Jagan Mohan Reddy who has been having sleepless nights thanks to the Central Bureau of Investigation has decided to move the court against the move to freeze accounts of Sakshi TV, Janani infra and Jagathi publications.
The Central Bureau of Investigation which is probing an assets case against Jagan Mohan Reddy had frozen the accounts of the above mentioned companies as it believes that money which was illegally gotten was parked in these three companies. The CBI had written a letter to the managers of the three banks to freeze the accounts of these companies yesterday following which it was frozen.
Jagan has however decided to move the court seeking a directive to release the accounts of the three companies. He states that if the CBI wanted information regarding these accounts they could have sought the information from the bank manager. The investigation is not regarding the daily transactions of this company but was regarding the equity of the company. There is no irregularity in the daily transaction and the taxes are up to date and hence freezing the accounts makes no sense at all, Jagan’s legal team states.
The freezing of these accounts has come as a jolt to the Jagan camp. Sakshi TV and Jagathi publications are considered to be the voice of the leader through which he has been running his campaign against the Congress. Sources say that if the accounts remain frozen then the going may get rough for the news channel and the publication after another 15 days. Moreover it becomes difficult for him to pump in money from other resources as all transactions are currently under very heavy scrutiny at the moment.
The arrest of Kafeel Akthar, an alleged operative of the Indian Mujahideen has broken into a full fledged war between Karnataka and Bihar. Bihar Chief Minister, Nithish Kumar has taken objection to the manner in which the operation was carried out and more irritated with the fact that the Karnataka police did not keep Bihar in the loop before picking Kafeel Akthar up. Karnataka on the other hand has termed it as an exceptional situation and has defended the operation by stating that information can always be given later in this scenario.
Nithish Kumar who has been opposing the National Counter Terrorism Centre may be trying to build up a stronger case and would point out to the centre that in the event of an NCTC being formed such operations could increase two fold. The debate is likely to rage on but the legal position of such an operation is that what Karnataka has done is an irregularity and not an illegality.
The Karnataka police may eventually get away with this in the court of law, but in the police circles take a beating as they have not followed the Standard Operating Procedure. This is the second time that the Karnataka police have conducted such an operation without the knowledge of their counterparts. The last time they carried out an operation of this nature without following Standard Operating Procedure when they arrested Abdul Nasar Madani from Kerala.
Sources in the Bihar police say that there is an unwritten code in such operations and it ought to have been followed. It is only the state police which recognises the pros and cons when an arrest is made. Police from other states cannot just walk in, carry out an arrest and leave the law and order situation to us. Had we have been consulted on the same, then we could have dealt with it in a better manner and also ensured that there was no problem to the law and order situation. Kafeel Akthar was a lecturer in a college and he did enjoy a certain amount of reputation in his locality. This sort of an arrest could well have disturbed the law and order situation. Had the Karnataka police shown us the case against him then we could have helped them out.
Sources in the Karnataka police however defend their actions by stating that there was a need to ensure that this operation was carried out with utmost secrecy. Akthar was a known person and if we had created noise he would have been tipped off and could have well escaped and we did not want that to happen. Moreover we ensured that the operation was carried out on a low key basis and had no intention of disturbing the law and order situation there.
Kafeel Akthar’s name cropped up during the interrogation of Kamal Hasan, another operative of the IM from Bihar. The Bangalore police have been on the trail of Akthar for quite some time now and it was finally a tip off from the Andhra Pradesh which helped them zero him down to Darabhanga in Bihar. While the initial charge against Akthar speaks about his larger involvement in the Chinnaswamy stadium blasts, the Bangalore police are keen to find out his exact relationship with IM biggie, Yasin Bhatkal. It is alleged that Akthar had provided Yasin with a SIM card which was taken under his name and this according to the police establishes a vital link.
The legal debate: Such operations have been carried out by many police personnel across the country. When the police believe that an accused shares a comfortable equation with an establishment in their home state, they go about an operation without making an announcement. The recent case where Yasin Bhatkal managed to give the Delhi police the slip from Maharashtra is an example of why police officials want their operations to remain a quiet affair.
However coming to the Akthar operation it was strange as to why the Karnataka police produced him before a court in Ranchi when he was arrested in Bihar. Legal experts say that there is no law which says that in such cases a person has to be produced before the jurisdictional court when such an arrest is made. These are matters of utmost importance and the jurisdiction of a court will not come into play. The Karnataka police would say that they found it fit to produce him before a court in Jharkhand as they did not want this issue to become public. The court before such an accused is produced will in turn issue a transit warrant and then issue another directive to produce the accused before a court in that state from where the police officials have come.
