In May 2000, a 17-year-old schoolboy from downtown Srinagar drove an explosive-laden car into the headquarters of the Army at Badamibagh. It was not just the first suicide bombing in Kashmir, it was the beginning of a new phase of Kashmir militancy. It launched the Jaish-e-Mohammad and announced that its founder, Maulana Masood Azhar, who was released in exchange of the crew and passengers of the hijacked IC-814 at Kandahar in the January of that year, was back in business.
Azhar’s Jaish went a step ahead of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the group that introduced fidayeen missions in the Valley, by having human bombs play a role in their operations. Lashkar had been avoiding such attacks, restricting their fidayeen missions to sneak attacks, so that it cannot technically be described as suicide attacks, because of the strict prohibition of suicide in Islam.
A great motivator, the story of Azhar’s evolution from clergyman and teacher in a Karachi madarsa to an international jihadi leader, began in Bahawalpur where he was born on July, 10, 1968. His father, Allah Bakhsh Shabir, was a headmaster in the government school. Azhar lived with his ten siblings — six sisters and four brothers — and the family ran a diary and poultry farm. In his book, The Virtues of Jihad, Azhar reveals that his father had Deobandi leanings and was extremely religious. ‘‘One of my father’s friends, Mufti Sayeed, was working as a teacher at the Jamia Islamia at the Binori Mosque in Karachi. He prevailed upon my father to admit me in the Jamia,’’ he wrote.
Azhar joined the Binori madarsa and this was his first contact with the jihadi movement. He continued his studies in the madarsa, received the almia degree and was soon given a teaching assignment in the madarsa. Leaders of the Harkat-ul-Ansar, the other name of Harkat-ul-mujahideen, enjoyed a great influence on the madarsa and many of the students even joined the Afghan jihad. Azhar, too, got involved. ‘‘A leader of Harkat-ul-Ansar, Commander Akhtar, had come to invite the principal of the madarsa to visit Afghanistan. The principal, Mufti Ahmadur Rahman, suggested that Maulana Masood Azhar should also participate in the training course of jihad,’’ Azhar recalled.
Being physically weak, Azhar is said to have failed to complete his 40-day military training at a Harkat camp at Yavar in Afghanistan. But he still joined the war against the Russians and was injured. The Harkat subsequently decided to appoint him head of the department of motivation, in which capacity he started editing the Sad’e Mujahidin in Urdu and the Sawte Kashmir in Arabic. He also became close to Maulana Fazlur-Rehman Khalil, the head of Pakistan’s Jamiat-e-Ulemai Islam, whose religious schools spread across Pakistan nurtured and created both the Harkat and the Taliban.
Azhar became the general secretary of Harkat and was viewed as the best orator of the group. He remained busy with the Harkat, which was pre-Taliban military wing of JUI, and was active in Kashmir where it had introduced foreign cadre, especially Afghan war veterans. He almost became its international envoy. Pursuing the mission of pan-Islamism — which included ideological motivation, recruitment and fund-raising — Azhar visited Lusaka, Chipata in Zambia, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia and United Kingdom. In fact it was his meeting with Mufti Ismail from a mosque in Southall, London that led to his visits to Mongolia and Albania. He even visited Nairobi.
Azhar’s Kashmir trip was primarily a brief assignment. The Harkat had been divided into Harkat-e-Jihadi Islami and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and he was sent to effect a patch up. The Harkat factions did merge subsequently but Azhar was nabbed in the Valley along with another top commander, Sajjad Afghani. Incidentally, his entry into India was dramatic — unlike most militants he did not cross the Line of Control in Kashmir. In January 1994, he flew into Delhi from Dhaka as a Gujarat-born Portuguese national, Wali Adam Issa. He checked into Ashoka hotel and later shifted to Janpath Hotel, from where he left for Deoband with two Harkat men from Kashmir. He flew to Srinagar and met the Harkat’s top commanders, Sajjad Afghani and Amjad Bilal, in the Lalbazaar area of downtown Srinagar.
Those days, south Kashmir used to be the hub of Harkat activities and Azhar, along with Afghani, left to meet their men in the heights of Anantnag. On February 10, 1994, he was nabbed by the security forces along with Afghani at Khanabal. The Harkat made several unsuccessful attempts to get Azhar and Afghani out of jail before the hijack drama in December 1999. The kidnappers of the five western trekkers in south Kashmir by the mysterious Al-Faran — deemed to be a front for the Harkat — in 1995, had demanded the release of Azhar and Afghani. Then there was an jail break attempt which was also foiled. Afghani was, however, killed by the police, allegedly in a jail uprising. In 1999, when an Indian AirlIner was hijacked to Kandahar, the government was forced to release Azhar and two others.
This marked the beginning of another alliance. Azhar and a Kashmiri militant commander, Mushtaq Zargar alias Latrum, had become friends. According to Azhar, they first met in Tihar jail. This friendship got Zargar out of jail. Azhar, in a write-up in International Mujahid, talks of the strategic benefits of this alliance. Zargar’s Al-Umar outfit had a very strong network across the Valley, especially in his downtown Srinagar, his home. This helped Azhar to set up a base for his group in the city. The other man who was released in the hijack deal was Sheikh Omar, a former London School of Economics student, who later became instrumental in the launch of Azhar’s new group-Jaish-e-Mohammad.
After his release, Azhar had wished to create a conglomerate of all jihadi groups but failed. He had also developed differences with Maulana Fazlur-Rehman Khalil, which finally led to the launch of Jaish which was created out of Harkat cadre loyal to Azhar. His links with the Taliban were well-established during the hijack drama. In another article, ‘From imprisonment to freedom’, soon after his release, Azhar says that he was greeted by Maulvi Mohammad Akhtar Usmani, the Kandahar corps commander of Taliban. When the India plane carrying him and other two prisoners arrived at Kandahar airport, ‘‘the runway flashed by and I was a mixture of emotions. The land where the plane had landed, everything belonging to it was intensely dear to me,’’ he wrote.
Their dramatic release in the land of Taliban came as a decided boost to Azhar and his group. Within months, he struck in the Valley. He also started indigenising his jihadi group by launching a major recruitment drive in the Valley. It’s little wonder then that his first suicide bomber, Afaq Ahmad, was a class 12 student from downtown Srinagar.
ISLAMABAD: International Terror Network Al-Qaeda carried out hijacking of Indian plane in 1998 to secure release of Pakistani militant Maulana Masood Azhar, Abu Jandal former guard of Osama Bin Laden disclosed this in a one and a half hour movie documentary aired by Al-Jazeera on Saturday.
Guard of the most wanted terrorist recalled in the TV documentary that Bin Laden welcomed Maulana Masood Azhar after his release from an Indian jail preceding hijacking of a plane that landed in the Afghan city of Kandahar and was threw a lavish party in honor of the Pakistani militant.
Abu Jandal mentioned the original strategy by Osama Bin Laden to target US Cole in the international waters failed to work in 1998 and instead Al-Qaeda blasted Cole by mistake in Yemen seawaters, something he pointed out was against the then policy of Al Qaeda to undertake militant acts causing embarrassments for Muslim countries.
He also brought on the record precise details on the assassination of Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Masood who he recounted was killed by Al-Qaeda almost a day before 9/11 on the request of Taliban.
Abu Jandal giving details of the release of Maulana Masood Azhar he mentioned on the day of the operation of the hijacking of the Indian plane at the Kandhar Airport the Sheikh told me to get my missiles ready. We had stinger missiles. Within half an hour we declared emergency in the area. The plane was flying over the airport building and than it landed at the Kandahar Airport. When I observed the sign at the plane the word ‘Indian’ was written on it. At that moment I realize that what was happening. When the plane landed then the Taliban forces were seen moving towards the area.
The Al-Qaeda Chiefs guard maintained, I was told that other planes will also follow this plane and there is a danger of the situation getting further worse. They told me that 4-5 persons have been released from India. We were watching all this through telescope. We saw a grand welcoming party for receiving the persons and heard loud noise of firing. After 2-3 days Osama bin laden invited Maulana Azhar and some Taliban authorities at the Kandahar airport at a lavish party at the Kandahar airport. He introduced Mulla Masood Azhar to us and then we sat together.
He told that it was astonishing for us that Maulana Masood Azhar and Osama Bin Laden had old relations.
He was of the view that Osama bin Laden was in favor of targeting US fleets in the international waters but he doesn’t want to do it near an Arab country as the fight was with the West. That is why he doesn’t want to push any Muslim or Arab or any of the Middle East country in the fight.
Abu Jandal told, the purpose of targeting the US fleet in the international waters was to reduce pressure over the Yemenis or any other government as the US Cole use to cruise through many Arabian countries starting from Jabal Tariq, Suez Canal, Al-Mandib Strait and Cyprus. Here it was tried not to attack the fleet but a small mistake took place that was specific to that time
Among the worst victims of this conflict are the Kashmiri Pandits, descendents of Hindu priests and among the original inhabitants of the Kashmir Valley, with a recorded history of over 5,000 years. Over the millennia, this community has been integral not only to the cultural and intellectual life of the people of this region, but the bulwark of its administration and economic development as well. The Pandits have now become the targets and victims of one of the most successful, though little-known, campaigns of ethnic cleansing in the world. Pogroms of a far lesser magnitude in other parts of the world have attracted international attention, censure and action in support of the victim communities, but this is an insidious campaign that has passed virtually unnoticed, and on which the world remains silent. Among the complex reasons for this neglect is, perhaps, the nature of this community itself: where other campaigns of ethnic cleansing have invariably provoked at least some retaliatory violence, the deep tradition and culture of non-violence among the Kashmiri Pandits has made them accept their suffering in silence, with not a single act of retaliatory violence on record.
January 19, 2003, marked thirteen years since what is generally recognized as the beginning of this process of ethnic cleansing as a result of which the Kashmiri Pandits were hounded out of the Kashmir Valley. On this day in 1990, a Kashmiri Pandit nurse working at the Soura Medical College Hospital in Srinagar was raped and later killed by Pakistan-backed terrorists. The incident was preceded by massacres of Pandit families in the Telwani and Sangrama villages of Budgam district and other places in the Kashmir Valley. While the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) claimed a ‘secular’ agenda of liberation from Indian rule, the terrorist intent was clearly to drive non-Muslim ‘infidels’ out of the State and establish Nizam-e-Mustafa (literally, the Order of the Prophet; government according to the Shariah). Accounts of Pandits from this traumatic period reveal that it was not unusual to see posters and announcements – including many articles and declarations in local newspapers – telling them to leave the Valley. Pandit properties were either destroyed or taken over by terrorists or by local Muslims, and there was a continuous succession of brutal killings, a trend that continues even today.
Ethnic cleansing was evidently a systematic component of the terrorists’ strategic agenda in J&K, and estimates suggest that, just between February and March 1990, 140,000 to 160,000 Pandits had fled the Kashmir Valley to Jammu, Delhi, or other parts of the country. Simultaneously, there were a number of high-profile killings of senior Hindu officials, intellectuals and prominent personalities. Eventually, an estimated 400,000 Pandits – over 95 per cent of their original population in the Valley – became part of the neglected statistic of ‘internal refugees’ who were pushed out of their homes as a result of this campaign of terror. Not only did the Indian state fail to protect them in their homes, successive governments have provided little more than minimal humanitarian relief, and this exiled community seldom features in the discourse on the ‘Kashmir issue’ and its resolution.
A majority of the Pandit refugees live in squalid camps with spiralling health and economic problems. Approximately 2,17,000 Pandits still live in abysmal conditions in Jammu with families of five to six people often huddled into a small room. Social workers and psychologists working among them testify that living as refugees in such conditions has taken a severe toll on their physical and mental health. Confronted with the spectre of cultural extinction, the incidence of problems such as insomnia, depression and hypertension have increased and birth rates have declined significantly. A 1997 study based on inquiries at various migrant camps in Jammu and Delhi revealed that there had been only 16 births compared to 49 deaths in about 300 families between 1990 and 1995, a period during which terrorist violence in J&K was at a peak. The deaths were mostly of people in the age group of 20 to 45. Causes for the low birth rates were primarily identified as premature menopause in women, hypo-function of the reproductive system and lack of adequate accommodation and privacy. Doctors treating various Kashmiri Pandit patients assert that they had aged physically and mentally by 10 to 15 years beyond their natural age, and that there was a risk that the Pandits could face extinction if current trends persist. On the conditions at the camps, one report stated that, at the Muthi camp on the outskirts of Jammu where a large number of the Pandits stayed after migration from the Valley, a single room was being shared by three generations. In certain cases at other places, six families lived in a hall separated by partitions of blankets or bed sheets.
Worse, the dangers of this ethnic cleansing are also making inroads into the Muslim dominated areas along the Line of Control and the international border in the Jammu region as well, with Islamist terrorists specifically targeting Hindus in these areas. There is now a steady flow of migration of Hindus from the rural and remote areas of the Jammu region towards Jammu city, and these trends accelerate after each major terrorist outrage.
The Pandits have rejected rehabilitation proposals that envision provision of jobs if the displaced people returned to the Valley, indicating that they were not willing to become ‘cannon-fodder’ for politicians who cannot guarantee their security. The Pandits insist that they will return to the Valley only when they – and not these ‘others’ – are able to determine that the situation is conducive to their safety. “We cannot go back in the conditions prevailing in Kashmir. We will go back on our own terms,” Kashmiri Samiti president Sunil Shakdher said in August 2002 in response to the then Farooq Abdullah regime’s proposed rehabilitation agenda. At the minimum level, these terms would include security to life and property and, at a broader level, a consensual rehabilitation scheme.
The Pandits appear fully justified in their reluctance to fall for the succession of ‘rehabilitation schemes’ that are periodically announced. Any proposal to return the Pandits to the Valley in the past has usually been followed by targeted terrorist attacks. Whenever any attempt to facilitate their return to the Valley has been initiated, a major incident of terrorist violence against them has occurred. The massacre of 26 Pandits at Wandhama, a hamlet in the Ganderbal area of the Valley on the intervening night of January 25-26, 1998; the earlier killing of eight others at Sangrampora in Budgam district on March 22, 1997; the massacre of 26 Hindus at Prankote in Udhampur District on April 21, 1998; and the killing of 24 Kashmir Pandits at the Nadimarg Village, District Pulwama, on March 23, 2003; these are the worst of the many examples of the terrorists’ tactic to block any proposal for the return of migrants to the Valley. These massacres and a continuous succession of targeted individual killings have ensured the failure of every proposal to resolve the problem of the exiled Pandits. It was, again, this pervasive insecurity that led to the collapse of the proposal to create 13 clusters of residential houses in ‘secure zones’ in different parts of Anantnag for the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandit migrants from outside the Valley in April 2001.
