Manish Tewari, former Union Minister
The terrorist attack on 26 November 2008 in Mumbai was very barbaric. Hundreds of people were killed in this four-day massacre. Few terrorists had held the entire country hostage for 60 hours. After the incident, the media was severely attacking the government. There was talk of fixing responsibility. The security personnel were undoubtedly projected as heroes who saved many lives by playing on their lives, but the government was the target of the people. Then on November 29, we got information that the next day Home Minister Shivraj Patil would inform the party spokespersons about the incident. Will tell you how to take the side of the government.
We all reached there and the spokesperson comrades asked him every important question. The Home Minister also explained every aspect of the incident in full detail. Some uncomfortable questions were also asked from our side. In the end, I asked the Home Minister why the meeting of the Crisis Management Committee has not been held even after such a big incident. Shivraj Patil also informed us in detail about this. He said that since all the decisions after this incident are being taken from the top level, there was no need for a parallel meeting of this committee.
On the other hand, on November 30, when all precautionary measures were being taken after the terrorist attack, Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh along with film director Ram Gopal Varma went to take stock of the incident. Deshmukh’s intentions may have been right, but immediately after such a big terrorist incident, people went there with the film director. Since Ram Gopal Varma used to make action films and CM’s son Riteish Deshmukh was also an actor, people thought that he had gone there to explore the possibilities of making a film.
Shivraj Patil resigns
This was an incident that even I, as a party spokesperson, could not defend and I told it wrong in the TV debate. The CM had to resign from his post soon after this incident. But the media found this action insufficient. The demand for the resignation of Home Minister Shivraj Patil kept rising. I remember that day sitting next to Ahmed Patel in Delhi, I was talking about the possible outcome of the Delhi Assembly elections. During the conversation, Ahmed Patel was calling P Chidambaram repeatedly. Chidambaram was on a visit to Sivaganga, his parliamentary constituency in Tamil Nadu. Eventually he came to attend the CWC meeting. In the same meeting, Shivraj Patil offered to resign, which was accepted and P Chidambaram became the new Home Minister of the country.
On 4 April 2012, a news story appeared in a newspaper, titled – Raisina Hill Scared in the Night of January, when two Army units moved towards Delhi without informing the Government. The headline and the whole news were itself disturbing. This was news that anyone would report with all seriousness and sensitivity. But then there was such a rift in the relationship between the top political leadership and the army, that it was not possible for such news to remain between the walls. Given the gravity of the news, which was tried hard to hold for 11 weeks, it finally came out in a sensational way. Although all the parties including the army called this news as factless, but in recent times it was the most scary news whose effect was being seen. In fact, late on January 16 that year, the day the then Army Chief VK Singh moved the Supreme Court over the issue of his date of birth, the Central Intelligence Agency had reported an unexpected movement of a vital army unit. The government was not aware of this. Although there was no suspicion or ill-will towards the movement, yet the government alerted all the agencies as per the routine process.
It was confirmed that the army unit was moving towards Delhi. Just a day before this, the Army Day program had ended in Delhi. There was more curiosity than worry about the movement of the army, there was confusion. In recent years, the military and the political leadership have had a very cohesive and trusting relationship. But with the arrival of the news that another unit of the army was moving towards Delhi, the concern started increasing. The Defense Minister was immediately informed. There was a stir late night inside the central government. The Center issued a terror threat alert and ordered a thorough investigation of every vehicle coming to Delhi. The next day the Prime Minister was briefed about the entire incident. Defense Secretary Shashikant Sharma was called immediately from the middle of the Malaysia tour. After returning to Delhi late at night, he asked Lieutenant General AK Chaudhary, who was then DG, Military Operations, about the army movement, and he called it a normal process. He was asked to give a detailed report in this regard. It was also said in that report that this was a complete exercise to test the speed and activity of the movement of the army from one place to another in the midst of fog. Although there was truth in his arguments, but even then many questions were not answered. Why was this movement not informed earlier under normal protocol? Many other uncomfortable aspects also came to the fore which were later revealed in the investigation and interrogation.
(Tawari’s book ’10 Flash Points: 20 Years’, Publisher: Courtesy from Roopa Publications)
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author.