The book reveals all too clearly how in Jammu and Kashmir the intelligence agencies subverted the democratic process with intrigue and the electoral process with bribery, and debased the quality of political life
THIS book reveals all too clearly that India will continue to rig elections to the Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir for as long as the Kashmir dispute is not settled with Pakistan with the consent of the people of the State. Until then, it will arrange matters to ensure two things.
First, that no one occupies the office of Chief Minister without its approval. The second is commonly overlooked in the entire discourse, namely, that no Legislative Assembly that is likely to cross the well-known red lines set by New Delhi, ever since 1951, gets elected.
The book is a record of the doings of an intelligence man. The game has undergone a radical change. It began as an exercise in collecting intelligence, graduated to conducting covert operations and offered a doctorate to its officials who were assigned to conduct diplomacy. Rajiv Gandhi sent the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) Director to Sri Lanka to parley with President J.R. Jayawardene behind the back of High Commissioner J.N. Dixit.
It became "a political factor directly influencing policy in Sri Lanka since 1990".
The operatives became self-important, set their own agenda, developed personal interests and personal attachments—and lost objectivity. In Kashmir and in north-eastern India, the Intelligence Bureau (I.B.) and RAW went much further. They subverted the democratic process with intrigue, the electoral process with bribery, and debased the quality of political life.
The author describes their role in Kashmir with great gusto and bravado and thus reveals authoritatively the modus operandi by which the Centre keeps a tight grip on the direction of Kashmir's politics. In doing so, he has exposed those unionists and separatists who were ready and willing to sell their souls and their people's rights and interests for thirty pieces of silver.
Amarjit Singh Dulat joined the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1965 and was deputed to the I.B. He was posted to Kashmir in May 1988. At the I.B., he headed its Kashmir Operations Group during the militancy in December 1990. He rose to be the head of RAW and joined the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) during the A.B. Vajpayee regime in December 2000. He quit in 2004. His initial remit was "to keep Farooq Abdullah in good humour".
Dulat freely writes of his interlocutors' ego and of his own skill in, to use his favourite word, "massaging" it. "The fact is that anybody who is somebody in Kashmir has a big ego. And at that point Shabir (Shah) was the headmaster to the rest of the militants." Were things different in Dulat's Punjab? If his own ego is of massive proportions, as it indeed is, he can be pardoned. All massaged his ego. "At a dinner some years back I was telling the host how M.K. Narayanan, former Director of the Intelligence Bureau and subsequently National Security Adviser in the first term of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, had got me stuck in Kashmir when he passed by. He turned and said: 'Are you complaining? Do you realise that you became whatever you did only because of Kashmir?' True."
Once the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) lost power, "I was made the villain of the NDA's Kashmir policy by several who thought I was throwing around money too freely, bribing my way through Kashmir. People in the I.B., my former organisation, and higher-ups apparently told Kashmiris, 'Dulat has spoilt you.' Maybe. But for more than the last ten years since I left the government, Kashmir leaders, including separatists, still visit me regularly when I have little more to offer than tea and sympathy."
He carefully reproduces Mani Shankar Aiyar's compliment, "What a useful life you've led, and what a useless life I've led." The book ends with Agha Ashraf Ali's meaningful compliment when they met in May 2014: "You were sent to disrupt the (Kashmir) movement… in the friendliest possible manner." The suspension marks leave the reader free to guess what the missing words were. The book provides the clues. That thanks are generously given to certain persons tells us a lot: "My friend, philosopher and guide who helped keep the flock intact during most trying times, Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat; manager Ghulam Hassan Mir, who was a storehouse of knowledge but also simplified my understanding of Kashmir; the kind, gentle and underestimated Firdous Syed; the more mercurial Sajad Lone, not only TV anchor Barkha Dutt's favourite but mine also; the macho Hashim Qureshi, ever ready to take on both adversaries in Kashmir and even those across; Altaf, a businessman to his political fingers; Zafar (Meraj), who everyone always thought was on the wrong side; Nadir, my ready reckoner; Prof. Riyaz Punjabi, who gave me my first lesson on Kashmir."
Things went to his head. "You're like my brother," Farooq Abdullah told Dulat. Can you imagine his father, Sheikh Abdullah, or, for that matter, any other Chief Minister with any self-respect cultivating an intelligence man thus? Abdul Ghani Bhat asked Dulat, on the eve of his first meeting with L.K. Advani, the Deputy Prime Minister, on January 22, 2004, "Humara pajama to nahin utarvaoge!" (You will not have our pajamas removed, will you?). One would have that the apparel's stability around Bhat's waist depended on his own stature, not on Dulat's goodwill.