The current Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, addressing his maiden press conference at Srinagar on November 3, 2002, said that the rehabilitation of migrant Pandits was one of his government’s ‘top priorities’. The Pandits, however, regard the Sayeed regime’s ‘healing touch’ policy with great scepticism. The regime’s decision to release a number of terrorists and secessionists on bail and the proposal to hold talks “without any pre-conditions” with a mélange of groups actively pursuing the agenda of violence has led a section of the Pandit community to believe that the State government, “is turning a blind eye to our plight…”
For a majority of the displaced Kashmiris, the recent State Legislative Assembly elections held little meaning. Panun Kashmir (‘Our Kashmir’ – a leading organisation of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits), during the run-up to the State Legislative Assembly elections in year 2002, had dismissed the exercise as ‘meaningless’. They said the Election Commission’s decision to make arrangements for Hindu migrants to vote from outside J&K would institutionalise their migrant status. “The move to allow migrant Hindu Pandits to vote at their respective refugee camps only reinforces the mindset that there are no chances for them to return to their homes, ever,” said Shakdher.
A section of the Pandits have demanded a geo-political re-organisation of the State and the carving of a separate homeland for them. While such an extreme suggestion may arise out of the increasing desperation of a people whose plight has been ignored for nearly a decade and a half, the idea itself is fraught with the imminent danger of playing into the hands of religious extremists who seek a division of the State along religious lines.
Their relatively small numbers, coupled with a tradition of non-violent protest, has made the Pandits largely irrelevant in the political discourse – both within the country and internationally – on Kashmir. It should be clear, however, that the many ‘peace processes’ and ‘political solutions’ that are initiated in J&K from time to time have little meaning until these include some steps to correct the grave injustices done to this unfortunate community.
Sh KPS Gill …Former Police Chief of Punjab & expert in controlling terrorism
Excerpts from My Frozen Turbulance in KashmirAnd the truth could be hid Somebody chose their pain What need not have happened did -Auden
Hall of Crooked Mirrors In reply to a question at the Press Conference held by me, after the Congress (I) party did not allow me to speak in the Rajya Sabha on the subject of Kashmir on May 30, l990, I said: “India does not require outside enemies; we are our own worst enemies.” The truth of this assertion is borne out by the highly biased and tangential ‘report’ by a Committee called ‘Initiative on Kashmir’.
The report virtually rationalises and justifies terrorism in Kashmir and provides indirect encouragement to it. It is a highly manipulated exercise in deception, distortion and disinformation. Even the worst enemies of India could not have produced more harmful propagandist material than this report. No wonder it was quoted time and again on Pakistan Television and Radio and also extensively used by it and other detractors of India at the international level.
The inner savagery of the report was matched only by its superficiality, its aggressiveness by its obstinacy not to see the truth. In the name of human rights, it butchered all basic human rights-the right to secure justice; the right to be heard before being condemned; the right not to have reputations built over years of hard and honest work to be sullied by false and motivated accusations and the personal grudges and prejudices of a few individuals.
Could any agency calling itself a human rights body torment a forsaken community like the Kashmiri Pandits? Shorn of its verbiage and progressive veneer, it was really an ‘inhuman report’. It did not matter to it if ‘Y’ was hanged for the fault of ‘X’.
There were some good persons in the ‘People’s Union of Civil Liberties’ Group. But how did their goodness matter if due to their preoccupation or other causes they allowed themselves to be blindfolded by ‘clever’ elements like Inder Mohan who had their personal scores to settle?
The report was a product of compulsive bias. It did not take into account any af the concrete facts and documents cited by me in the preceding chapters. The Committee accepted hearsay evidence of interested parties as authentic, and doctored the statements of persons interviewed to fit into predetermined conclusions. The tragic irony was that in the name of human rights, it did maximum damage to human rights. It forgot that truth is a human right, too. Nor did it appreciate that by providing indirect encouragement to the terrorists and by presenting them and their supporters as victims, it caused more kidnappings, more killings, and more violations of the human rights of the wholly innocent.
The report helped the terrorists ease their conscience and made them feel that they were ‘more sinned against than sinning’. In that frame of mind, they thought that their acts were not unjustified. And they continued with their nefarious deeds-more kidnappings, more killings. Sadai Kashmir, the underground publication of the terrorists, the role of which I have already indicated in the chapter ‘Nature and Pattern of Subversion and Terrorism’, quoted extensively from this report to whip up emotions of the Kashmiri youth and to wean them over to terrorism. This was the service rendered to humanity by the ‘human rights body’. Was it an initiative to help in resolving Kashmir’s problem or an initiative to complicate it by arousing revulsion against the authorities ?
The report, in its introduction, said:
“A four-member team on behalf of the Committee for Initiative on Kashmir, during a visit to Jammu and Kashmir from March 12-16, 1990, ottained detailed information from a large number of sources, including victims, eye-witnesses as well as senior government officials, about indiscriminate killings, arbitrary arrests, unlawful searches, unprovoked assaults on peaceful demonstrators and a complete dislocation of normal life due to imposition of indefinite curfew for months together with rare breaks of a few hours. The team found, in the course of investigation, that these abuses have been carried out by the official law-enforcement personnel-the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force), the BSF (Border Security Force) and, in certain cases, by the Indian Army. That these cases of blatant violation of human rights were not isolated instances of aberrations, but operative extensions of an official policy was evident to the team members when they met senior administrators who justified such actions on the ground that they were necessary to contain terrorism. “
The conclusions are so sweeping, so vague, that the inbuilt bias of the Committee becomes self-evident to a discerning mind. These conclusions, moreover, are drawn with such an air of authority that it would appear that they have been arrived at after months of painstaking research. But what was the time span of this ‘research’? lt was four days and that, too, during the time when the shadows of the terrorists’ guns were looming large over the Valley and no common man or so-called disinterested intellectuals would dare say anything except what the terrorists and their supporters wanted them to say. Truth, as everyone knows, is the biggest casualty under terrorism.
What was the standard of objectivity in attributing statements to those whom the four-member team met? Here is a telling example.
In regard to the discussions with the Chief Secretary, the report recorded:
“He felt that during the last three years under Dr. Farooq Abdullah the State administration had become excessively corrupt. He, however, pointed out that the All India Services personnel in the State were the only people who were not corrupt. In other words, except IAS most of whom were outsiders, according to Takkar, all Kashmiri employees and politicians were corrupt.
It was clear that R.K. Takkar did not trust the people of Kashmir. But the bias became very clear when we discussed the Chhanpora incident on 7th March. He said, ‘Chhanpora is a trouble spot. The people are with the terrorists. They will do anything to spread disinformation.’
The last point that we raised was the migration of non-Muslims from the Valley. We told him that people of all communities had told us that government transport was provided to Hindu families to leave the Valley. He denied it. When confronted with evidence he claimed that it could have been done by individual government officials but it was not the policy of the State Government.”
When the Chief Secretary was requested to comment on this report by the Home Department, in the usual official routine, this is what he said in writing:
‘The report does grave injustice to what I had stated. Many wrong statements have been attributed to me while some other statements have been quoted out of context. My detailed observations on each major point are as under:
(a) I did state that the high level of corruption and nepotism that obtained during the three years of Dr. Farooq Abdullah’s Government was one of the major contributory factors to the present trouble in the State. I am not so stupid as to believe or suggest that alll members of All India Services are honest and all other public servants are corrupt.(b) In regard to shortage of drugs, allegations of excesses by security farces during curfew etc., I suggested to the committee that they must take care to discount the disinformation that vested elements are interested in spreading.
(c) It is totally mischievous for the Committee to suggest that I do not trust the people of Kashmir. In fact, I was at pains to suggest to the Members of the Committee that most of the news analysis on the present crisis in Kashmir has failed to discount the elements of fear and the element of euphoria under which the people have been acting. In fact, I faulted the media and the people in the rest of the country for believing that all the people of Kashmir are on the path of insurgency.
(d) in regard to migration of non-Muslims from the Valley, I had stoutly challenged their assertion that the State Government has provoked or sponsored it. When they suggested that they have come across use of Government vehicles for the purpose, I told them that individual misconduct by a Government servant in the use of a Government vehicle in his custody cannot be ruled out in such a situation. I volunteered to take disciplinary action in case specific information was brought to the notice of the Government. Members of the Committee promised to send me the details of such vehicles but have failed to do so till date.”
It is an elementary principle of justice that if any statement or view is attributed to any person on sensitive issues like the ones in question, the statement or the view should be in writing; in the alternative, the gist of the discussions should be sent to that person for confirmation before it is incorporated in any report. It is both unfair and unethical to put words into the mouth of certain persons to suit the conclusions which the team had, perhaps, already drawn. The Chief Secretary was fully justified in complaining that the report did grave injustice to what he had stated. Nor was he wrong when he attributed mischief to the Committee. The fact that the team was bent upon presenting predetermined conclusions would be evident from its unfulfilled promise of giving particulars of the government vehicle allegedly used by the migrants.The other senior functionaries concerned also furnished their comments on the report. This is what Mahmud Rehman, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), said in his comments:
“It is also wrong to allege that the first day of Governor’s rule was marked by raids and searches conducted by the security forces with the ostensible objective of flushing out the terrorists. These raids* were already planned according to the
*See Chapter 1: ‘My Frozen Turbulence’ and Ved Marwah’s report quoted therein.
security needs and intelligence reports and no orders on this subject were issued by the new Governor.
The Committee has wrongly mentioned that within 2 days of the imposition of Governor’s rule the security forces were given the powers of search, seizure and arrest. It is common knowledge that the BSF, CRPF and the Armed Forces Acts have been extended to the State long ago.
The Committee has made a totally wrong observation that unarmed demonstrators and peaceful crowds were fired upon by the para-military forces. All possible efforts were made to minimise the use of force and only in self-defence the firing has been resorted to.
The incident of Chhanpora of March 1990 has been blown out of proportion. After the militants fired on the CRPF picket, a search of the Chhanpora locality was conducted. On receipt of complaints a posse of women police was deputed to the area and no case of molestation could be established. Subsequently, the women wing of JKP also investigated the matter and gave a similar report.
It is difficult to appreciate as to how the Committee has come to the conclusion that the common man in the Valley is prepared to have a dialogue with the Central Government.
Allah Baksh, SSP, Srinagar, was not promoted because of any attack on unarmed demonstrators. Allah Baksh was able to persuade people to desist from violence and in appreciation of his role in dispersing the crowds without use of force he has been promoted to the rank of Addl. DIG and it is also incorrect to say that he has superseded several officers. In fact, Allah Baksh has not superseded anybody.”
In his comments, Amar Kapur, Additional Director-General, Police, pointed out that the facts and figures given in the report were not correct. He asserted that from December 1989 to May 15, 1990, 134 innocent persons were killed by the militants. The killings of 71 Hindus during this period created fear among the minority community and accelerated the pace of migration of Kashmiri Pandits. “There is no truth”, emphasised Kapur, “that the State Government extended help to the Pandits to leave the Valley.” Jamil Qureishi, Adviser to the Governor, incharge of Law and Order remarked:
“I don’t know how the PUCL has given such a preposterous version without even caring to meet the Adviser incharge Law and Order.”
In respect of the Chhanpora incident, Qureishi said:
“Apart from the fact that this was the scene of the cold blooded murder of four IAF officers, Chhanpora has been a hideout of militants where they have not only been finding support, but where they have been assiduously cultivated to foster and execute a network of safe houses. Uptil now quite a large number of security personnel have lost their lives and limbs in the highest traditions of service.”
About the curfew, Qureishi asserted:
“As regards the allegations that curfew is being thoughtlessly perpetrated, nothing could be farther from the truth. Curfew by itself is no security measure but is imposed as a necessity for conducting certain operations which follow incidents of murder and mayhem by the militants and to keep the casualties to the minimum.”
It should be evident from the above that the narrations of events in the team’s report were not only one-sided but also based upon statements wrongly attributed to the only officer they met. Those making the allegations never met any of the persons against whom the allegations were made. Nor did any member of the team try to find out whether the persons accused of committing atrocities had anything to say in rebuttal of the allegations.
Thus, all basic principles of natural justice were ignored by those who claim to be upholders of justice. All norms of fairness were violated by the champions of human rights. The background of events was ignored. The doings of the terrorists were implicitly supported. Peaceful diisposition of the mob was taken for granted, while the administration and the security forces were presumed to be cruel and callous in their behaviour.
In the march from primitive to civilized life and securing justice, the right to be heard before being faulted was the first major achievement of humankind. Ironically, this crown of all human rights was the one that was thrown aside by the so-called human rights body. Its approach, though hidden underneath its progre- ssive stance, was really primitive, propelled more by prejudices than by calm and dispassionate consideration.
The haughty yet hollow assertions of the Committee stand thoroughly exposed by the school bus incident leading to firing at Tengpora on March 1, 1990. The report of the Committee reads:
“Following widespread protests against the killing of bus passengers at Tengpora, the Army conducted an inquiry into the incident under the directions of the government. The report of the inquiry sought to justify the killings on the ground that the people had pelted stones at an Army vehicle carrying school children of military personnel. Local people whom we interviewed dismissed the inquiry report as blantantly false, since all the schools in the Valley were closed at the time for winter holidays. Incidentally the J. & K. government issued an order on February 20th asking schools, colleges and other educational institutions to remain closed till March 15.
Attempts by the army authorities to justify their killing of bus passengers at Tengpora on that day, by inventing a false story, are a further blot on the country’s defence forces who are required to be a highly disciplined cadre dedicated to the task of protecting our people.”
Just note the tone and tenor of the accusation about inventing a false story and the air of moral rectitude that is assumed. But what are the facts? The boot is on the other leg. It is the team which has invented the false story that all schools were closed. The army school was open. The students were taking their examina- tions during the period. The committee’s team did not care to contact the headmaster of the school or any of the students or parents or army officers concerned. Why? The lapse is intentional. Had the team contacted the persons concerned, it would have found the truth. But then, how would it have drawn the predeter- mined conclusions?
I reproduce below the letter cated April 25 of S.N. Drabu of New Delhi which was published in the Indian Express of May l, 1 990:
“Sir: Apropos Ms. Suhasini Mulay’s letter (IE, April 19). I want to put the record straight for the benefit of your readers and for Ms. Mulay’s benefit also.
