After various conjectures, speculations and angry or anguished advice had eaten up miles of footage and reams of newsprint in the wake of the nightmarish Mumbai carnage, a colleague still asked, 'So, what is your conspiracy theory about these horrible happenings?' Conspiracy theory I have none, but I do have a set of seven questions that have elicited no definitive answer in the current chatter and intrigue me no end. Here they are:

How many terrorists struck Mumbai on the fateful night of November 26? We are sure about minimum 10 as the security personnel managed to slay nine in fierce encounters and capture one alive. But the police claim to have found 15 sets of blankets and winter jackets on the speedboat that witnessed the murder of its crew members and is supposed to have been hijacked by the terrorists for transporting themselves to Mumbai from Porbandar in Gujarat. Besides, News Channel Aaj Tak telecast the interview of a supposedly rescued victim Sajan Kapur, who claimed he was sent to the Taj hotel by ATS officer Vijay Salaskar and had seen around 17 terrorists there and not just four as claimed the security agencies. Will anyone explain these different figures?

Coming to Sajan Kapur, a friend points out in a write up on the web that this guy just vanished from the scene after the Aaj Tak telecast. No other channel or newspaper pursued him nor did Aaj Tak follow up on his claims. Why this blackout? Did he prove to be a phony witness who gave a misleading account? If so, with what intent? Or was he whisked away by the security agencies for investigation and they are keeping it hush-hush?

Kapur's account on Aaj Tak was interesting. He claimed to have overheard an exchange between two of the terrorists, who openly flaunted their Pakistani links, in which one asked how much money these Indian politicians had and the other replied what is that to do with you as you have received your amount. Did Kapur imply that the attackers were Pakistanis paid off by Indian politicians? With Kapur vanishing from the scene, there is nobody to explain this part of his story either or his credibility or motive.

Coming to the hijacked boat, the police account reported in the media suggests a mystery in the nature of its ownership and control. The legal owner Masani disclaims any knowledge about its actual operations as he had handed over its control to his brother through a power of attorney. The brother had in turn sublet it to somebody else who hired other people to run it. What is this mystery of legal ownership being at four removed from the people who operated the boat? And what kind of operations was the boat usually involved in?

The boat's hijacking at Porbandar in Gujarat testifies to a local support structure for the terrorists. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi does not tire of continuously claiming to have generally rolled up terrorist networks in his state. He has also been very vehement in blaming the center and the Maharashtra government for the attackers being able to reach Mumbai unhindered. He also claims to have warned the Maharashtra government about the possibility of an attack on Mumbai launched from the sea. How come the terrorists found themselves bold enough to launch the attack from the coast of Gujarat, a state he rules with an iron hand?

The question of the strange coincidence of Pakistani terrorists finishing off the top leadership, including Hemant Karkare, of the ATS involved in probing a supposedly Hindutva terrorist cell whose avowed aim was to retaliate violently against Pakistan sponsored terrorism is also intriguing and needs explanation.I am not suggesting that the Hindutva extremists hired Pakistanis to do their hatchet job and in the process gave them the bonus of additional carnage to satisfy their murderous instincts but wondering about the circumstances of ATS leadership being led into a position of extreme vulnerability to terrorist fire.

And finally, how is it that whenever the Hindu rightist extreme seems to be in dire straits as with the current Sadhvi-Purohit-Pandey terror investigations, some violent action undertaken supposedly on behalf of Muslims or Pakistan, as the case may be, comes to their aid and also vice versa? For instance, recent Delhi blasts overshadowed the violence against Christians by Hindutva extremists in Orissa, burning of karsevaks on a train in Godhra and Akshardham attack respectively helped Narendra Modi in elections. And Kargil had helped both the BJP and Musharraf in their bid for power in their respective countries. Who plays whom or is there another unseen puppeteer?