ON AUGUST 7, the government released a video of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval having an impromptu lunch with a small group of people on the pavement of a shuttered market in Shopian. The impression it aimed to convey was that the ground situation in the Valley was calm after the government’s decision to remove J&K’s special status and bifurcate the state.
But now, one of the men seen with Doval in that clip says he did not realise he was chatting with the NSA. He says he was under the impression that the “man wearing a jacket” was the Personal Assistant of J&K DGP Dilbagh Singh. And that reactions to the video, since it was released, have affected him and his family.
“While I was talking to him (Doval), I suddenly found the DGP sahib and SP sahib standing in respect, with their hands folded behind their backs. I thought he couldn’t be the Personal Assistant. I asked him, ‘Sir, I need your introduction’, and he told me he is the National Security Advisor of Modi ji,” says Mansoor Ahmad Magray, a 62-year-old social activist and retired forest range officer.
In the video, Magray is the tall man in a waistcoat with henna-dyed hair and grey beard. “When I came back home, my son was sleeping. I woke him up and said that I had met some Doval. He was shocked and said it would soon be on TV,” he says.
“This (video) has changed my life permanently. People knew me as a social activist and that image has changed,” says Magray, a former trade union leader. “If I had known that I was to meet Doval, I would not have gone, even if they had dragged me along.”
For Magray’s family members, the backlash has been unnerving, especially the statement by Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad that “anything can be bought by money”. “He (Azad) has said that we have got money for this, people are also saying this now. We are determined to file a defamation case against him,” says Magray’s son Mohsin Mansoor.
— ANI (@ANI) August 7, 2019
A resident of Aliyalpora in Shopian, Magray is the state coordinator of a senior citizens forum and the head of the local mosque committee. He says he often interacts with the civil and police administration of the district, as well, to intercede on behalf of families whose kin have been detained.
On the video, he says, he had stepped out to reach the mosque for afternoon prayers on August 7, two days after the government ordered a lockdown in Kashmir, when he “saw policeman, in civvies, on (motor) bikes”.
“They were accompanied by CRPF. They (policemen) said I have to meet the DGP. I got on their bike and was taken to the police station. When I reached the station, five or six people were already waiting there. One of them was a driver and another’s son was under detention,” he says.
“We waited for some time but no one came. I thought they had called me to arrest me. I told them, ‘Show me the (prison) cell in which you want to lock me up’. They said it was nothing like that. After a while, I was about to leave when a (Maruti) Gypsy arrived. We were then asked to board an ambulance and taken to the bus stand. A chain of Army vehicles was standing there on both sides of the road. There were five-six cameramen as well,” says Magray.
According to him, when they got down from the ambulance, Shopian SP Sandeep Choudhary and DGP Singh greeted him. “He (DGP) wanted me to talk to someone, and a man wearing a jacket came over. I thought he was the DG sahib’s secretary. He told me, ‘See, Article 370 has been revoked’. I said, ‘I can’t say anything’. He said, ‘People will benefit’. I said, ‘Inshallah’,” he says.
Magray says he told the man about the history of Shopian and that it has been ignored politically. “He spoke to us for 10-15 minutes. Then, he asked us to join him for lunch. I told him we are the hosts. In the meantime, someone forced a plate in my hands. People say I had biryani… it was rice and a slice of meat,” says Magray.
It was after he told his son about the meeting that Magray says he realised the gravity of the situation. According to Mohsin, it has been difficult to move out after the video was telecast. “It was the first news to come out of Kashmir at that time. Our life has changed since…. Our relatives tell us that we have brought a bad name to them,” he says.