Ms. Mulay is the Executive Secretary of the Committee for Initiative on Kashmir and she is naturally sore because the Governor of the J. & K. State, Mr. Jagmohan has dismissed the report of the Committee as ‘totally incorrect’. She has tried to cover her embarrassment and indignation by posing smart and quoting ‘just one instance’ to pinpoint and expose ‘inconsistency’ in Jagmohan’s argument. She writes, ‘As a matter of fact, the much circulated allegations of an attack on an army bus carrying school children referred to by Jagmohan as a reason for firing by army guards (in Tengpora on March 1) turned out to be false, as our inquiries revealed and there was no question of any school bus plying on that day since all the schools in the Valley remained closed till March 15 under government orders.’
But there is nothing incorrect or incongruous in the ‘allegation’. The bus in question was carrying children of the Army Public School, situated in the cantonment area of Srinagar. This school, unlike other schools of the Valley, reopened after winter vacation as scheduled on February 19. So the govemment notification extending winter vacation in the educational institutions of the Valley beyond March 1 (the usual date of reopening after winter break) did not apply to this school. The annual examinations in the school started towards the end of February and on the fateful day of March 1, it was the second day of examination. The army bus that was bringing children from Barzulla, Hyderapura, Peerbagh and other areas to the school situated in the Badamibagh cantonment, was attacked at Tengpora by a frenzied mob comprising the subversive elements and their supporters. And it was precisely after the mishap that the Army Public School too was closed for an indefinite period like other educational institutions in the Valley. Ms. Mulay can get these facts verified from the parents of the children reading in that school, army personnel or civilians, Hindus or Muslims.
It is very sad that the Committee which made inquiries from persons who deliberately distorted the facts, calls its findings objective and unbiased. To be liberal, outspoken and smart is all right. But one should not fall prey to the machinations of fundamentalists whose sole aim is secession of Kashmir from secular India.”
It should be obvious that Ms. Mulay and the Committee really followed Swift’s dictum: “When you are doing a fault, be always pert and insolent and behave yourself as if you are the injured person.
Another letter dated April 20 of Thakur Dass of Jammu which appeared in the same newspaper on the same date, was equally revealing. It said:
“Sir, This refers to the letter of Ms. Suhasini Mulay, Executive Secretary, Committee for Initiative on Kashmir (IE, April 19). It is correct that all State government schools in the Valley were closed till March 15 (they will remain closed till May 1, according to a subsequent order) but the Srinagar Army School in question opened on February 20 after the winter vacation. The examinations for various classes started from March 1 and it was on this day that the army bus carrying students of the Arrny School, mostly wards of the defence personnel, was attacked by some anti-India demonstrators near Tengpora. These are undiluted facts which could be verified from the terrified students or their parents.
If members of the Commiltee had gane to the Valley, they were under moral obligation to cross-check the facts before casting aspersions on our Army, much less arriving at conclusions which are detrimental to the national interest. If they have any doubts, they are welcome to check the facts from the defence authorities who run this school, or from the Principal of the school, Chaturvedi.
These intellectuals and so-called champions of civil liberties, in their eagerness to run down Jagmohan and the Indian Army, have provided enough material for anti-Indian propaganda in the foreign media. Pakistan made full use ot these reports to build up anti-India feelings in Muslim countries.
The people, at least of J. & K., would like to know which senior government officer and the officers of the security forces they have met and depend on for their assessment. Propriety demands that the names of such officers be disclosed.”
The Commiltee restricted itself to the local people whom it supposedly interviewed. Who were these nameless people? What were their affiliations? In the opening paras, I pointed out that the Committee relied upon hearsay. But it was not only that; it relied upon the hearsay of the unknown.
The false allegations against the Army and the State Administration for having invented the school bus story, made with such cocky aggressiveness, did immense damage to national honour and the country’s international standing. There was not a single correspondent, foreign or local, who met me and did not make adverse observations about it. While the report of the committee was published in the world media, thanks to the resources and contacts of the PUCL, the letters like those of S.N. Drabu and Thakur Dass, published in some inconspicuous corners of a newspaper, were hardly noticed.
There are many other false observations in the report which call for comments. For want of space, I will give below only a few of them.
On page 23 of its reports, the Committee says:
“When we asked our Muslim interviewees why, in spite of their assurances of protection to their Hindu neighbours, the latter were leaving the Valley, they came out with an explanation which need to be gone into. We were told that the Administration, and Jagmohan in particular, had encouraged the migration by advising the Hindus to leave and by arranging government transport for their departure.”
Who arranged for the trucks? Which department of the Government was concerned? On which date or dates were these trucks moved? Who were these nameless Muslim interviewees? And what was the basis of their saying that Jagmohan in particular encouraged the migration of Hindus? The Committee’s team did not bother about such questions. Nor did it show its face to the Chief Secretary again when he asked about the precise details. It could not, because the allegations were sheer concoctions.
The Committee intentionally suppressed written evidence to the contrary As an instance, I would invite attention to the press note issued on March 7 by the State Government. It said:
“Jagmohan, Governor, J. & K., has appealed to the members of Kashmiri Pandit community not to leave the Valley even temporarily. He said that law and order machinery was being rebuilt. With the appointment of Special Commissioners and Special DIGs for the newly created Divisions of Baramulla and Anantnag, the authority at the State was being re-established. The senior officers have been specifically charged with the duty of giving protection and safeguarding the minorities and restoring confidence amongst them.
Jagmohan also appealed to the members of the community who have temporarily migrated to Jammu to return to the Valley. He offered to set up temporary camps at four places, namely, Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramulla and Kupwara for those who will return from Jammu. In these places Rest Houses or some other suitable buildings would be requisitioned.
Jagmohan said that accommodation in these camps would be free and arrangements for food and other facilities would also be made. Necessary medical cover would also be provided in each camp. For going to their houses occasionally, a pool of vehicles will also be provided in each camp so that the members of the community could go to their houses with escort. For administering these camps and for attending to the problems of these camps, a separate Relief Commissioner would be appointed.
Jagmohan requested the President and the Secretary of All State Kashmiri Pandit Association, who called on him today, to persuade those who have migrated to Jammu temporarily to return to the Valley.”
This omission, apparently intentional, confirms the view that the Committee saw and heard only what it wanted to see and hear. The Committee’s compulsive bias of finding fault with me becomes too glaring to be missed.
Real Cause: Blood-Chilling Face of Terrorism
Since the Committee and the like of them did not look to the real cause-the blood-chilling face of Kashmiri terrorism-let me show it to them.
B. K. Ganju: A ‘friendly neighbour’ of B.K. Ganju, a telecom- munications officer and an old resident of Srinagar, told him that he had seen in the nearby mosque a list of persons to be ‘finished’, and that the name of Ganju was included therein. He and his wife were frightened. They did not really know whom to turn to for help. They apprehended that approach to local police might hasten their end. They spent the night looking at each other with vacant expressions. Sometimes. tears would involuntarily roll down their eyes. In their feverish imagination, they would hear knocks at their doors. And yet, for a few moments, they would hope against hope. Why should they be killed? What wrong had they done?
The night of their agany, which seemed never to end, ultimately gave way to a cold and chilly dawn. Mrs. Ganju went to her prayer room, but did not dare to switch on the light. Then, she went to the kitchen to prepare tea in semi-darkness. While they were taking tea, the telephane rang. They dared not pick it up. It would ring again and again. And their hearts would miss more and more beats. Even their tea seemed to have frozen with fear. They simply could not feel its warmth.
At about 9 a.m. came the knock at the door. “Where is Ganju Sahib? We have an urgent work with him”, came the voices from outside. “He is not at home. He has gone to office”, Mrs. Ganju replied. “It cannot be. How can he go to office so early? Please open the door and realise the urgency of the matter”, pleaded the visitors from outside. She refused. She even stopped responding to the voices. Then, the knocks were no longer there. The callers had apparently left.
Mrs. Ganju opened the upper window a bit and peeped outside. No one was to be seen. But this did not give her any relief. She advised her husband to ring up the police and his own officers. He did. Hardly had he done so when they heard a terrible pounding upon a jammed wooden plank and a sort of old window which gave an opening to Ganju’s house from the neighbourhood. Someone was trying to break into the house. They froze with fear. But, somehow or the other, Mrs. Ganju was able to persuade her husband to go to the roof and hide himself in one of the old vacant drums with heaps of gunny bags around.
Within minutes, the two intruders were inside the house-one with a Kalashnikov and the other with a pistol. They looked for Ganju in every nook and corner of the house. They found that one small room was locked from outside. They thought that Ganju was inside. They asked for the key. She pleaded that it was with her brother-in-law who had gone out of station. They were furious. They smashed down the little door but found no trace of Ganju. They left saying, with blood-thirsty eyes, “how long can a rat escape?” Mrs. Ganju never understood why her husband was being called a rat.
At the corner of the street, the two visitors received a signal from one of the neighbouring houses. They ran back, climbing the stairs of Ganju’s house with lightning speed. Mrs. Ganju stood motionless, with her legs paralysed. She knew where the intruders were heading for. She soon heard a burst of bullets and slumped down to the floor. Her husband lay dead on the roof, with the gunny bags soaking up his blood. The drum had rolled over towards the stairs. Nothing seemed to affect the intruders. Quietly and smoothly, they walked away. This time they did not even look at Mrs. Ganju, a half-dead woman. They paid no heed to her anguished sobs.
The Committee’s members and the like of them did not even attempt to see any of the hundreds of frightened pigeons like Ganju in the cruel cages of Kashmiri terrorism. Nor did they have the time or the inclination to hear the sobs and anguished cries of their widows and other dependents. They had their predetermined streets to visit, predetermined class of persons to interview, predetermined conclusions to draw, and the predetermined target to assail and ask for his recall.
Prof. K. L. Ganju: Ganju was a venerated lecturer in the Sopore Agricultural College. His scientific sense told him that Sopore had become a snake-pit and he and his family members could be stung by the poisonous fangs anytime. But his inbred Kashmiri sentiments led him to the contrary conclusion. “Why should anyone harm him; after all, he had not even hurt a fly in his lifetime; he had served the local community well and had a number of Muslim friends and admirers”, he would argue within.
On May 2, 1990, when K.L. Ganju, his wife and his cousin ‘Pista’ were having dinner at about 9 p.m., four armed men, one with a Kalashnikov and the others with pistols, appeared at the door and ordered all the three to come out with them.* Even the sheep, when taken to the slaughter house, moan and make attempts to escape. But these, the three hapless individuals, pale, aghast and with their blood curdling in their veins, must walk to their chamber of death in silence. Almost all the neighbours in the locality saw them being taken away. Some of them recognised the armed intruders who belonged to the known local terrorist group of ‘Luskar Ayub’. But none of the neighbours moved an inch, not even to plead for mercy. They just kept watching. Even after the captives and their likely slaughterers had moved away from the scene, no neighbour took the trouble of informing the nearby CRP picket. Informing the local police, of course, would have been a mere formality; they, perhaps, knew about it. But even that was not done.
K.L. Ganju and his two companions were taken to the assigned place of their execution near a mosque on the bank of the River Jhelum. From a point-blank range, six bullets were pumped into his body. When the first bullet was about to be fired, his hands moved involuntarily diverting the aim of the shooter. The bullet hit Pista on the tip of his heels, injuring him slightly. He jumped into the river and somehow or other managed to swim to safety. After a couple of days of fearsome hiding in the Valley, he escaped to Jammu.
For some unaccountable reason Ganju’s corpse was kept in the mosque for the night and then thrown into the river. According to one of the assassins, who was arrested later, Mrs. Ganju, too, was ruthlessly killed and her corpse was tied with stone and thrown into the Jhelum. But her dead body was never recovered.
So much for the neighbours whose empty words and ineffec- tual assurances the Committee’s team considered relevant.
From Srinagar and Sopore, let me take you to the rural Kashmir and show you how pitiless the monster of terrorism could be.
*These narratives are based upon the disclosures made by the assassins after their arrest and also upon the statements of the survivors.
‘Premi’: Premi’s tragic story is the story of a poet-a poet who was a messenger of love, compassion, truth and justice, a poet who had translated Bhagwad Geeta into Kashmiri language, a poet who had kept a copy of Quran reverentially in his house for regular study, and a poet who, in his long career as a government teacher, had illumined many minds and given them the most precious of all gifts, education. It was this noble soul that was done to death, along with his 27-year-old young son, in a most treacherous and brutal manner.
After retirement, Serwanand Koul ‘Premi’ lived with his family in his village Shali in District Anantnag. He spent most of his time writing articles for local newspapers and magazines and in academic pursuits.
Some of the members of his family often expressed apprehensions about their safety in the remote village and suggested migration. But Premi would invariably overrule them, saying that migration from the soil in which he was so deeply rooted was unthinkable. Did he not, moreover, have a number of old students and friends in the area to take care of him and his family?
But the fact that the world of his poetic beliefs and sensibilities had ceased to exist and old loyalties and friendship had become powerless in the face of the fierce assault mounted by the forces of fundamentalism and fanaticism, dawned upon him and others around on the late evening of April 30, 1990, when three armed men, like hungry wolves, anxious to trip their prey by fair or foul means, appeared at Premi’s door. They herded all the inmates in one room and asked the 67-year-old Premi to accompany them to their ‘camp’ for answering a few questions.
Some Muslim neighbours appeared on the scene and interceded on behalf of Premi. But their mild protests had no effect. The messengers of death, moreover, were trained in the art of deception. They swore in the name of their religion that no harm would be done to Premi. His son, Virender Koul, however, insisted that whatever questions had to be asked could be asked in a separate room in the house. But the intruders did not agree. How could they? They had to take him to their torture cell. They also took Virender Koul along.
No one reported the matter to the police, not even his relatives and lifelong Muslim friends. The climate of fear had numbed all old attachments.
After two days of painful anxiety came the dreadful news. Two dead bodies had been found hanging with their limbs broken, hairs uprooted, and portions of their skin slit open and burnt.
I am personally aware of many other blood-chilling incidents of the type described above. But considerations of not merely being objective but also appearing to be objective require that I should prefer to invite attention to the experiences of Kashmiri Pandits as narrated by them to a team of the Illustrated Weekly of India (in the last week of March). These narratives bring out the compulsions which led to the flight of the Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley.
The following is the experience of Sudesh Kumar, a law student of Kashmir University.