Again, "Farooq and I had a relationship that whenever he had a problem, he would turn to me." Dulat lauds Farooq Abdullah for being "the first Chief Minister to adopt" the Prevention of Terrorism Act, or POTA. "Farooq made the introduction to hijacker Hashim Qureshi; … Farooq came through with a favour for Syed Salahuddin, the Pakistan-based Hizbul Mujahideen preacher who has for long wanted to come back to India; and he introduced to the Rashtriya Rifles a rural folk-singer named Kuka Parrey, who went on to lead a force of counter-insurgents, the Ikhwan-ul Muslimoon, which was one of the army's successes." Under the protection of the Rashtriya Rifles, Kuka Parrey and his Ikhwan let loose a campaign of abductions, rape, extortions and systematic killings of any they cared to pick on. It was state-sponsored terrorism (Vide "India's Secret Army in Kashmir: New Patterns of Abuse Emerge in the Conflict", a Human Rights Watch Report published in May 1996). On August 11, 1996, Farooq Abdullah publicly thanked those very renegades of the Ikhwan for helping him to come to power—"had given us the privilege to go before the people. Now I am proud of them." If "Farooq is the tallest and most meaningful leader" to Dulat, his book explains why (emphasis added, throughout). His admiration is reserved for the clever. The author's partisanship is pathetic. Atal Bihari Vajpayee "modelled himself on Nehru and had the vision, time and inclination to devote himself to Kashmir". Dulat watched his hero "evolve a grand plan with an enlightened strategy on cutting that Gordian knot". It remained his best kept secret.
On June 26, 1990, the Kashmir Assembly passed a resolution recording its acceptance of the moderate report of the State Autonomy Committee and requesting the Centre to set up a Ministerial Committee "in order to initiate a dialogue on the Report". On July 4, the Union Cabinet took the unusual course of adopting and publishing a long seven-paragraph resolution brusquely rejecting the Assembly's resolution (See The Hindu, July 5, 2000, for the text).
The draft Agra Declaration of July 16, 2001, did not settle Kashmir but merely elaborated on the Joint Statement of 1997 on a composite dialogue and laid down a process for tackling all issues. Paragraph 1 was revised by the Foreign Ministers in their own hand. Jaswant Singh promised to get back to Abdul Sattar soon. He never did. Dulat gets everything wrong; the dates and much else. Crucially, Pervez Musharraf did not leave "in a huff without even stopping at Ajmer Sharif to visit the dargah as he had planned". Books bore him; so does the record. He enjoys oral encounters.
Advani did not expect the conference to go beyond an exchange of views, a sizing up of Musharraf. When it did, he wrecked the agreed accord. The Declaration would have raised Vajpayee's standing internationally and at home. Advani was seen agitatedly pacing up and down when the drafting was in process. Vajpayee revealed in the Lok Sabha on August 16 that Advani "had got worried when his one-to-one meeting with Musharraf went on for an unusually long time". He disclosed how Advani sent a man inside to "find out" what was afoot. This is utterly unheard of. Jaswant Singh was treated as badly with intrusions and phone calls to his officials over his head. Advani was out to abort the Agra Declaration.
A diminished Vajpayee emerged from the summit. After Agra, he and Jaswant Singh took turns holding Musharraf to cheap ridicule for a whole fortnight from July 28 to August 10. Sample these gems of the "poet's" refinement: "You didn't see Musharraf's face when he was leaving. I did. He had a long face. … I didn't even give him a photo-opportunity" (That is, did not escort him out as civility requires).
Vajpayee in his true colours
He was denied facilities for holding a press conference in Agra. When he did speak at Islamabad, he complained, with obvious hurt, that he was never invited to stay on which Vajpayee could well have done—stay on, visit Ajmer Sharif tomorrow, and let us meet at lunch. This would have given him ample time to persuade Advani to relent.
The same trait in a weak man manifested itself after the Gujarat pogrom. It was only on April 4, 2002, that Vajpayee went to Ahmedabad, five weeks after the killings happened. Rhetoric never fails him. "Rajdharm ka palan kare" (uphold the ethics of governance), he famously said, having failed to follow the maxim himself as Prime Minister. He first visited the burnt carriage at Godhra as if it was a place of pilgrimage. It was to highlight the thesis of cause and effect, which he advocated along with Narendra Modi.
Just a week later, at the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) National Executive meeting in Goa on April 12, Vajpayee revealed himself in his true colours, for all time. On April 12, he defended Modi, the man responsible for the carnage that had engulfed Gujarat since February 28 while a lakh of Muslims still lay forlorn in relief camps. Vajpayee said, first, "What happened after the Godhra incident is reprehensible, but the issue is, who started it?" This was communal linkage in its grossest form. Not the identified individual criminals of Godhra, but the Muslim community "started it" and bore responsibility for what it had suffered.