Legal experts clearly point out that this is an irregularity on part of the Bangalore police and it is not an illegality. This is a case of terrorism and there is national interest involved in it. In normal course they do inform the local police, but if they feel that the operation could go haywire then they are at liberty to maintain secrecy. Such an operation would not depend on the standard operation procedure, but on the circumstance. Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure makes it clear that once a case has been registered the police reserve the right to arrest an accused person for which topography cannot become the criteria.
The other question is whether Bihar can take legal action against Karnataka. What Bihar could do it raise this issue with the central government and lodge a complaint. However the government is not at liberty to go to court as that right only is reserved only to the accused person. He can bring up this matter during his trial and only the court can decide whether the arrest had a legality or not.
It is fresh trouble for Jagan Mohan Reddy with the Central Bureau of Investogation freezing the accounts of three companies owned by him including the Sakshi TV.
The CBI froze the accounts under the provisions of Section 102 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The CBI froze the accounts of Jagathi publications, Sakshi TV and Janani Infra all of which are controlled by Jagan Reddy. The CBI has taken this action in continuance of their probe against in the disprportionate assets case. It was alleged that the money made by Jagan through his late father Dr Y S Rajasekara Reddy was pumped into the above mentioned companies. It is also been alleged that these companies acted as fronts to stash his money illegally.
Meanwhile Jagan also faces a summons from the CBI court. The court has directed Jagan to appear before it on May 28th.
Jagan has reacted sharply to the latest development. There is no freedom of speech here and hence they are after my channel Sakshi TV. I do not think the situation was this bad during emergency too. They want to eliminate Sakshi television at any cost. They cannot face me and hence this ploy, Jagan also told the media.
Karnataka Police Chief while describing the arrest of Kafeel Akthar as an exceptional situation said that there is a provision to inform the police of another state later.
Karnataka Police Chief A R Infant was reacting to the statements made by Bihar Nithish Kumar who had expressed unhappiness over the Karnataka police arresting Akthar without the knowledge of the Bihar adminitration.
Infant said that Akthar was picked up from Barsamyla village in Darbhanga village. I am awaiting a report from my officials regarding this operation.
Akthar was arrested on May 6. We had information about him earlier but could not share it as we apprehended that he may run away. This man has plenty of local contacts and could have easily escaped. Our police team thought it fit to produce him before the nearest court after he was picked up.
In a normal situation the police do need to inform but during an exceptional situation there is no such need. This is an exceptional situation and there is a provision to inform later, Infant also added.
Infant said he will look into the allegations being made by the Bihar CM. If there is a violation under the Code of Criminal Procedure then action will be taken he added.
From explosions to assassinations- this is something that has been revealed during the interrogation of various Indian Mujaheddin operatives who have been arrested over the past couple of months. There have been nearly one dozen arrests in the past 6 months and what one finds common during the probe is that each one has revealed at least one plot which involves an assassination.
Imran, Soofa, Mohammad Abrar Khan, Aqeel Khilji and Mohammed Zaffar Hussain Qureshi, all operatives of the Indian Mujahideen are alleged to have revealed at least one plan to assassinate high profile personalities who they feel have been a threat to their religion.
The Indian Mujahideen have over the past couple of years carried out a few attacks, but those have really not that been that impactful when compared to their earlier outings in different parts of the country. Going by the police reports which have been prepared after the recent spate of arrests of the IM cadres it appears that the outfit has been trying to put in a lot of its resources mainly into assassinations when compared to blasts across the country.
Imran and Soofa were one of the first few operatives to reveal their plans regarding an assassination plot. The police who probed the duo say that they revealed that they had planned on killing Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi and even went up to the extent of saying that the funding was coming in from the Lashkar-e-Tayiba for the same. Intelligence Bureau officials add that while a person like Modi has always been high up on the list of these terrorists, it would however not be an easy operation. Moreover they would be weighing the pros and cons at least a million times before they even attempt something to this effect taking into consideration the after effects.
The interrogation of Mohammad Abrar Khan goes on to state that the IM was planning on assassinating the judges who delivered the verdict in the Ayodhya case. This was however taken very seriously and the security for these judges was beefed up. The judges have always been on the hit list and the police have always ensured that security around them has always been very tight. The police interrogating them say that they found this to be a golden opportunity to make a statement as they feel that the verdict has gone against the members of their community. Moreover they have picked on a very emotive issue and in case they succeeded they would have managed to garner a lot of support from a section of the people who have been voicing in their concerns. In addition to this the Babri issue is not something that has had a relevance only in India. All the major recruitment’s that take place across Asia have quoted this incident while roping in the cadres.