“T.K. Razdan, an intelligence officer, was killed right in front of my eyes. We were travelling in the same Matador when some militants stopped it, pulled out their guns and fired at him from close range. They then dragged the body out and took it to the nearby mosque. They checked his pockets, took out his identity card and nailed it to his body, then laid out his body on the open road. It was only later that the police came and carried it away. The body was cremated by the CRPF.
The relatives were so terror-stricken that they were afraid to even come out for the cremation. His murder really shook me.
Again, one day in February, I ran into a ‘jaloos’. To avoid being identified, I too joined them, shouting slogans. I also called for ‘azadi’ for Kashmir that day. I hailed Pakistan and condemned the ‘Indian dogs’ – there was little else that I could do if I had to live that day.
Then we received a threatening letter from the militants. They had slipped in under our door. The letter ordered us to leave Srinagar, otherwise they would do to us what they did to A.K. Raina.(Deputy-Director, Civil Supplies, who was shot dead in his office). Our neighbours tried to pressurise us and promised to protect us but we decided not to take any chance. My father who works in the education department, my mother, a sister, two brothers and my grandfather escaped at 3 a.m. one night in a hired truck with some luggage.”
Here is another aspect of the Kashmiri reality as seen through the eyes of Jai Bhagwan, a Telephone Operator at the Institute of Medical Sciences, Srinagar:
“Today we are suffering and living like dogs because we are Indians and stood for India. Had we changed our religion and raised pro-Pakistan slogans we would have been safe in Srinagar and our future would have been secure….
The militants took control of my institute. Their task became easier because they had the tacit support of the hospital authorities. Meanwhile, killings by the terrorists became more and more indiscriminate.
One evening when I was returning home, two young men asked me the time. When I replied, they started beating me up. They told me to adjust my watch according to Pakistan standard time. The same evening the house of a Kashmiri Pandit in the neighbourhood was burnt down. On the following nights our area was pelted with stones and bottles filled with petrol. When we lodged a complaint the police officers refused to provide us guards, pleading that they did not have enough men. Their attitude completely demoralised us. After these incidents the Kashmiri Pandit families in our area, Nai Sarak, started migrating.
In the Institute the schism behween us and the Muslim employees increased. Some of them were so close to the terrorists that they had prior information about bomb blasts and killings. One day they asked me to change my religion or leave Srinagar. That really scared me and that night, along with my wife, two children and father I left our three-storeyed house in search of security. A couple of days later four of my colleagues, including a nurse, were killed by militants. Two of them were kidnapped while on duty. Their dead bodies carried marks of severe torture. Their eyes were gouged out, their limbs- broken and chests spotted with burns. Now in New Delhi I am left with no money. In Srinagar no one wants to buy our house. Who will buy it?” This is what Dr. Agni Shekhar, a writer, has to say:
“I have done a Ph.D. in Hindi from Kashmir University and published three novels. A few months ago I received a note from some of the militant outfits saying that Hindi was the language of kafirs and I should stop writing in Hindi, otherwise I would be exterminated…. Soon enough I learnt that I was not the only one. My brother, too, who has been a TV artiste received threats…. And one day some men came to my house asking for me. My mother told them that I was not at home…. I noticed that there was a man seated at some distance under a street lamp and could see his gun. They had come to kill me! I wasted no time and escaped through the backyard. I hid in a friend’s house for 10 days, and at the first available opportunity came away to Jammu. My brother who had received death threats had already run away to Madhya Pradesh.”
And this is the narrative of a young staff nurse, Seema Raina, about her experience:
“I fled that Valley along with my family in January. But soon I mustered up enough guts to go back to collect my pay on February 1. All went well till I had collected the cash token from the Institute’s branch of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank; then, all of a sudden a huge procession came. They were raising anti-national slogans along with the usual fundamentalist ones like ‘Kashmir mein agar rehna hoga Allah ho Akbar-kehna hoga’ (If you wish to live in Kashmir you have to say ‘Allah ho Akbar’) and ‘Dil mein rakho Allah ka khauf haath mein rakho Kalashnikov’ (One must have the fear of Allah in the heart and a Kalashnikov in his hand).
My pulse was racing. Just then I heard gun-shots and within a few minutes, a group of gun-wielding militants barged into the bank. They asked everyone to leave and threatened the manager with dire consequences if he dared to make any more payments. This was the first time that I had come face to face with armed militants and was trembling with fear. I said to hell with the salary, it is not more valuable than my life. I got out of the bank, mingled with the demonstrators and then disappeared. I took the first available transport to Jammu and have not even thought of returning to the Valley.”
Another aspect of human tragedy unfolds itself through the words of a poor driver of Srinagar Radio Station, Triloki Nath Kaul:
“My whole life was destroyed, laid waste. But for what was happening in the Valley, my wife would not have died. My wife was ill with shock and constant fear that the terrorists would kill us all. They didn’t kill her directly, but indirectly they did….”
What can you say of a Committee which comes out with a proposition that it is not the fearsome environment, it is not the brutalised landscape, it is not the ruthless Kalashnikov of the marauders, it is not the bomb explosions and fires, it is not the threatening telephonic calls, it is not the hysterical exhortations for ‘Jihad’ from hundreds of loudspeakers fitted on the mosques, it is not the ‘Tirana-e-Kashmir’ of having Quran in one hand and a rifle in the other, it is not the fall-outs of grave human tragedies of Ganjus, Tikkus and Premis, it is not the sinister design of ‘killing one and frightening 1,000’, but the inducement of the trucks that have impelled the Kashmiris to abandon their homes and hearths in the cool and crisp Valley and to move to the hot and inhospitable camps of Jammu. What can you say of the judicial attributes of ex-High Court judges who allow their names to be stamped on such propositions ! And, if old-age casualness or stubbornness is not the cause, what can you say of a country’s legal system, where such judicial luminaries could throng the State’s highest courts at some point of time or other!
Call it disinformation or deception, superficiality or shallowness, carelessness or casualness, subjectivity or bias, the fact remains that a good section of the country and the world was misled about the so-called ‘induced migration’ of the Kashmiri Pandits. Such was the damaging effect of the Committee’s report which in essence was nothing short of a cruel joke on the victims of a grave human tragedy.
Where, incidentally, are the truck numbers which the Committee promised to supply to the Chief Secretary? Why did it not publish these numbers in the report itself? And where are the plots, their numbers and their localities which are supposed to have been allotted to Kashmiris as inducements by Jagmohan’s administration?
What will be the verdict on a nation which allowed its people to be divided and its international image to be undermined by such banalities and superficialities as were churned out by the likes of Inder Mohan and Miss Sohali under the benign umbrella provided by ’eminent’ persons?
The ‘Save Kashrniri Pandit Campaign Committee’ poignantly says in an appeal issued by it: “Is it not an exhibition of heartlessness to impute motives to our decision of migrating from the land of anarchy and violence or to allege that the migrants left at the biddings of the highest-up in Srinagar. Must we tell these partisans that nothing is more distasteful to a Kashmiri Pandit than even the remotest thought of leaving the land which he loves only as a son would love his mother.” The appeal emphasised:
“The choice as forced on us by Pakistan-led terrorists who have imposed their writ on Kashmir, taken an unending toll of innocent human lives, wrought death and destructions, bombed and blasted residential as well as public buildings, not sparing even the schools.
We did not want to migrate. We love our land, our Kashmir, every inch of its bounteous soil which has nourished us all; we love every drop of its cool and clear water, every blade of its greenest grass. For us, bidding farewell to the soil we have sprung from is too traumatic an experience to be conveyed in words. Will you believe the symbol of wedlock of Kashmiri Pandit womenfolk ‘DEJIHORU’ (a kind of mangalsutra generally made of gold) changed hands, enabling our loved ones to get a lift in goods-laden trucks bound for Jammu? Many village folk from Southern Kashmir, men, women, and children, old and young, sick and infirm, trudged on foot the long stretch of the hazardous, snow-bound mountain terrain from Verinag to Jawahar Tunnel only to come out of the range of fire of the terrorists’ deadly Kalashnikovs.”
The Kashmir Migrant Forum, in its statement issued on May 1, 1990, expressed similar views on the Committee’s report:
“What can be more cruel, more insulting to the people who have been made to flee their ancestral land through tactics of terror and subversion, killings and kidnappings, bomb blasts and arson, and forced to live a miserable life in some rotten refugee camps in tropical heat. Do these self-styled champions of human rights consider the highly intelligent and educated Kashmiri Pandits to be so naive as to abandon their homes, property and jobs all for the sake of rumour? Or do they think that they are away on a collective picnic in Jammu, Delhi and other places of the country?
V.M. Tarkunde and his friends had gone to Srinagar with a pre-set mind, eager to buy the militants’ line lock, stock and barrel, pick up fault with the Jagmohan administration and blame the security forces for all sorts of excesses.” What the Kashmiri Pandits stated in their ”Appeal to the ‘people of India”, is equally incontestable:
“We migrants were forced to abandon our homes and hearths, our jobs and business enterprises, our fields and orchards, because the armed militants killed many of our loved ones brutally, in broad daylight, without any reason, without our having ever given them the slightest provocation now or in the past. History is witness and the majority community will acknowledge that we have stood by them at all times of trials and tribulations and contributed our mite to the peace and well-being of our homeland.
The militants warned us, our families, our children through posters, that no one was going to protect our lives and property. They stoned our houses especially during dark nights, day in and day out, breaking window panes, hurling abuses and invectives; they forced many of us at gun point to join anti-national demonstrations which they used as cover for firing at security personnel inviting counter-fire, thus endangering our very lives; they yelled at us through loud-speakers fitted in each mosque: ‘Death to infidels; Kashmir shall become an Islamic State; those who do not accept it will be pronounced traitors; death to minorities – the agents of India.’
Tragic, very tragic, is the story of our forced migration. But far more tragic is the story of how the armed militants came to impose their Nazi-like dominance over entire Kashmir, over every sector of its life. How could those openly dubbed ‘agents of India’ continue living in violence-torn Kashmir when the State administration, until the arrival of Jagmohan on the scene as the new Governor, had melted away completely, so much so that the militants forced, in the fundamentalist style, closure of all cinema halls, video and beauty parlours, wine shops, bars; held an armed parade on Pakistan’s national day in Srinagar stadium and defiantly unfurled a Pakistan flag; bombed branches of Indian banks, post offices, Central Government offices; coerced them to have the word ‘Indian’ erased fram their front entrances; received salutes from senior Kashmir police officers, imposed at gun-point what came to be called ‘civil curfew’, total bandh, violation of which by some led to bombing of their establishments and also brutal killing of the owners; flew atop public and private buildings, even State and Central offices, secessionists’ flags; ordered on pain of death switching off of electricity at times of important national telecasts.”
Acute scare had gripped the Kashmiri Pandits from September 1989 onwards. At that time, the community had started feeling what it felt when it was hounded out by the Afghans in the second half of the eighteenth century:
“O heart, there is fear
And dread in the city
Prepare for journey
Disorder is dominant in this city.”*
In a memorandum dated January 16, 1990, submitted to my predecessor General K.V. Krishna Rao (Retd.)! the Kashmiri Pandit Sabha, Jammu, and other organisations, said:“The ineffectiveness of the State Government has not been able to check loot, arson and killing of innocent people. Instead of the Government, it is the militants who are the de facto rulers in the Valley today. The ruling political forces are solely concerned with their own survival avoiding the wrath of the secessionists. Happenings in Anantnag, Sopore,
*Quoted from Anand Kaul, Kashmiri Pandits. Calcutta. 1926.
Baramulla, Tral, Murran, Pulwama, Ishber, Vicharnag, Shopian and other places in the Valley are indicative of the fundamentalists’ designs regarding their planned targets of attack on the minorities. On 15th December 1989, in Shopian, men, children and old women of the minority community were mercilessly attacked and women-folk molested. The murder of Mahant Keshav Nath, Tikka Lal Taploo, N.K. Ganjoo, Prem Nath Bhat, Ajay Kapoor and others, was to create scare and awe among the minority community to force them to leave the Valley. The pace of exodus has further accelerated now.
It is a sad commentary on the present administration that not even a single assailant of the minority leaders and others has either been identified or apprehended by the Police till now. The fully Pakistan-trained underground elements who are armed with modern weaponry openly engage in battles with the Security Forces, which unmistakably speaks of the inefficiency of the State Government and alleged involvemement of some of the high-ups in the State Government itself. The statement made by Ali Mohammad Sagar, Minister of State, as appeared in the Press on 13.1.1990, suggesting setting back the clock to 1953 position is indicative of the working of the minds of the National Conference political bossess.”
In fact, for quite some time, Kashmiri Pandits had been feeling extremely insecure. I vividly remember their fear-stricken faces when I visited various villages and towns of Anantnag District after the riots of February 1986. In this regard, I can do no better than reproduce the letter which I wrote on March 5 to the Home Minister, S.B. Chavan, with a copy to the Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi:
“I have toured almost all the affected areas of the four districts – Anantnag, Srinagar, Baramulla and Doda. I have visited practically every damaged building, religious or private, in villages, towns of Wanpoh, – Lukbhavan, Fatehpur, Gautamnag, Salair, Akoora, Sopore and Doda.
The damage done to individual property – houses and shops – and temples of Kashmiri Pandits is substantial. But much greater damage has been done to the psyche of the Kashmiri Pandits. They are now living like frightened pigeons. In some villages like Wanpoh or Bonigund, Akoora and Salair, their terror-stricken faces reminded me of the picture of the war-time German Jews slated for the gas chambers. On seeing me, they started weeping and bewailing loudly, and demanded immediate evacuation from the Kashmir Valley. They did not want monetary or any other kind of relief. They argued that, since their property, honour and lives were not safe, relief was meaningless for them. To the best of my ability, I assuaged their injured feelings. But it would take a long time for their wounds to heal, if they heal at all.
It is unfortunate that inaccurate reports were sent by the State Government and District and Divisional Administration to me and the Central Government. What I saw al the site was vastly different from what was reported to me. For instance, the damage done in village Bonigund, which suffered the most grievous attack on February 20, 1986, has not been indicated in the report of the State Government sent to the Central Government as late as March 4, 1986. Here, 7 houses were totally burnt, 8 partially damaged and looted, 3 temples and cne shop demolished burnt. This village is not even 3/4 km away irom the District Headquarters. This fact alone demonstrates the many-sided infirmities of the present set-up in regard to which in depth analysis has been done in my montnly reports from time to time.”
