LAKSHADWEEP ADMINISTRATOR Dineshwar Sharma, who earlier headed the Intelligence Bureau and was the Interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir, died of a lung ailment in Chennai on Friday. He was 66.
The retired IPS officer of the Kerala cadre, who previously served as Interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir, was appointed Lakshdweep Administrator in October 2019.
Sources said Sharma was admitted to AIIMS on November 25 with complaints of heavy coughing and lung complications. On November 27, he was shifted to MGM Hospital in Chennai for a lung transplant but his condition deteriorated sharply in the past 24 hours. He had been diagnosed with an irreversible condition called interstitial lungs, said sources.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah expressed grief over his death.
“Administrator of Lakshadweep Shri Dineshwar Sharma Ji made long lasting contributions to India’s policing and security apparatus. He handled many sensitive counter-terror and insurgency ops during his policing career. Anguished by his demise. Condolences to his family. Om Shanti,” the Prime Minister said in a tweet.
In a tweet, Shah said, “He served the nation with utmost devotion as a dedicated officer of the Indian Police Service. My heartfelt condolences to his family in this hour of grief. Om Shanti.”
Born in Bihar, Sharma had had a long stint in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) before he became its chief in 2014. Following his retirement in 2016, the government appointed him as Interlocutor for J&K in October 2017, owing to his long association with the region as an intelligence officer. Sharma was assistant director in IB in Kashmir between 1994 and 1996 and then served on the Kashmir desk of the bureau in Delhi.
“He was the right man for the job. Very decent, down to earth and patient. Unfortunately, his short term as interlocutor could not achieve much,” a senior intelligence official said.
Sources said part of the reason was he did not get much support from Delhi after a point. “He started well, with confidence-building measures such as withdrawal of FIRs against many stone-pelters and convincing the government to tame the anti-Kashmir rhetoric on jingoistic TV channels. However, Delhi did not give him much to offer the Kashmiris after that. In the Valley if people know you do not have the authority to get anything done, no one will talk to you. That’s what happened with Sharma at the later stage,” a senior Kashmir administration official said.
A few months after his removal as Kashmir interlocutor and transfer to Lakshadweep, the Centre stripped the state of its special status and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019.
The soft-spoken intelligence veteran is remembered by colleagues as a thorough gentleman, who focused on work and never lobbied for a coveted post. In fact, at the time of retirement as IB chief, the government had offered him an extension but Sharma refused as it would have deprived his then deputy Rajeev Jain a shot at the top post as he was retiring in three months.
Apart from J&K, Sharma had served in Uttar Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur. He was known to have in-depth understanding of security-related matters and worked closely for a long time with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.
Sharma was also instrumental in formulating a government policy towards tackling the Islamic State and the threat of radicalisation of young Muslims in India. It was on his insistence that the government took a “calibrated approach” and stalled further radicalisation through the terror group. Instead of ordering the arrest of these youths, Sharma is known to have encouraged counselling and building confidence of parents of these radicalised youngsters.
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