Secondly, the Muslim community was condemned en bloc globally. "Wherever there are Muslims, they do not want to live with others. Instead of living peacefully, they want to preach and propagate their religion by creating fear and terror in the minds of others." There were problems even in Indonesia and Malaysia, which have large Muslim populations. "Islamic fundamentalists are spreading terror and intimidation. This is [the] opposite [of] the culture of Hinduism."
Arrests of Al Qaeda activists in Singapore inspired Vajpayee to say: "Wherever Muslims live in large numbers, the rulers apprehend that Islam could take an aggressive turn."
Thirdly, "we" are different from and superior to the "later arrivals"; "we were secular even in the early days when Muslims and Christians were not here. We have allowed them to do their prayers and follow their religion." Have you ever heard of a Prime Minister denouncing a people who belong to a different faith and that after they had suffered a massacre which he never denounced? And they were "allowed" to practise their faith.
A Vajpayee in earnest would not have nominated an R.K. Mishra as his negotiator with a professional diplomat Niaz Naik of Pakistan. Mishra was a fixer. Concretely what could or would have Dulat's principals offered in the dialogue with Pakistan or the separatists?
Dulat aspired to build "relationships with people who had lost faith in India". He met ones of little standing among the alienated. Whatever could his bosses who rejected the Autonomy Resolution and Agra Declaration concede them? Nothing, Vajpayee's chosen interlocutor. On July 22, 2002, Arun Jaitley's mandate was to offer devolution of power, inherently revocable.
It is a foolish notion that dialogue alone can bring results. It depends on three factors—a will to compromise; a meeting ground; and capability to deliver, to push the deal through. Let alone Advani, even Vajpayee could not fulfil these conditions. Whatever prevented Vajpayee from inviting Musharraf, when he called on Vajpayee, to stay on, visit Ajmer Sharif the next morning and meet at lunch? He could have used the relaxation to push the declaration through.
The rubbish about "insaniyat ke daire mein" (within the framework of humanity), which some imagined went beyond Article 370, and the offer of dialogue made at a public rally in Srinagar on April 18, 2003, (after the massacres), over which Dulat goes into ecstasies, were not spontaneous offers. India and Pakistan faithfully followed the script which their Uncle (Sam) had written in toto with his British stooge. After diplomatic intercessions it was published in a Joint Statement by their Foreign Ministers, after their bosses had met at Camp David. It urged respect for the Line of Control (LoC), a ceasefire and "active steps to reduce tension, including moves within the SAARC [South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation] context". Sure enough, a ceasefire followed and Vajpayee went to Islamabad to attend the SAARC summit in January 2004.
Dulat is surprised at Vajpayee's opposition to Manmohan Singh's peace moves and tries to downplay it. The text of Vajpayee's protests of June 16, 2005, reveals the man. He was no statesman but a slippery politician. But, were the Hurriyat leaders who met Advani, Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh themselves in a position to fulfil the conditions? Not surprisingly, as Dulat rightly notes, they were silent at the meetings.
Abdul Majid Dar's ceasefire offer of 2000 was made not only with the approval of the Hizbul chief Salahuddin but at the instance of Musharraf, as a senior Indian official told me. The condition was—involve us. India offered surrender terms with "security" and all. "Actually it was a well-planned move of the (Pakistan) government," wrote Arif Bahar in Takbeer (August 9, 2000). Vajpayee publicly acknowledged this later. Salahuddin told Onlooker (September 18, 2000), "Let India and Pakistan start. They can involve Kashmiris later. Alternatively, Kashmiris and Delhi can start the dialogue. It doesn't matter. But there must be an assurance that the three will meet during the decisive phase of the dialogue."
Syed Ali Shah Geelani has said the Hurriyat had no control over the guns. Dulat ignored the fact that for at least in the last decade, Geelani has consistently denounced violence and offered constructive suggestions which New Delhi has ignored.
In his last months, Abdul Ghani pleaded with Pakistan to send the guns to the leaders. Pakistan did not trust them. It controlled the guns. As Tahir Mohiuddin, editor of Chattan, remarked: "the reins of the freedom movement lay in the hands of outsiders."
Whatever did Dulat hope to achieve by roping in Shabir Shah, the Abdullahs, the Lones and Abdul Ghani Bhat to settle with New Delhi? What did his favourite Firdous Syed gain except bitterness? When Abdul Ghani Lone told Dulat a propos Sajad "You guys should look after him", he exposed himself, Sajad and Dulat. True, New Delhi pulled the rug from under Shabir Shah's feet but had it not, could Shabir have delivered? As Chief Minister he would have been despised. Dulat dangled chief ministership before him. How else could he have managed this but by rigging the elections?