Kashmiri Pandits and the Quirks of their History
Ever since I saw the plight of the Kashmiri Pandit community from close quarters in February 1986, I have been pondering over its curious fate. It is a community whose history generates envy at their achievements as well as sorrow at their plight. In one way, its members have played a dominant role in ruling India after August 1947. In another way, it has been hounded by a deep sense of insecurity in the Valley. In one way, again, it has been a well-knit community, and in another way hopelessly divided and leaderless. Its long history* has been one of triumphs and tragedies – steady and silent triumphs and tumultuous and terrible tragedies. Like Kashmir’s weather, its bright, sunny, cool and crisp days have been punctuated by those of floods and famines and of grey and depressing clouds.
The antiquity of the Kashmiri Pandit community and its Aryan origin are well established. As noted in Chapter II, except during Harsa’s time, when the Kashmiri ‘purohits’ were persecuted, they constituted a powerful elite group during the reigns of Hindu kings. Their material needs were mostly met by the royal families and establishments. Such was their influence on society that, by resorting to collective fasting, they could virtually force the monarch to concede their demands, reasonable or unreasonable.
After the establishment of the Muslim Sultanate, the community underwent its most tragic phase during the regime of Sultan Sikander (1389-1413) and his fanatic Chief Minister, Suha Bhatta who, ironically, was himself a Kashmiri Brahmin before his conversion. Persecution and forcible conversions knew no limits. As Ferishta recorded, “Many Brahmins, rather than abandon their religion or their country” poisoned themselves; some emigrated from their native homes, while a few escaped the evil of banishment by becoming Mohammedans.” Rajtarangini of Jonaraja portrayed the same tragic reality in these words: “The Brahmins fled to foreign countries, the son left the father and the father the son. The difficult terrains through which they passed, the scanty food they ate, the painful illness and the torments they suffered during their lifetime removed the fear of hell from their minds. Only eleven Pandit families were left.”*
* Anand Kaul, Kashmiri Pandits, Calcutta, 1926; Cambridge History of India, Vol. III, and Walter Lawrence, Valley of Kashmir.
Maybe the number of eleven is only symoblically true; but the fact remains that at the end of Sultan Sikander’s rule, the Kashmiri Brahmins were reduced to a microscopic minority largely through conversion, persecution and consequent migration. As narrated in Chapter II, Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin (1420-1471) reversed the policy of religious persecution and allowed the migrants to return and the local converts to reconvert. In the end of the fifteenth century, however, under the influence of Shams-ud-Din Iraqi, the Kashmiri Brahmins were once again persecuted.
The fifteenth century, thus, turned out to be one of the most fateful periods in the history of Kashmiri Pandits. Before this century, the community was intact and divided into 199 exogamous ‘gotras’,* the members of which claimed descent from the ‘rishi’ whose name the ‘gotra’ bore. To these ‘gotras’ were now added the distinction between the Kashmiri Pandits who withstood the persecution and stayed in the Valley and those who migrated and later on returned. The former were known as ‘Malmasis’ and the latter ‘Bhanamasis’. In popular parlance, those who stuck to their faith were known as ‘suchi-haddi’ (pure bone) and those who reconverted as ‘jhuti-haddi’ (already tasted bone).
By the time the Mughal rule commenced in Kashmir, the Pandits had regained their poise and position. They identified themselves with Mughal manners and modes of administration. Their proficiency in Persian, the court language, proved a great asset. The Pandits became the backbone of the structure of governance at the middle level. Their prestige in society was also enhanced by Emperor Akbar’s visit to the Martand Temple and offering a cow, with garlands of gold and jewels, as a gift. From the insignificant figure of 11, their number also increased. Their number was estimated by Abul Fazal, during Akbar’s regime, at 2,000. (Abul Fazal, Ain-e-Akbari)
With the decline of the Mughal Empire, misfortune once again visited the Kashmiri Pandits. Some of the Mughal Governors were fanatics and resorted to forcible conversion. The story of Kashmiri Pandits approaching Guru Tegh Bahadur, which has already been recounted in Chapter II, is revealing in this regard. The Afghan rule occasioned another period of terror for them, as it was for other Kashmiris.
Over the years, Kashmiri Pandits migrated to different parts of northern India. This was largely due to the combined effect of occasional persecution at home and opportunities available in the Mughal Court at Delhi, the Sikh Darbar at Lahore, the
*Brahmanical gotra may be defined as exogamous patrilineal sibship, whose members trace their descent back to a common ancestor’ (Dictionary of Hinduism, Margaret & James Stutley).
kingdom of the Nawab of Avadh, and the native States of central India and Rajputana. Destitution consequent upon the famine of 1831, (Walter Lawrence, The Valley of Kashmir (Srinagar, 1895) which resulted in reduction of the population from 800,000 to 200,000 in the Valley and the famine of 1878, in which three-fifths of the population perished, played not an insignificant part in their migration. The tradition of going on pilgrimage was another factor, though the pilgrims moved from the Mandir to the Darbar at the first available opportunity. Pandit Kishen Das, the great-great grandfather of Raja Narendra Nath, for example, “went from the temple along the Ganges to the fort along the Jamuna and ended at the Mughal Court”.
In respect of Kashmiri migration, Dhanavanthi Rama Rau, in her memoirs, An Inheritance, observes:
“They (Pandits) arrived and learned to live in what was almost a different country to them. They were obliged to alter their dress from the loose robes and distinctive headcovering of Kashmiris to the Hindu saris for women and pajamas and long coats for men, or to the trousers and tunics dictated by the Muslim Mughal Court. They had to learn a new language, adopt a new cuisine and get used to the flat, dry landscape of the North Indian plains. However, they continued to cling to their names and the customs, rites, and ceremonies that belonged particularly to their community.”
The Kashmiri Pandits who migrated had little in common with the Brahmins of northern India. While the latter were highly conservative, strictly vegetarian, and, with a few exceptions, deficient in learning and true knowledge of religion, the Kashmiri Pandits were meat-eaters, scholarly, well versed in Persian, and both adaptive and traditional. They were also liberal in their thoughts and beliefs. While the menfolk took to social norms of the rulers, composed Persian and Urdu poems, and participated in and attended Court ‘Mushairas’, poetry symposia, the womentolk strictly observed all the rituals of religion and sang ‘bhaj ans’ (devotional songs) at home. The migrants also developed a tendency to be somewhat self-centred. They kept few contacts with friends and relations at home. They developed a hybrid culture which had some invisible roots in the Valley and some fresh ones in the new soil of their settlement.
Forsaken by All on a Rough Sea
Whatever be the vicissitudes of their history and whatever unkind quirks their fate might have brought to them in the past, these all pale into insignificance when we reflect on what is happening to them at present.
When viewed in all its dimensions, the current phase of Kashmiri Pandits’ misfortune is the most calamitous. The grim tragedy is compounded by the equally grim irony that one of the most intelligent, subtle, versatile, and proud community of the country is being virtually reduced to extinction in free India. It is suffering not under the fanatic zeal of mediaeval Sultahs like Sikandar or under the tyrannical regime of the Afghan Governors, but under the supposedly secular rule of Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh and the like whose unabashed search for personal and political power is symbolised by the callous and calculated disregard of the Kashmiri migrants’ current miserable plight and the terrible future that stares them in the face. And to fill their cup of sorrow, there are bodies like the ‘Committee for Initiative on Kashmir’ which are over-anxious and over-active to rub salt into their wounds.
In a soft, superficial, permissive and, in many ways, cruel India which has the tragic distinction of creating over one lakh refugees from its own flesh and blood and then casting them aside like masterless cattle to fend for themselves on the busy and heartless avenues of soulless cities, the chances for Kashmiri Pandits to survive as a distinct community are next to nothing. Split, scattered, and deserted practically by all, though for different reasons, they stand today all alone, looking hopelessly at a leaking, rudderless boat at their feet and an extremely rough and tumultuous sea to face before they can reach a safe shore across to plant their feet firmly on an assured future.
Tragically the migrants’ own kith and kin, their own high-placed stalwarts, too, have forsaken them. Where are those influential Kauls, Sukhdars, Nehrus and Dhars? Why have they not come forward and provided solace and meaningful leadership to the indigent and resourceless migrants? I have seen tears flowing from the eyes of these hapless migrants and also perceived the imprints of terror permanently etched on their minds. I have no doubt that had these great sons of the Valley taken the trouble of flying even for a few hours to Jammu and seen the true face of Kashmir in the camps, they would not have remained mute spectators of the tragedy or contented themselves with sterile discussions at seminars sponsored by the interested parties. If nothing else, they could have helped in countering the disinformation spread by them. And if, during the course of this endeavour, they could assuage the sufferings of these unfortunate people, they would have earned something for the life to come.
The deep crisis through which the Kashmiri migrant, or for that matter the entire Kashmir, is passing is really the crisis of Indian values – the perversion, in practice, af its constitulional, political, social and moral norms. If you visit the camps of the refugees and try to extend the hand of justice to a community in distress, if you instruct that, instead of cash doles, the migrant Government servants should be given leave salary, and if you concede the demand of the widow of a person brutally killed by the terrorists for allotment of a house on payment, you become communal, a ‘known anti-Muslim’, about whom concocted stories would be published in the press, and who would, even when an opportunity comes to expose the blatant falsehood in Parliament, not be allowed to speak, and would be obstructed by members from different corners of the House. If, on the other hand, you falsely accuse the Indian Army and Governor’s administration of inventing stories as in the case of the school bus incident narrated above, if you assail the Administration and ‘Jagmohan in particular’ for giving inducements through provision of plots and trucks, without giving particulars either of the plots or of the trucks, your accusations get published in the press, your reporls are flaunted in national and international forums and are copiously quoted in Parliament, and you are labelled as secular and progressive and a champion of human rights and what not.
A few other basic questions in regard to the plight of Kashmiri Pandits have often cropped up in my mind. How are these unfortunate victims of avoidable tragedy connected with the commissions and omissions pointed out by me in the chapters titled ‘Roots, ‘Nature and Pattern of Subversion and Terrorism’, and ‘Warning Signals’? Why do they have to suffer the conse- quences of the treacherous sabotage of my Operation Rescue as detailed in the chapters titled ‘Approach, Attack and Counter- attack’ and ‘Acquiring an Upper Hand’? The only answer that I can find to these questions is that, perhaps, it is another quirk of the Kashmiri Pandits’ destiny that they have to suffer for the sins committed by others.
Another Web of Distortion
Let me now turn briefly to another web of distortion – “Kashmir Imprisoned” – the second report of the Committee for Initiative on Kashmir. For want of space, I would lay bare, as illustrations, only a few thick threads of this foggy jumble.
At page 38 of the report, one Ghulam Hassan Mohju, 65, narrates his tale of torture by the Central Reserve Police. In the concluding portion of his narrative,* he says:
*Except for correction of ‘he’ and ‘I’ jumble, this narration is a reproduction from page 38 of the cyclostyled report.
“The doctor came and some medication was provided. When I was asked about the weapons, I said that I had lied to save my life. Again the beatings started. Again I said, ‘Yes I have weapons’ and fell unconscious. A three-star officer came in and I told him, ‘If I tell you lies you stop and at the truth you beat me.’ Then, they made me wear a uniform. I was put in a jeep and was brought back to Baramulla around 5 a.m. They dug the grounds and searched my house, and took me back. Again the beatings started. Then they handcuffed me and threw me in a rubbish heap, thinking that I was dead. Two days later, finding me still alive, they took me to Sopore police station and left me there.”
This concoction is writ large on the face of the story. Just imagine a man being ‘considered’ dead by the CRP, instead of having it ascertained from the doctor who was available. Just imagine the CRP being so foolish as to throw the ‘dead’ man on the rubbish heap of Baramulla – the man whom they are supposed to have picked up from his house in the presence of his people. Just also imagine a 65-year-old man severely beaten and handcuffed lying on the rubbish heap in Baramulla for two days and nights, without being noticed by anyone in a town where even a fly cannot buzz in your ears without the whole town coming to know about it. Just imagine further, the CRP team coming again after two days to the same spot, and, without being noticed by anyone, picking up the ‘dead’ man and taking him, of all places, to Sopore police station.
“He lies like an eye-witness.” Does this Russian proverb not fit perfectly to the above narrative of Mohju? And what can one say about the perception and bona fides of a Committee which accepts this narrative and records it in its report without asking obvious questions? The Committee does not stop at mere recording. It assumes the posture of a High Court and observes: “What was very disturbing was the casualness with which the Security Forces could perpetrate violence.”
At page 33 the report records, and obviously accepts as true, the following allegation of a group of women lawyers:
“Women BSF tell us to say ‘Jai Mata Ki’ and threaten to take the girls to Delhi and make them prostitutes or to take them to ‘mandirs’ (temples) and put tilak on them. Is this secularism?”
To any knowledgeable person, the fabrication is too glaring to be missed. The BSF has no women’s wing. The mala fide of those making the allegation as well as those accepting them are evident. The sinister design also betrays itself. Expressions like ‘Jai Mata Ki’ are coined to convey a particular kind of impression. The allegations are made not by ordinary folks, but by lawyers who are well versed in law and are otherwise active in public affairs. It also becomes clear that the Committee is ignorant even with regard to elementary matters and yet it has the audacity to speak with an air of great authority on the subject.
On page 62, the Committee refers to the allegation made by Abdul Ahmed Safi of Kanthbagh, Baramulla. He says, “On the night of April 24-25, the Army picked me up at random along with 49 others, and we were made to eat faeces and drink urine in public.” Stray references to Baramulla searches are also made in other portions of the report
When a complaint containing the above and similar other allegations, signed by a number of lawyers of Baramulla, arrived at my desk, I had it immediately sent to Baramulla’s Special Commissioner, C. Phonsog, and Corps Commander Lt.-General M.A. Zaki. This is what Phonsog said in his report:
“On request of the security forces, the District Administration placed at disposal of the former four magistrates and four police parties by 6.00 a.m. Searches were commenced simultaneously between 6 and 8 a.m. and carried out in broad daylight and were concluded by 6 p.m. A large number of people, both men and women from different areas affected by the search, met me during the following days. None of them made any mention of molestation of women, stealing of valuables, outrage to religious shrines or scriptures, damage to property, extortion or confession under pressure, tying of people to trees, forcing them to drink dirty water or smearing of face with human night-soil. All those whose houses we.e searched mentioned, without exception, that there was not a single instance of even as much as a needle having been lifted from any of their homes. They found the officers supervising the searches generally kind and understanding.”
General Zaki’s report corroborated the facts stated by Phonsog, a senior IAS officer hailing from Ladakh.
