Lakshadweep Administrator Dineshwar Sharma, who earlier headed the Intelligence Bureau and was also the Interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir, died Friday in Chennai owing to a lung ailment. The 66-year-old retired IPS officer of the Kerala cadre had been appointed administrator of the Lakshdweep Union Territory in October 2019.
Sources said Sharma was admitted to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on November 25 with complaints of heavy coughing and complications in his lungs. On November 27, he was shifted to MGM Hospital in Chennai for a last minute lung transplant but his condition deteriorated sharply in the last 24 hours. He had been diagnosed with an irreversible condition called interstitial lungs, said sources.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah expressed grief on 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,” Modi said in a tweet.
<p “width=420″ lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>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.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 4, 2020
Shah said he was deeply anguished at the passing away Sharma. “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,” Shah said in a tweet.
<p “width=420″ lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Deeply anguished to learn about the passing away of Administrator of Lakshadweep Shri Dineshwar Sharma ji. 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.— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) December 4, 2020
Born in Bihar, Sharma had had a long stint in the Intelligence Bureau before he became its chief in 2014. Following his retirement in 2016, the government appointed him as the Interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir in October 2017 owing to his long association with the region as an intelligence officer. Sharma was assistant director in the IB in Kashmir between 1994 and 1996 and then went on to serve on the Kashmir desk of the bureau in the national capital.
“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 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.
Indeed, a few months after his removal as the Kashmir interlocutor and eventual transfer to Lakshadweep, 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 his colleagues as a thorough gentleman who focused on his work and never lobbied for a coveted post. In fact, at the time of his retirement, government offered him an extension as IB chief but Sharma refused as it would have deprived his then deputy Rajeev Jain a shot at the top post as the latter was retiring in the next three months.
Apart from J&K, Sharma had served in UP, Nagaland and Manipur, and as additional director and special director in IB in the headquarters. Sharma was known to have in-depth understanding of security-related matters and had 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 (IS) and the threat of radicalisation of young Muslims in India. It was under Sharma’s insistence that the government took a “calibrated approach” and stalled further radicalisation through the IS. Instead of ordering the arrest of these youths, Sharma is known to have encouraged counselling and building confidence of parents of these radicalised young men.