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Three months on, the loss that is Hemant Karkare

February 26, 2009

Text: Insiyah Vahanvaty in Mumbai

Hemant Karkare, Mumbai's Anti Terrorist Squad chief, met a violent end when terrorists invaded the city and killed innocents at will. One of the city's most respected police officers, Karkare reached the spot to take command of the situation on the night of November 26.

When he heard the news that Deputy Commissioner of Police Sadanand Date had been injured in gunfire at the Cama Hospital in south Mumbai, Karkare, along with Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte and Senior Police Inspector Vijay Salaskar, got into a police Qualis and rushed to the spot. Their vehicle was ambushed by two terrorists, Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan, who stepped out from behind a tree and opened fire.

The three officers and three accompanying constables were killed in what will be remembered as the city's darkest night.

Hemant Karkare was declared dead upon reaching the J J Hospital.

The man Mumbai now knows as a hero, a martyr and the recipient of the nation's highest gallantry award in peacetime, the Ashok Chakra, Karkare hailed from a very humble background. His father worked with the Indian Railways as a result of which Hemant settled wherever his dad's postings took the family. His mother took keen interest in her children's studies.

Shirish Karkare, Hemant Karkare's younger brother who works as a manager at the National Insurance Company, recounts to how as the oldest of four siblings, Hemant was the apple of their parents' eye. A bit of a loner and bookworm, he was always willing to put his books away when his siblings needed his help.

"He was excellent at studies. When he was five years old, our parents put him in school. After the first day, he came back, saying, 'I don't want to sit with those duffers -- they don't know anything. I already know everything the teacher is teaching.' You see, our mother used to teach him tables and alphabets at home."

"Finally, after a lot of argument, my parents requested the principal to promote him to the second standard," remembers Shirish Karkare. "Of course, he had to take a test, which he passed, and got a double promotion right away."

Additional reportage: A Ganesh Nadar and Nithya Ramani. Photographs courtesy: The Karkare family.

Image: Hemant and Kavita Karkare at their marriage ceremony.

Also see: A brave officer and a gentleman

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