From the above-quoted reports and other inquiries made by me, it became clear that no allegations were really made by the residents affected by the searches on April 25, 1990. The allegations were subsequently concocted by a group of lawyers of Baramulla who were Jama’at-i-Islami’s activists and included in the memorandum sent three days after the incident to the authorities and the press. The Committee goes by these concocted allegations. Even otherwise, could anyone, aware of the outlook and disposition of our civil and military officers, believe that such misbehaviour, as alleged, would be permitted by them?
Methodology of Suppression and Omission
A characteristic feature of both the reports under discussion in this chapter is their methodology of suppression and omission of material facts. Let me cite a few examples.*
At page 26, the report titled ‘Kashmir Imprisoned’ says:
“Governor Jagmohan amended this section by deleting the words ‘in the State’. As a result of this amendment anyone detained under the Act in Jammu and Kashmir can be transferred to any part of the country.”
Significantly, the Committee omits to indicate the ratianale of my decision. It also suppresses a vital fact. The Supreme Court of India accepted the rationale of the amendment and upheld it.
The laws of all other States as well as the Central laws provide for detention in States outside the State to which the detenu might belong. What is valid and justified in regard to other States should be equally valid and justified for the State of Jammu & Kashmir, particularly when it is in the savage grip of subversion and terrorism.
The Committee alleges that, except in the case of Kashmiri Pandits, no cornpensation was offered to the dependents af those killed in the State. Here again, the Committee suppressed material facts. Compensation was offered to all innocent victims of terrorist violence. The widows of Mushir-ul-Haq and Abdul Ghani were paid Rupees two lakh each – one lakh from State Government and one lakh from the University. The son of the latter was also given a job in the University as a lecturer. The family of the young Muslim government servant; who was killed in the Jammu disturbances, was also paid Rupees one lakh. His brother was given a job in the State Government. Compensation was also offered to the Muslim families whose two relations were klled in the firing by the security guards when a UN jeep was attacked. But they were afraid of accepting the amount, as the terrorists had held out a threat that anyone accepting compensation from the Government would be suitably dealt with. Of course, no compensation could be offered in cases
*These examples are in addition to the school bus incident and other matters pertaining to the migration of Kashmiri Pandils, cited earlier in this chapter.
where a person died while indulging in terrorist activity and challenging lawful authority by violent means.
For the innocent victims of cross-firing, compensation was never refused. I had, in fact, reiterated my decision on a number of occasions, and the State Administration even issued a press note which is reproduced below:
“Governor Jagmohan has constituted a high level committee to recommend suitable ex-gratia relief in cases where persons might have died or suffered injury accidentally in cross-firing, or where there was no involvement in militant and violent activity but injury was suffered. The Committee would be headed by Hamidullah Khan, Chief Secretary (Law and Order), and its two other members would be Mehmood-ur-Rehman, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), and Jalil Ahmed Khan, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir. The Committee could recommend an amount up to Rupees one lakh in each case, and would have to submit its recommendations to the Governor within two months and cover all the incidents for the last one year. The cases in which relief has already been sanctioned could also be considered by the Committee for upward revision.”
In its obsession to condemn the Governor’s Administration and to paint it as devil incarnate, the Committee suppressed all the humanistic elements upon which my approach was really built. It intentionally ignored my policy statement of January 19, 1990, in which I had declared:
“Constitutionally, I would be a Governor. But, for all practical purposes, I would function like an orderly – a nursing orderly – to help the patient with love, compassion and service to regain his health.”
The Committee did not refer to such published letters as I had written to Dr. Khan, on February 8, after the death of his son, Shabir, in which I said:
”Let us create a situation in which no policeman is seen on the streets and they remain full of tourists and thriving people. Let us impress once again on our young brothers to see the futility of the cult of the gun and understand the magnitude of all-round misery that it has caused. Let us assure them that if they abandon the path of violence we would treat them with care and compassion. Let no more Shabir die. Let no one feel the permanent loss of our near and dear ones.”
The Committee, again took no notice of my communication of May 7, 1990, to officers in which I exhorted them in no uncertain terms:
“While the beastliness and malignancy of terrorism have to be rooted out with unfaltering hand of a surgeon, we must not forget that our real fight is against the forces of poverty, backwardness and economic and administrative injustices. Please remember that we are not scoring any point against anyone in the entire State, we have only one family. Some of our brothers, who have gone astray, have to be brought back to the fold of this family.”
The Committee also made no mention of my radio and television broadcasts in which I fervently reminded the Kashmiri youth that our country’s destiny lay not in barbarism, but in compassion, not in fractured cultural fabric, but in unity amidst diversity.
The Committee’s compulsive bias also led it to make contradictory observations in regard to the registration of complaints of alleged excesses. The police were given instructions to register all complaints against the security forces even if such complaints appeared to be motivated, doctored or false. During the period January 19 to Mar 26, 1990, twenty-four complaints were registered as listed in Appendix XVII. In regard to the inci- dents of firing by the BSF on February 7, 1990 I even ordered an inquiry by the Srinagar District Magistrate, Ghulam Abbass. But the Committee suppressed these hard facts. Instead, it took a queer stand. If a case was registered, it was taken as an admis- sion of guilt. If there was no registration, the administration was accused of being so callous as not to even register complaints. The Committee’s dictum appeared to be: “heads I win; tails you lose”.
This Committee also took no notice of absence of killing in ‘police encounters’, the allegation in respect of which were so common in Punjab.
The Committee was equally unfair to our valiant para-military forces. It did not appreciate the fact that our jawans, hailing from such hot regions as Bihar and West Bengal, had to stand for hours together in chilly winds, with heaps of snow around, and suffering surprise and swift attacks from Pakistan-trained guerrillas who showed no compunctions of conscience to use the non-combatant population as their shield and camouflage.
The Committee does not condemn the terrorists for intentionally exposing the innocent people to risks of death. Instead, it finds fault with para-military forces who have to choose between dying as sitting ducks and resorting to defensive firing and pursuing the offenders to apprehend them. Nothing could be more demoralising to our forces than being subjected to totally one-sided, and mostly concocted, versions of the agents of terrorists. The Committee listens to highly coloured and grossly exaggerated versions of an Assistant Engineer but does not find time to hear the anguished cries of the kith and kin of a young BSF doctor who was gunned down while going to the succour of the injured persons from both sides.
Inder Mohan and his Unclean Hands
Inder Mohan’s role in weaving the webs of distortion needs to be specially mentioned. It would, apart from making known how the affairs of organisations like PUCL are being run, reveal why ‘Governor Jagmohan in particular’ was being blamed and associated, without any evidence whatsoever, with alleged lapses and excesses of security forces.
The cat came partly out of the bag when the Indian Express published a letter jointly written by Inder Mohan and George Mathew. Ironically, this letter got published in the same issue of the paper in which the two letters of S.N. Drabu and Thakur Dass, exposing the perjuries of the Committee in regard to the Army school bus incident appeared. The letter, inter alia, stated:
“Several citizen groups and organisations have visited Kashmir to gauge the situation and the feelings of Kashmiris. Some of us have had occasion to relate personally to their suffering. In fact, Jagmohan has come to be identified in popular perception as a symbol of repression with shades of an anti-Muslim bias. We are not surprised. The Governor’s recall is in our opinion a precondition to build the confidence of Kashmir in its common destiny with India.”
It should be evident to a discerning mind that the real objective of Inder Mohan and the likes of him was to manoeuvre my recall. Their methodology was to carry out false propaganda at a high pitch, making use of the resources and the forum of the PUCL, and then ask for my recall on that false propaganda.
The unclean hands of Inder Mohan, are seen in another letter of his published in The Hindustan Times of May 16, 1990. This letter was in response to a report which appeared in The Hindustan Times of April 30 under the caption ‘PUCL Report Flayed’. After questioning the validity of the observations made in the report about the encouraging results achieved by the Governor and after claiming that the PUCL report was based on “first-hand direct knowledge acquired by the team members”, Inder Mohan wrote in the aforesaid letter:
“Why was Jagmohan so keen to oblige his Home Minister by releasing five hardliners in exchange for his daughter?”
Inder Mohan knew perfectly well from his first-hand knowledge that I was not the Governor of the State at the time of Rubaiya Sayeed’s kidnapping (December 8, 1989) and her release (December 13), and that one of the reasons for my being sent to the State again on January 19, 1990, was the total collapse of the Kashmir Administration and its virtual take-over by the subversives. But Inder Mohan’s expertise in the art of disinformation impelled him to make the accusation, believing that a large segment of the Indian populace would not be remembering, in mid-May 1990, the true position of the case. his game plan, obviously, was to level false allegations after spicing them with seemingly acceptable slants of “first-hand knowledge” and hope that a sizeable section of the people would take it.
As Trotsky once observed, the modern tragedy, in essence, lies in the wider conflict between man’s ‘awakened mind and his constricting environment’. The more motivated a person is to do something creative, the worse he is likely to be treated by his compatriots. This, unfortunately, has been the experience, in post-Independence India, of practically all those who have tried to set the moorings of public affairs right by way of deeds and solid work, instead of harpmg on mere words and empty rhetorics.
During my fairly long innings in the Delhi Development Authority, I had to undergo a similar experience, when I attempted to bring some order in the chaotic conditions and ensure planned development of the metropolis. I came into conflict with a number of vested interests. A part of my experience has been narrated in my books – Rebuilding Shajahanabad: The Walled City of Delhi; Island of Truth; and The Challenge of Our Cities.
In Jama Masjid-Red Fort complex,* in the improvement of which I was specially interested, I came into conflict with Inder Mohan who, supposedly, was doing some social work in the area. After the lifting of Emergency in March 1977, Inder Mohan spread a number of incorrect stories about me, intentionally and knowingly and with a design. Some of these stories found place in some post-emergency books – ‘instant histories’ written in haste by journalist-writers with whatever ‘material’ they could lay their hands on, as everyone was keen to beat the other in the race for early publication. Persons like Inder Mohan got ample opportunities to pass on their motivated stories to these journalists. Consequently, a number of glaring inaccuracies crept in, particularly with regard to the city’s clearance programme.
So far as the Emergency, its imposition in June 1975 and its operation till March 1977 was concerned, I had nothing whatsoever to do with it, being the Vice-Chairman of Delhi Development Authority at that time. But the post-Emergency period, in its early phase, was swayed by a persecution mania. I was unjustly pilloried, primarily because I refused to step out of my Island of Truth and shift the alleged blame on Mrs. Indira Gandhi or Sanjay Gandhi. All the schemes executed by me
*For my blueprint of the complex, see Chapter VI of my book Rebuilding ShahJahanabad
during the Emergency were part of the Delhi Master Plan and the subsidiary projects envisaged under it. These were approved by the Union Cabinet and Parliament or other competent authorities much before the imposition of Emergency. Undoubtedly, the work pertaining to the ‘planned development of Delhi’ attained tremendous acceleration during the period; but this was largely due to the hasty retreat of vested interests who earlier caused some obstruction or the other.
In my book, Island of Truth, published in early 1978, I pointed out all the inaccuracies in the post-Emergency books and also referred to the vicious atmosphere in which contributions of persons like me, instead of being appreciated, were condemned. The truth of my assertions was so unassailable that I swore the whole of the book as affidavit and filed it in the special Court of Justice M.L. Jain in which Mrs. Indira Gandhi was being prosecuted on the basis of the Shah Commission’s findings.* The then Government, or anyone else, did not muster, enough courage to file counter-affidavit to challenge any of the facts recorded in the book.
In the Preface and in the opening lines of Chapter I, I indicated my motivation for writing the book in the following words:
“Mine is an island of truth – truth in its essence, truth in its basic framework. I intend to take you to this island. But for reaching this island, we have to pass through a turbulent sea of falsehood. The island, too, is desolate and deserted. Of late, it has been visited by marauders and systematically pillaged and shorn of its greenery. The sentinels themselves have been terrorized.
Notwithstanding the silence and sullenness that has gripped this once buoyant and thriving island, I hope to show you a few spots from which the reality may emerge, and you may be able to see true reflections even in a cracked mirror. You may realize that what was done in Delhi during the emergency was development and not ‘demolition’. It was a dawn, not a doom.
*The findings of the Shah Commission were subsequently declared null and void by the Delhi High Court.
How many of us have been told that before the operation ‘resettlement’ the squatters were scattered on road berms, slushy and stinking beds of the river dnd embankment of ‘nallahs’ etc. in 1,400 haphazard clusters. 72 per cent of which had no water taps, 69 per cent no lavatories, 68 per cent no storm water drains and 63 per cent no street lighting? How many of us have been told that in one year about 2,000 acres of developed land, the market value of which exceeds, Rs.200 crore, has been distributed amongst the urban poor, and that this is the biggest socialist measure ever taken in the city of any developing country in the world?
And what about the much-maligned Turkman Gate incident? Is it not shocking that none of the writers of the Turkman Gate story makes it clear that the area had been declareld unfit for human habitation, that the houses in question had been acquired, that, as was tragically demonstrated by eight subsequent deaths due to collapse of houses, the inmates lived under constant risk of death, and that, against 120 houses cleared, about 1,000 alternative allotments had been made, including 200 flats in the most attractive colony of Ranjit Nagar/Patel Nagar and 20 commercial plots? Why no one speaks of the compensation, of beautiful flats, or of liberal terms of allotment of plots and commercial sites, the market value of which would run into several lakhs? Why everyone speaks ol bulldozers knowing that they were used, as in the last decade or so, for clearing the debris?
When the autumn is gone, the storm blown over, and the dust and haze of ignorance and prejudice settled down, the true faces of those guilty of falsifying history will stand exposed. Today, by their own queer logic of slant and slander, they may paint a false picture. But what will be the verdict of history? How will they- escape the terrible consequences of their falsehood? Will not their murky soul stifle and destroy them? Truth can be hid, but not for all times.
The book has been written from a roadside shelter in which I have taken temporary refuge during the current torrential rain. I seek forgiveness if a drop or two has leaked from my shelter and drenched a few of my papers. Truth, moreover, by its very nature is not tactful and has no tactics.”
In Chapter VI titled ‘Lies, Half-Truth and Convenient Conscience’ and Chapter VII titled ‘Untold Story of Turkman Gate’, I laid bare the true position and also briefly referred to the role of lnder Mohan. The Sunday magazine published excerpts from the former chapter in its two issues of July 30 and August 6, 1978. Inder Mohan was stung. Truth annoyed him. Instead of appreciating my motivation, he resorted to aggressive and browbeating tactics. He virtually came to calling me names and labelled me ‘liar’ in the rejoinder which was published in the same magazine in its issue of August 20, 1978.
