Former R&AW chief A S Dulat’s book Kashmir — The Vajpayee Years cites several instances of how he went beyond the traditional counterinsurgency brief and planned and executed fissures in Kashmir’s separatist and militant movement. His tryst with Kashmir coincides with militancy as he was posted to head the IB in Srinagar in 1988 and later headed the IB’s Kashmir group on his return to Delhi in 1990 before becoming R&AW chief and subsequently joining Atal Bihari Vajpayee PMO as his man on Kashmir. A look at some of the explosive content in his autobiographical account.
On Abdul Gani Lone
Dulat says he met Abdul Gani Lone soon after he returned from the US in 1999 when he sent an officer to his house and bring him for a chat. “Since I had a lot of time, I was meeting Lone more and more and I spoke to him about the coming elections (2002)…” Dulat says Lone termed “free and fair elections” “the right way forward” and when he asked him to help by contesting the polls, Lone reportedly said, “My time is over, but I will help you. Don’t ask how, let the time come”. Dulat writes that then CM Farooq Abdullah was disturbed by Lone’s contact with the PMO. He says Farooq told him why Lone wouldn’t join them. “We will take him willingly,’’ he quotes Farooq. He says Lone had a secret meeting with Farooq at a rest house in Kokernag, shortly before Lone was killed. Dulat says Lone tried to convince Hurriyat of the “relevance of elections” but couldn’t, “because they were well-behaved ISI followers who did not step out of line and second as Lone called them, they were like the nawabs of Oudh who depleted their wealth yet carried on like royalty…”.
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On Lone’s assassination, Dulat says Lone had met then ISI chief Gen Ehsan ul Haq and “complained against ISI’s Hurriyat political handler Brig Abdullah” who was replaced. Dulat says Brig Abdullah didn’t take kindly to being shunted out. “He may have ordered the hit on Lone, and it was possibly not a conscious decision of the ISI chief,’’ he says.
On Mufti and Mehbooba
During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Dulat says he met Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who reportedly told him, “Pakistan had got to everybody in Kashmir. They are financing everybody. Hamein bhi contact kiya hai.”
Dulat talks about “suspicions about Mehbooba (Mufti) in Delhi” during the Vajpayee years. “When Vajpayee went to Srinagar in April 2003… a stage was erected high up for a public meeting. Mehbooba wanted to join them (Vajpayee and Mufti) but she was politely told that there was no place for her on that stage. Vajpayee did not want her up there. He did not want her projected. There were grave doubts about Mehbooba in Delhi, about her links with Hizb-ul Mujahideen…”
Dulat says “it is easy to make intelligence agencies the scapegoat” and talk of “intelligence failure”. “What was Army doing? It is supposed to send out regular patrols, which it had obviously stopped. In Kashmir, all we have done since 1989 is talk of infiltration, it’s the Army which is the first to talk of it. But infiltration continues. The Army has not been able to stop it.”
On IC-814 hijacking
Dulat says nobody in the world was helping India during the hijacking. “Relations with Pakistan were strained post-Kargil… the Americans were out on their Christmas week, so no CIA to plead with. Jaswant (Singh) kept calling Taliban foreign minister Abdul Muttawakil but that fellow wouldn’t take his calls.” Dulat says he was sent to placate Farooq who was against the release of the militant commanders. “Omar Sheikh was in Tihar but Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Zargar were in jail in Jammu and Srinagar. they were put aboard an R&AW aircraft… Azhar and Zargar were not allowed to see me. They were blindfolded.”
On ‘friendly disruption’
Dulat ends his book quoting a Kashmiri educationist, retired professor Agha Ashraf Ali, as telling him that “you were sent to disrupt the Kashmir movement in the friendliest possible manner”. He writes about several intelligence operations he planned and executed for New Delhi in J&K. He says the biggest setback to militancy was the 1996 assembly elections. He believes if the elections had not been held and Farooq not been roped in to contest, militancy would have continued for another decade.
On Mirwaiz killing
Dulat says that Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s father Mirwaiz Farooq was killed by militants because “he was in touch with National Front railways minister George Fernandes”. During a dinner in 2003, Dulat writes, Mirwaiz talked about autonomy, open borders and a bus between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad. He says it was this conversation that laid the foundation for the Vajpayee government’s parallel parleys with Pakistan and Hurriyat.
During the Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat’s talks with L K Advani, Dulat says that on March 27, 2004, Advani asked them what it was they wanted. “Not a single Hurriyat leader said anything. Finally Prof Gani said next time we will come prepared with our ideas”. Dulat says the Hurriyat kept on asking for vague things like confidence building measures like release of prisoners rather than putting forth ideas for a resolution to the Kashmir issue.
On Farooq, the ‘tallest’
The lone Kashmiri politician who emerges a “hero” across Dulat’s book is Farooq Abdullah. He praises him each time he mentions his name. “Farooq is the tallest and most meaningful Kashmiri leader. His nationalistic and secular credentials can never be doubted. He was the first CM to adopt POTA, which some people in India say is a law that has been misused disproportionately against Muslims…’’ Dulat says.
On the ‘lost decade’
Dulat calls PM Manmohan Singh’s era as the “lost decade for Kashmir”. “Singh’s inability to seize a deal in winter 2006-07 frustrated (Pervez) Musharraf more than anyone else…,’’ he writes. “Some people believe that Musharraf was so annoyed at missing out on his place in history that he may have had a hand in 26/11 Mumbai attacks…”