Sarbdeep Singh Virk had heard a first-hand account from Hemant Karkare about his dispassionate and honest investigation into the growing threat of Hindutva terrorism. Virk then decided to write a column to defend his colleague whose professional integrity has come under question. He pulled no punches to criticize those who were patronizing Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and majoritarian terrorism.
Image Courtesy: PTI
In a rare show of courage when the Indian mainstream is blinded by majoritarianism, a former police officer who was at the forefront of the fight against Sikh separatists has come out openly against growing Hindutva terrorism.
Sarbdeep Singh Virk, who generally goes by the name SS Virk, says that if Sikh extremism was wrong then so is the extremism in the name of majoritarian Hindu state.
Virk who was assigned the Maharashtra cadre after passing the civil services examinations was sent on deputation to Punjab during 1980s when the latter province was facing growing security threat from Sikh separatists. Though a Sikh himself, Virk was determined to take the challenge and got injured during a fight with the militants in 1988. He eventually rose to become the Director General of Police. This was a time when Sikh militants ran a parallel administration in Punjab and were fighting an armed struggle for a separate homeland of Khalistan. The movement was ultimately brought to an end by mid 1990s by the police that used repressive measures and eliminated many extremist leaders in fake encounters.
Due to internal departmental rivalries and political interference, Virk was charged for corruption, but was rescued by the Maharashtra government. He was not only repatriated to Maharashtra, but ended up becoming the police chief of the state before his retirement in 2009.
He was back in the news after he wrote a column critical of Hindutva terror in Indian Express.
This was in reaction to the recent nomination of Sadhvi Pragya Thakur as a candidate for the ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) from Bhopal.
Thakur, a highly controversial ascetic was charged for her involvement in a bomb blast in 2008 that claimed six lives and injured 100 people. The target of the attack was a Muslim dominated area. She is associated with a group that believes in political Hinduism or Hindutva and wants to turn India into Hindu theocracy through violent means. Currently on bail, she is still facing trial.
Thakur’s arrest was followed by an investigation by another police officer the late Hemant Karkare who served as the Chief of Anti-Terrorism Squad of Maharashtra police. Karkare came under attack for smashing a module of the Hindu terror network. So much so, the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat back then publicly insulted Karkare who was called anti-national and anti-Hindu by the BJP supporters. This was despite the fact that Karkare was a practising Hindu and had never compromised in dealing firmly with Muslim extremists either.
In November 2008, he died fighting with Muslim extremists who had attacked Mumbai. Ironically, Karkare turned into a martyr overnight even for the Hindutva groups. Modi had offered a huge monetary award to his widow, Kavita Karkare who refused to accept it.
Kavita had died later because of brain haemorrhage. Many believe it was the result of the emotional stress she was dealing with ever since right-wing extremists began hounding her husband.
Modi is not only instrumental in nominating Thakur to run for the parliament, he has shamelessly defended her saying that the whole case against her was motivated and designed to give Hindus a bad name by the previous centrist Congress government.
Emboldened by the gestures of Modi government, Pragya went to the extent of saying that she had cursed Karkare which led to his death.
These developments had disturbed Virk who had heard first hand from Karkare about his dispassionate and honest investigation into the growing threat of Hindutva terrorism.
Virk then decided to write a column to defend his colleague whose professional integrity has come under question. He pulled no punches to criticize those who were patronizing Thakur and majoritarian terrorism.
He told this writer that it is the duty of every secular Indian to stand up for an upright police officer who was just doing his job and cannot defend himself.
On being asked what he thinks of the Indian state that gave extra-judicial powers to the police to decimate Khalistani extremists, while openly patronizing Hindutva terrorists, Virk clearly said that if what Sikh extremists were doing in Punjab was wrong, then what Hindutva radicals are doing is also unacceptable. He added that just because they belong to the majority community does not give them a right to spread hatred and the law should be the same for everyone.
Expressing his frustration at the political patronage people like Thakur are enjoying under the current regime, he only said that if those who are supposed to protect the law decide to violate and break it what can one really say?