To vindicate my position, I filed a defamation suit (Suit No. 828 of 1979) against him in the Delhi High Court on July 23, 1979. In addition to the submission that Inder Mohan’s accusations were false and defamatory, I cited fifteen concrete examples to show how grievously I had been wronged. The portion of the suit which incorporates these examples has been reproduced in Appendix XVIII. A perusal of this appendix would show to the public, including Inder Mohan’s friends and mentors in the PUCL, the extent to which he could go.
Had there been any truth in the so-called facts of Inder Mohan, he would have contested them in a straightfolward manner. Instead, he resorted to all sorts of means to delay the proceedings. The suit dated July 73, 1979, was against the publication dated August 20, 1978, and was clearly within the limitation period. But Inder Mohan brought in the date of Mainstream. The Judge rightly rejected his diversionary tactics and ruled that the case should proceed. But by some course of events, the direction of which I have not been able to ccmprehend, the case got fixed before the Court, presided over by Justice Rajinder Sachar, which gave stay order.
The case is still pending at a preliminary stage after twelve years of its institution. I have mentioned the details not only to demonstrate the infirmities of our legal system and to stress the urgent necessity of introducing judicial audit* but also to raise a
* I had the opportunity to attend almost all the Governors’ Conferences held from February 1980 to 1990. In these conferences, I have been stressing the importance of effecting institutional reforms, including introduction of judicial audit. For no system, perhaps, has deteriorated in the post-Independence India as much as the legal system.
basic question with regard to the attitude of Inder Mohan. Why is he afraid of getting the truth of his or my assertions ascertained by the High Court? If he is hoping that I would get tired on account of his delaying tactics, he is mistaken. For I have not taken the issue on a personal plane only; I also want to show, maybe in a limited way, how public opinion in this country is being misled and how someone trying to put in solid and sound work, can be harassed or intimidated.
Should a person of Inder Mohan’s background or hostility to me have been allowed to use, directly or indirectly, the material and financial resources of tihe PUCL to carry out false propaganda against me and in the process undermine the national effort to free Kashmir from the clutches of savage terrorism? I would leave this question for consideration to the general public and well-meaning persons in the PUCL. Already, some discerning persons like M.V. Rama Murty, Vice-President, PUCL, Andhra Pradesh, have expressed their sorrow over what the ‘Committee for Initiative on Kashmir’ has done. This is what Rama Murty wrote in his letter of May 5 published in the Indian Express on May 1990:
“I read the report of the PUCL team published in your paper with anguish in my heart. It has departed from the accepted policies of PUCL.
The militants among the terrorists by their conduct infringed upon the civil liberties of the people. This point was not prominently brought out in the report. It should not be the concern of PUCL to canvass support for the militants indirectly on the ground that the demand of the people of Kashmir is for independence and not for joining Pakistan. It is not given to PUCL to assess the minds of the people of Kashmir when there is no known method of gauging public opinion.
It is beyond the purview of PUCL to suggest reconciliation. One wonders whom the team had in mind. Is it the section of militants that must be appeased or the leaders of public opinion in Kashmir who did not raise their little finger to condemn violence on the part of militants?
The PUCL team erred in not drawing a lesson from the fact that some Hindus have taken shelter in camps at Delhi also. The team should not have opined that setting up of camps was not necessary.
In sum, the report is highly subjective and not supported by facts.”
Dimensions of the Hall of Crooked Mirrors
These, then, are the dimensions of the hall of the distorted mirrors which the “Committee for Initiative on Kashmir” built on the foundation of deception, suppression, casualness, prejudices, personal vendetta, and arrogance. No one could have done greater injustice under the pretensions of justice. No one could have violated more craftily the fundamental human rights in the name of human rights. No one could have danced with greater ecstasy to the drum-beats of subversives and their agents. No one could have embraced more enthusiastically the sinners and slaughterers. No one could have overlooked the blood-thirsty jaws of terrorism that consumed innocent persons like the Ganjus, the Premis and the Tikoos. And no one could have resorted to a greater degree of suppression and intentionally turned a blind eye to hard facts and data, such as the occurrence of about 2,000 violent incidents, including 500 bamb blasts, in a year before the imposition of Governor’s Rule.
All crimes were ignored by the Committee if the cry was for ‘azadi’ and not for merger with Pakistan. All activities became non-communal if, along with Kashmiri Pandits, some Muslim ‘informers’ and ‘traitors’ were also killed, even if the decision to pronounce the persons informers and traitors were taken by the murderers themselves. The Committee did not see any of the propaganda and motivational literature, soaked in blood and dagger terminology and the battle cry of Quran in one hand and sword in another. Nor did it come across even a single case out of the scores of cases of connivance, collusions and conspiracies, including the well-publicised case of Srinagar Jail break in which twelve hard-core terrorists escaped after weaving deftly the chain of conspiracy in which practically every official concerned got involved.
The Committee intentionally glossec over the known written instructions* of the leaders of the subversives operating from Pakistan which said: ‘Continue your propaganda both inside and outside your houses and localities. Keep also in full swing the propaganda campaign against the security forces, and false and reckless allegations** should be made.”
The Committee wove a pattern which was similar to the one woven by Goebbels during the Second World War. No wonder, it succeeded for a while and played its part in seeing me out of the State. But history does not rest in the lap of such manipulators for long. Truth soon tears the veil of falsehood and the guilty either sink into oblivion or get buried under the debris of their own hall of crooked mirrors’.
A few journalists like Balraj Puri and Kuldip Nayar, who show an amazing capacity to sacrifice truth to propitiate their one-eyed goddess of ‘secularism’, have, taking advantage of their easy access to the press, been persisting with the untruth, initially spread by the aforesaid ‘Committee on Kashmir’, that I was responsible for the ‘migration’ of the Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley. They, too, stand thoroughly exposed. Exasperated by their false propaganda, H.N. Jattu, President, All India Kashmir Pandits Conference, sent a letter/’write-up’ to The Tribune, Chandigarh, The Excelsior, Jammu, and a few other magazines. This letter/’write-up’, citing documents and concrete evidence, effectively demolishes their castle of concoction. It is reproduced in Appendix XXVI.***
*There were written instructions contained in the booklet written by Raja Mohammad Muzaffar Khan of ‘J. & K. Liberation Front’.
**There are a number of cases in which false allegations were intentionally coined. A touch of authenticity was imparted by procuring helpful statements from local officials who were either part of the subversive network or too terror stricken to refuse. One such well-publicised case was of “rape of 23 women of Kunan in the Valley on February 23, 1991-. After a thorough enquiry and spot visits, the Press Council of India concluded: “The Kunan rape story on close examination turns out to be a massive hoax orchestrated by militant groups and their sympathisers and mentors in Kashmir and abroad, as a part of a cleverly contrived strategy of psychological warfare and as an entry point for reinscribing Kashmir on the international agenda as a human rights issue. The women of Kunan have been tutored or coerced into making statements derogating their own honour and dignity. This cruel exploitation of simple women through demeaning self-abuse is itself a deplorable human rights violation.”
***The letter was published in The Tribune of October 28, 1993 and the ‘write-up’ in The Excelsior of November, 1993.
Mr.JagMohan ( Former Governor Of Jammu & Kashmir )
The instrument of surrender was signed at Ramna Race Course in Dacca at 16.31 IST on December 16, 1971 , a day familiar to every Bangladeshi, by Jagjit Singh Aurora, Commander-in-chief of Indian forces in the Bangladesh and General Niazi ,Commandar of Pakistani forces in Bangladesh .Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora accepted the surrender of Pakistani forces led by General Niazi.The signing of the document ended the war, and led to the formation of Bangladesh, the name of the new country (later reduced to a single word) was used in the instrument of surrender, which declared: “The Pakistan Eastern Command agree to surrender all Pakistan armed forces in Bangla Desh to Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Indian and Bangla Desh forces in the Eastern Theatre.”
Aurora accepted the surrender without a word, while thousands cheered. He was hoisted on soldiers’ shoulders amid shouts of jai Bangla (victory to Bangla).Niazi along with a sizeable number of Pakistani soldiers were taken prisoner (upwards of 90,000). This was the largest number of POWs since WWII and included some government
Very much liked the art work. Taken from Vandemataram blog hosted here on wordpress.com
By the way, the patriotic song was composed in 1876 September 7 by a young man sitting in his home inKanthalpura. Vande Mataram (in Bangla: বন্দে মাতরম Bônde Matôrom) is the national song of India. The song was composed by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in a highly Sanskritized form of the Bengali language. The song first appeared in his book Anandamatha, published in 1882 amid fears of a ban by British Raj, though the song itself was actually written six years prior in 1876. “Vande Mataram” was the national cry for freedom from British oppression during the freedom movement.
Though a major aspirant for being the national anthem of India, Vande Mataram was eventually overtaken by Jana Gana Mana, which was ultimately chosen. The choice was slightly controversial, since the Vande Mataram was the one song that truly depicted the pre-independence national fervour. The song was rejected on the grounds that Muslims felt offended by its depiction of the nation as “Ma Durga“—a Hindu goddess—thus equating the nation with the Hindu conception of shakti, divine feminine dynamic force; and by its origin as part of Anandamatha, a novel they felt had an anti-Muslim message. There is some controversy with Jana Gana Mana also as it mentions some areas as part of India which are now no longer with India. However, in recent times, there has been much more of an acceptance of the historically passionate patriotic cry and, for example, famous Muslim popular music composer A.R. Rahman has released an album with the same title, which had become a resounding success.
In Bengali script
সুজলাং সুফলাং মলয়জশীতলাম্ শস্যশ্যামলাং মাতরম্॥ শুভ্রজ্যোত্স্না পুলকিতযামিনীম্ পুল্লকুসুমিত দ্রুমদলশোভিনীম্ সুহাসিনীং সুমধুর ভাষিণীম্ সুখদাং বরদাং মাতরম্॥ কোটি কোটি কণ্ঠ কলকলনিনাদ করালে কোটি কোটি ভুজৈর্ধৃতখরকরবালে কে বলে মা তুমি অবলে বহুবলধারিণীং নমামি তারিণীম্ রিপুদলবারিণীং মাতরম্॥ তুমি বিদ্যা তুমি ধর্ম, তুমি হৃদি তুমি মর্ম ত্বং হি প্রাণ শরীরে বাহুতে তুমি মা শক্তি হৃদয়ে তুমি মা ভক্তি তোমারৈ প্রতিমা গড়ি মন্দিরে মন্দিরে॥ ত্বং হি দুর্গা দশপ্রহরণধারিণী কমলা কমলদল বিহারিণী বাণী বিদ্যাদায়িনী ত্বাম্ নমামি কমলাং অমলাং অতুলাম্ সুজলাং সুফলাং মাতরম্॥ শ্যামলাং সরলাং সুস্মিতাং ভূষিতাম্ ধরণীং ভরণীং মাতরম্॥
Here is the english translation of the same song:
Mother, I bow to thee!
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
bright with orchard gleams,
Cool with thy winds of delight,
Green fields waving Mother of might,
Glory of moonlight dreams,
Over thy branches and lordly streams,
Clad in thy blossoming trees,
Mother, giver of ease
Laughing low and sweet!
Mother I kiss thy feet,
Speaker sweet and low!
Mother, to thee I bow.
Who hath said thou art weak in thy lands
When the sword flesh out in the seventy million hands
And seventy million voices roar
Thy dreadful name from shore to shore?
With many strengths who art mighty and stored,
To thee I call Mother and Lord!
Though who savest, arise and save!
To her I cry who ever her foeman drove
Back from plain and Sea
And shook herself free.
Thou art wisdom, thou art law,
Thou art heart, our soul, our breath
Though art love divine, the awe
In our hearts that conquers death.
Thine the strength that nervs the arm,
Thine the beauty, thine the charm.
Every image made divine
In our temples is but thine.
Thou art Durga, Lady and Queen,
With her hands that strike and her
swords of sheen,
Thou art Lakshmi lotus-throned,
And the Muse a hundred-toned,
Pure and perfect without peer,
Mother lend thine ear,
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
Bright with thy orchard gleems,
Dark of hue O candid-fair
In thy soul, with jewelled hair
And thy glorious smile divine,
Loveliest of all earthly lands,
Showering wealth from well-stored hands!
Mother, mother mine!
Mother sweet, I bow to thee,
Mother great and free!
The question of al Qaeda’s presence in Kashmir is quickly becoming a critical issue in both the U.S. war against al Qaeda and the India-Pakistan conflict. Washington will have to find ways to deal with al Qaeda’s forces in Kashmir despite both Islamabad’s and New Delhi’s unwillingness to let U.S. forces operate there. If a war breaks out between India and Pakistan, the first front would be in Kashmir, where al Qaeda’s participation in anti-Indian resistance would complicate matters further. Kashmir is also where al Qaeda hopes to improve its strategic position vis a vis the United States.
STRATFOR sources from several countries have confirmed that al Qaeda is indeed present in both Pakistan-controlled and India-held parts of Kashmir. All parties involved, from Washington to Islamabad to New Delhi, are aware of this, but they continue issuing conflicting statements, each for their own reasons. STRATFOR recently wrote about the rationale behind the United States changing its stance on the matter.
More important than whether or not al Qaeda’s presence in Kashmir is acknowledged is what al Qaeda is doing and planning in Kashmir, what forces it has there and how they are likely to be used.
Al Qaeda established a presence in Kashmir in its early years. The region always has served as al Qaeda’s recruitment base, specialized training ground and safe haven. The relative importance of these uses for al Qaeda keeps changing, but in absolute terms it remains high and has increased especially after the Taliban regime was overthrown in Afghanistan. But the chief importance al Qaeda is attaching to Kashmir now is that it is where the United States will become bogged down while trying to stop an India-Pakistan war — and if it becomes the grave for the pro-U.S. Musharraf regime, all the better.
Kashmir has been important in al Qaeda’s recruitment function since the early 1990s. The network there consists of a few full-time and many more part-time members. Even its senior leaders alternate their efforts and time between contributing to al Qaeda proper and other militant organizations with more limited goals, such as Kashmiri separatist groups. Among such part-time senior officers have been several Kashmiris who not only helped Osama bin Laden build this network but also brought scores of other Kashmiri militants to operate in various part-time al Qaeda assignments throughout the world.
Al Qaeda actively uses both native and foreign-born Kashmiris. Known as industrial entrepreneurs, Kashmiri emigrants have successfully integrated themselves by the thousands into Western societies. Al Qaeda has taken advantage of this fact. Some support al Qaeda financially via elaborate networks of NGOs while others are al Qaeda field operatives in Europe and North America.
