with two officers – Additional Commissioner of Mumbai police Ashok Kamte and encounter specialist inspector Vijay Salaskar – and a constable, having some outdated 7.62 mm rifles, got into a police Toyota Qualis and proceeded towards the Cama & Albless hospital as he was informed that the terrorists had protected themselves from being attacked by the police, and senior police officer Sadanand Date was injured and had called for back-up. According to the sole survivor of the encounter, Constable Arun Jadhav, two terrorists attacked with AK-47 automatic rifles when they were a couple of minutes away from Cama hospital; however, some sources claimed that when Karkare and other police officials – Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar – were outside the Cama & Albless hospital, one of the terrorists, Kasab, stepped out and sprayed the car with bullets from his AK-47.
According to Constable Matne, after around twenty-five minutes of silence, the injured, Karkare, Salaskar, and Kamate were found covered with blood and laying on the ground and were taken to the hospital. The doctor, however, declared them dead. Reportedly, Hemant Karkare’s cremation was held in the Shivaji Park crematorium on Saturday, 29 November 2008.
Events Following the Enviable Death of Hemant Karkare
The ‘Faulty’ Bulletproof Vest
Reportedly, a series of diverse questions were raised in the media including questions against the quality of the bulletproof vest that failed to protect Karkare while fighting the terrorists. According to the sources, Kavita Karkare raised numerous questions about the setback security system of the authority. She asked the police officials about the reason behind the delay in providing backup to Hemant Karkare and the team. In an interview, while raising questions about the quality of the bulletproof vest and the delay in providing backup to the team, Kavita Karkare said,
It is being said that my husband, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salskar got killed as they went into the operation blindly but the truth is they kept asking for reinforcements and help for 40 minutes which they never got. For 40 minutes, their bodies were there on the road while the terrorists bodies were rushed to the hospital. They have spent ₹ 22 crore on preserving the bodies of the nine terrorists. But they couldn’t be careful enough to preserve my husband’s bulletproof jacket.”
According to the sources, one of the top officers of the Mumbai police led the investigation regarding Karkare’s misplaced bulletproof jacket and found that one of the ward boys from the hospital where Karkare, along with others, was admitted, threw it in a dustbin not being familiar with the fact that it belonged to Hemant Karkare. According to the investigative officer, the ward boy admitted that he took the bulletproof vest and threw it into the dustbin; however, the ward boy went missing for some time, and the police officials could not find any evidence to prove his claim. The investigative officer said,
It was only when an enquiry was ordered into the matter, a ward boy from the hospital claimed to have thrown it away. Later, the ward boy also went missing for some time. No one saw him collecting Karkare’s clothes and the jacket nor the hospital had any CCTV records. The enquiry was closed after recording this statement.”
The Hindu Rightwing Group
Reportedly, the members of the Right Wing group, including Abhinav Bharat, were suspected to be responsible for the death of former ATS chief, Hemant Karkare. A petition was filed by a senior police officer of Maharashtra to look into the case of Hemant Karkare. The Supreme Court, however, rejected the petition as Ajmal Kasab’s capital punishment had been executed.
- In December 1983, Hemant received the Best Cadet trophy from the then Union home minister P. C. Sethi at the National Police Academy, Hyderabad.
- Hemant Karkare received the President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service from then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
- On 26 January 2009, Hemant Karkare was posthumously bestowed with Ashoka Chakra – India’s highest peacetime gallantry decoration.
- As a child, Hemant was so fond of reading that he once got locked in Ramkrishna Math Library in Nagpur as he was lost in reading.
- According to his daughter Jui, Hemant was creative and enjoyed wood carving.
- According to her daughter, Hemant used to write in a diary.
- In an interview, Jui revealed that her father, Hemant Karkare spoke his last words at 11.28 pm on November 26. According to her, Hemant’s voice was recorded in a voice note while he was giving instructions to control the situation and requesting to send the army to the place of the blast. Hemant Karkare, in the voice note, said,
ATS and QRT teams are here at the rear gate of the hospital, and so is the crime branch team. Therefore, we need a team from the front side. We need to ENCIRCLE the Cama and surround it.”
- In an interview, Sadhvi Pragya – arrested by the ATS for the Malegaon blast case – claimed that she was falsely arrested by the ATS and said that Karkare died because of his karma. While talking about this, Sadhvi Pragya said,
Hemant Karkare falsely implicated me [in Malegaon blasts] and treated me very badly. I told him your entire dynasty will be erased. He died of his karma.”
- Reportedly, Karkare’s daughter Jui Karkare Navare came up with a book titled “Hemant Karkare – A Daughter’s Memoir” in 2019. According to her, writing this memoir helped her to put herself together after losing her father.