Painful memories of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, in which 166 people died, were revived on Friday when BJP leader Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur made a reference to late senior cop Hemant Karkare who died in the line of duty when terror struck the city in 2008.
Sadhvi Pragya, an accused in the Malegaon blasts case, said she had told Mr Karkare that he would be killed. "...and he was killed by terrorists in less than two months". After her comment elicited outrage, she took the comment back.
Mr Karkare was the chief of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad and one of the brightest officers of the state, investigating several high-profile cases, including the Malegaon blasts.
As the chief of Maharashtra's anti-terror squad, Hemant Karkare had investigated Sadhvi Pragya in connection with the blasts in Malegaon two months before that.
Mr Karkare was the first officer to investigate the blasts on September 29, 2008, in which six people were killed and 101 injured the town, 250 km from Mumbai. Lt Col Shrikant Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya and others were arrested and charged with plotting the blasts.
Sadhvi Pragya, Accused Number 1 in the case, was given a clean chit by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2015, but the trial court refused to let her off. The court dropped charges against her under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) but the trial is still on under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The senior officer was having his dinner when he got the information of terrorists attacking the city on November 26, 2008. The officer rushed to join the operation to rid the city of the attackers.
He, along with senior police inspector Vijay Salaskar and ACP Ashok Kamte, were searching for the terrorists near the Cama hospital when their vehicle was attacked by one of the terrorists. All the three officers died fighting the terrorists.
Hemant Karkare was awarded Ashok Chakra, the highest peace time gallantry award for his heroics.