Kashmir has been very important for al Qaeda as a training ground for specialized terrorists. Certainly Afghanistan used to be al Qaeda’s main military training base, but as a training ground for terrorists, Kashmir has always been more important.
In Afghanistan, terrorist training in al Qaeda-run camps lacked real-life conditions because the students did not have the opportunity to put into action what they learned there. It was a conventional war, not a terrorism campaign, that the Taliban and al Qaeda led against their enemies in Afghanistan until last November. In Kashmir all terrorist training has been real in the sense that the training course in Pakistan-held Kashmir has always included as its “final exams” the penetration through the Indian border and sabotage actions on the other side.
Since al Qaeda lost Afghanistan, Kashmir has become invaluable as a training ground. The group now conducts both military and terrorist training, including real-combat encounters with Indians and subversion acts against them. One other type of training is also a Kashmir specialty for al Qaeda: the practical training of command cadres. It is in Kashmir that selected militants undergo extensive training and become either troop leaders or the heads of sabotage cells.
The United States, with the help of the Pakistani government, is fishing for al Qaeda in western Pakistan’s tribal areas, but it will mostly find former Taliban soldiers and local militants with little or no connection to al Qaeda. Having foreseen that President Pervez Musharraf would bend under U.S. pressure, many of the al Qaeda members proceeded to the then-safe Pakistan-held Kashmir rather than stay in the west. Now Kashmir serves as a major regrouping base for some al Qaeda operatives: They can prepare themselves for new orders while their leaders use Kashmir for planning operations.
Kashmir plays another role here as well. If Kashmir becomes a major battleground for India and Pakistan, the United States would be distracted by the regional war and the possible ensuing collapse of Musharraf’s regime. Al Qaeda is working hard to facilitate a sharp rise in Islamic militant attacks on India to provoke some retaliation. Although al Qaeda knows India would then attack the training camps, it also knows that the Pakistani army would inevitably get involved and New Delhi would have to switch its major efforts to defeat Pakistan rather than al Qaeda and the militants.
Whatever follows — either Pakistan’s military defeat or Musharraf’s retreat due to U.S. pressure — the assured mess in Pakistan could lead to Musharraf’s fall and the installation of an Islamic fundamentalist regime. Changing a regime from pro-U.S. to fundamentalist in a major Muslim country such as Pakistan, the second-most populous Islamic nation, has been al Qaeda’s strategic goal for years. Such an event might also dramatically turn the tide in the global war between al Qaeda and the United States.
STRATFOR sources indicate that al Qaeda forces in Kashmir may amount to only between 20 and 30 full-time people, with some being senior leaders and the rest being mid-level field operatives. There is no information that bin Laden is in Kashmir, but it cannot be ruled out. However, there are several hundred part-time militants associated with al Qaeda operating in Kashmir, some acting behind front lines in India-held parts of the region. Highly skilled and extensively trained, they lead incursions against Indians and continue running training programs for new recruits.
The small number of full-time al Qaeda members and the absence of al Qaeda-only units are deceptive because their strength is in their close links with the local Kashmiri militant groups. While al Qaeda does not exclusively own a single training camp in Kashmir, its part-time members run the camps for, and belong to, both al Qaeda and Kashmiri militant groups.
Al Qaeda’s strength in Kashmir is in this duality: Though some senior staff are foreign to Pakistan and Kashmir, the local militants willingly cooperate with them because the foreign operatives also belong to the local militant groups. Among the latter, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed Mujahideen e-Tanseem and Al Jehad Force most closely collaborate with al Qaeda in the region.
Al Qaeda — due to both the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States and the major help it gives in training local militant groups — has a great deal of authority in the Kashmiri and Pakistani radical Islamic movements. It has the capability to lead the events in Kashmir in the direction it needs and to lead the Islamic militancy there, if necessary, from behind the scenes. If India strikes, the heaviest losses will likely be to the local militant groups in the training camps, while those 20 to 30 senior leaders staying out of the training camps will escape.
Their mission will not be to fight advancing Indian troops but to perform the most important task for al Qaeda in the region: help Pakistani clerics organize Islamic masses and servicemen to topple Musharraf. Many of the sabotage specialists whom al Qaeda has trained under live-fire in Kashmir are already out of the region preparing to attack the United States and elsewhere. Al Qaeda will do its best to get the remaining ones out of Kashmir before the start of any war.
Washington, New Delhi and Musharraf’s regime still need to invent effective ways to deal with al Qaeda in Kashmir. The small abatement in Indo-Pakistani tension has not disrupted al Qaeda’s grand plan to have both nations clash in Kashmir. Nor did it disrupt al Qaeda’s operations in Kashmir. For that, the Pakistani army should not just block the border but liquidate the joint al Qaeda-Kashmiri militant training camps — something that may well prove deadly, more so for Musharraf than for al Qaeda.
Kashmir on the Thames: London Broil
by Peter Bergen & Paul Cruickshank
August 25, 2006: The New Republic
In New Year’s Eve in 1999, Islamist militants had plenty to celebrate. At the Taliban-controlled Kandahar airport, a planeload of hostages was being swapped for terrorists held in India. The hijackers–Kashmiri militants–had managed to secure the freedom of three key allies. Two, Maulana Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, were Pakistani; but the third, a man named Omar Sheikh, was the scion of a wealthy British Pakistani family and had studied at the London School of Economics.
That a British citizen figured so prominently in the Kandahar hostage crisis was disturbing but far from anomalous. The eleven people charged this week with conspiring to blow up planes using liquid explosives are all British citizens. So were the terrorists who attacked London in 2005, almost all of the plotters who allegedly conspired to detonate a fertilizer bomb in England in 2004, the suicide bombers who attacked a beachfront Tel Aviv bar in 2003, and an alleged Al Qaeda operative who, along with would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid, planned to explode a plane in the fall of 2001.
Besides holding British citizenship, most had one other thing in common with Omar Sheikh: They were of Pakistani descent. For terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda–which, in the years since American troops deposed the Taliban, has reconstituted itself in Pakistan–ethnic Pakistanis living in the United Kingdom make perfect recruits, since they speak English and can travel on British passports. Indeed, in the wake of this month’s high-profile arrests, it can now be argued that the biggest threat to U.S. security emanates not from Iran or Iraq or Afghanistan–but rather from Great Britain, our closest ally.
necdotal evidence for the influence of Muslim extremism on British Pakistani communities is not hard to come by. We visited the Al Badr Health & Fitness Centre in East London on a balmy June night to hear Abu Muwaheed–a leader of the Saviour Sect, an Islamist group–discuss who was to blame for the 2005 London bombings. His answer? Just about everyone but the bombers themselves–the British government, the British public, even moderate Muslims who betrayed their co-religionists by cooperating with the government. The evening included a video montage of fighting in Iraq that ended with footage of Osama bin Laden calling for jihad. One Pakistani man attending the session told us he considered the lead suicide bomber in the London attacks to be “a glorious martyr.” Two months later, five of the Fitness Centre’s regulars would be among those arrested in connection with the plot to bomb transatlantic flights.
How did Al Qaeda’s militant worldview become so popular among a subset of British Pakistanis? For one thing, there is the generational divide in the community. Just as in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons–which depicts the rift between an older generation of nineteenth-century Russian liberals and their more militant, socialist sons–some of Great Britain’s young Pakistanis are filled with contempt both for the moderation of their parents and for a British society that won’t quite accept them. For many, this leaves a vacuum in their identities that radical Islamist preachers have been all too glad to fill. Now, young disciples of those preachers–Abu Muwaheed, for instance–have come into their own, and they are often even more radical than their mentors. Add to this the fact that one-quarter of young British Pakistanis are unemployed, and you have a population that is especially vulnerable to the temptations of radicalism.
Still, homegrown militancy can only partly account for the problem. That’s because it is primarily in Pakistan–not the United Kingdom–where British citizens are being recruited into Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. About 400,000 British Pakistanis per year travel back to their homeland, where a small percentage embark on learning the skills necessary to become effective terrorists. Several of the British citizens recently suspected of plotting to blow up airliners reportedly went to Pakistan to meet Al Qaeda operatives. According to a government report released this year, British officials believe that the lead perpetrators of the 2005 attacks in London–Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer–met with Al Qaeda members in Pakistan. Several individuals allegedly involved in a 2004 plot to explode a fertilizer bomb in Great Britain also spent significant time in Pakistan. In April 2003, Omar Khan Sharif, whose family immigrated to Great Britain from Kashmir, attempted to carry out a suicide attack in a bar in Tel Aviv after visiting Pakistan. In 2001, according to British prosecutors, he e-mailed his wife from there, writing, “We will definitely, inshallah, meet soon, if not in this life then the next.” And, in the fall of 2001, Sajit Badat plotted to explode a transatlantic airliner with a shoe bomb shortly after spending time in a Pakistani training camp.
But how to explain the lure of militancy for those who travel to Pakistan to become terrorists? The answer, in many cases, is Kashmir. A disproportionate number of Pakistanis living in Great Britain trace their lineage back to Kashmir. Though conventional wisdom holds that anger toward U.S. foreign policy is most responsible for creating new terrorists, among British Pakistanis, Kashmir is probably just as important. What’s more, for the small number of British Pakistanis who want terrorist training, the facilities of Kashmiri militant groups have become an obvious first choice–as well as a gateway to Al Qaeda itself.
Al Qaeda’s ties with Kashmiri militant groups date to the Afghan war against the Soviets, when bin Laden’s forces fought alongside Pakistani groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, many of those groups turned their attention to Kashmir–the key reason why the Kashmiri conflict re-erupted in the 1990s. These ties endured throughout the decade and grew closer after Al Qaeda left Sudan and settled in Afghanistan in 1996. President Clinton’s August 1998 cruise-missile strike against an Al Qaeda base in eastern Afghanistan killed a number of members of Harakat Ul Mujihadeen, one of the largest Kashmiri militant groups–suggesting that it was sharing training facilities with Al Qaeda.
Since September 11, the relationship between Al Qaeda and Kashmiri groups has only deepened, as demonstrated by the fact that Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah was arrested in an LeT safehouse in Pakistan in 2002. Al Qaeda has been able to regroup in Pakistan after losing its base in Afghanistan in part by cooperating with Kashmiri militants. A senior American military intelligence official told us that there is “no difference” between Al Qaeda and Kashmiri terrorist organizations. Al Qaeda has also attempted to fit the Kashmir dispute into its anti-American narrative: Hamid Mir, a Pakistani journalist who is writing bin Laden’s authorized biography, told us that Al Qaeda propaganda accuses Pakistan’s government of selling out Kashmir under pressure from George Bush and Tony Blair.
The danger to the United States of the nexus between British Pakistanis, Al Qaeda, and Kashmir is becoming clear. One of the alleged ringleaders of the recently exposed plot to blow up transatlantic flights is Rashid Rauf, a Pakistan-born British citizen whose family immigrated to Great Britain from Kashmir. According to the Associated Press, Rauf is married to a sister-in-law of Maulana Masood Azhar, the leader of the Kashmiri terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (and one of the men released as part of the deal that ended the Kandahar hostage standoff in 1999). Previously, in 2004, British authorities had charged eight men–many of Pakistani descent–with planning terrorism, including a plot to blow up the New York Stock Exchange. The cell’s alleged leader, Abu Issa Al Hindi, a British convert to Islam, wrote a book explaining how he was radicalized by his experience fighting in Kashmir. In March 2006, British citizen Mohammed Ajmal Khan was sentenced to nine years for fund-raising on behalf of terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Khan admitted attending a terrorist training camp run by LeT. The judge in Khan’s case described him as “a terrorist quartermaster” for LeT. According to The Daily Telegraph, he was a frequent visitor to the United States and talked about attacking U.S. synagogues. American prosecutors say Khan was in touch with a group of Virginia militants also tied to LeT.
ll of this should raise two concerns for American officials. The first is that American Pakistanis could pose a similar threat. “Homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like Al Qaeda, if not more so,” FBI Director Robert Mueller warned in June. There are reasons to worry that he is right. Two and a half months ago, an FBI affidavit contends, Syed Haris Ahmed, an American citizen of Pakistani descent, traveled from Atlanta to Ontario to meet with a terrorist cell. The FBI alleges that Ahmed, now in U.S. custody, planned to attend a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. In 2003, Iyman Faris, an American citizen born in Kashmir, pleaded guilty to helping Al Qaeda plan attacks in the United States. Faris admitted to meeting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed–the mastermind of the September 11 attacks–in Pakistan to plan those operations in 2002.
Yet it seems unlikely that radicalism in the American Pakistani community could pose as large a threat as radicalism in the British Pakistani community. American Muslims are, on average, more politically moderate than their British counterparts. According to a 2001 survey, 70 percent of American Muslims strongly agreed that they should participate in U.S. institutions. By contrast, a recent Pew poll found that 81 percent of British Muslims considered themselves Muslims first and British citizens second.
Of more concern, then, is the likelihood that British Pakistanis will continue to target Americans–both in the United States and abroad. To address this problem, the Bush administration should encourage the British government to monitor more closely the activities of U.K.-based extremist groups. Simply banning these organizations is not enough. Weeks after we attended one of their meetings, the Saviour Sect was outlawed by British Home Secretary John Reid. But, when we spoke to one of the organization’s leaders, Anjem Choudhary, by phone, he told us, “Of course we don’t use that name anymore. We just hold our meetings under another name.” In addition, Great Britain must step up efforts to identify its own citizens who attend Kashmiri or Al Qaeda training camps in Pakistan.
Unfortunately, there are limits to what the British government can do alone. It will need help from moderate Muslims, some of whom are waking up to the threat posed by the radicals in their midst. “These people are ill,” says Ghulam Rabbani, the imam of the mosque adjoining the Fitness Centre, where the Saviour Sect held meetings. “I say very categorically and very clearly that they are misguided and they don’t know the basics of Islam.”
Rabbani faces a steep challenge: According to a recent poll, a full quarter of British Muslims consider the 2005 London bombings justified. And anyone who doubts how dangerous the intersection of such sentiments, Al Qaeda, and Kashmiri militants can be should consider what became of Omar Sheikh, the former London School of Economics student who won his freedom on New Year’s Eve in 1999: Two years later, he was under arrest for orchestrating the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Peter Bergen is a senior fellow at the New American Foundation and the author of The Osama bin Laden I Know. Paul Cruickshank is a fellow at New York University Law School’s Center on Law and Security.