The interrogation of Aqeel Khilji and Mohammed Zaffar Hussain Qureshi went on to reveal that they were not only attempting the assassination of Mohan Bhagwat, but had also targeted a few leaders from the RSS.
The IM has always through its emails after an attack have claimed to be the saviours of Islam and they believe that the leaders mentioned above pose a danger to their religion. They also believe that some of these leaders have been directly responsible inciting tension against members of their community and hence assassinating them would go a long way in their fight.
The IM has off late been facing a recruitment crisis. Recruitment’s into such terror outfits are largely dependent on the issues they espouse and also the type of operations that they undertake. The blasts which have taken place recently have not managed to create a big impact and many possible new recruits may have shied away from joining the group. The manner in which some have been brainwashed have made them question the impact of the operation and they feel that unless there is something very big planned they would not like to be part of the group. Moreover they also feel that getting killed or arrested for small operations has not been worthwhile.
During the questioning these operatives have consistently thrown the name of Riyaz Bhatkal while stating that he has been the man who wanted the IM to take up assassinations in a big way. However there is nothing to show that Riyaz has been managing the IM off late as he has already fled the country. These appear to be coordinated by the local modules in India and there are many small groups of the IM who have been trying to come together and stage a major operation, IB sources also pointed out.
Sources say that targeting the big leaders in the RSS or similar organisations may not be an easy job as it does require a great deal of planning and precision, something that the IM lacks at the moment. However they would try and get as close as possible and at least create a shake up which would go a long way in conveying a message.
The IB points out that one cannot take the IM lightly as they appear to be down at the moment. They are known for their patience and are capable of planning an operation for many years before even trying to execute it. However at the moment and going by these interrogation reports of these persons it does become evident that the outfit is aiming more at an assassination plot which would be followed up by a couple of small time blasts, the police also add.
The Bangalore police have in their custody a man by the name Syed Akbaran who they claim has links with the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. A team of the Bangalore police which camped in Bihar returned with Akbar who they say had planned on carrying out a series of explosions in Bangalore.
The police say that information regarding Akbar emerged through the interrogation of an Indian Mujahideen operative Kamal Hasan who is in custody for the past three weeks.
The police claim that Akbar is a major catch as he was running a module which was assigned the task of preparing bombs in Bihar. The police also said that Akbar a petty shop owner in Bihar was planning a series of explosions in Bangalore city.
The Bangalore police claims to have made more headway in the Chinnaswamy blasts case. Kafeel Akthar and Abdul Rehman, two operatives of the Indian Mujahideen have been nabbed in connection with the stadium blasts case.
Kafeel Akthar a resident of Jharkhand was picked up and produced before a court in Ranchi while Rehman a resident of Chamrajnagar in Karnataka was picked up by the Bangalore police.
Both will be interrogated in connection with the stadium blasts case.
There have been many arguments in the past couple of months over the contentious National Counter Terrorism Centre. Many state governments have come down heavily on the aspect of shared responsibility and looking at it today it becomes clear that the NCTC will come up but will be watered down.
Speaking to the experts and some officials in the Intelligence Bureau the impression one gets is that the NCTC would emerge as a body filled with legalities rather than practicalities.
Sources in the Intelligence Bureau say that they were enthusiastic about the NCTC, but going by the number of problems that are being faced today it appears that the body would have more hurdles than powers. There are officers who feel that the need for some additional powers while fighting terrorism is the need of the hour. There have been too many lapses and more often than not coordinating with a state agency has always ended up in an ego battle the result of which is that the terrorist gets away.
The experts are however of the view that Home Minister P Chidambaram has dealt with this issue in the reverse. He has often spoken about shared responsibility but not once did he bother to circulate the draft among the states before going ahead with an executive order on the matter. Today what has happened is that there is too much opposition and hence there would be a lot of amends that would have to be made the main ones being placing the body under the IB and also the operational powers of the body.
Former officials in the IB and also RaW feel that there would be no harm in consulting with the states before an operation is conducted. For instance operations in Jammu and Kashmir were always executed after consulting with the state adviser and there has been a lot of success in those matters. That ought to continue even today after the NCTC is operational.
States have elected governments and they do share an equal responsibility in maintaining law and order. The NCTC ought to act in some cases at least in consultation with the state. There are many times that politico-religious leaders have been involved in incidents of terror. An NCTC team which emerges out of Delhi could walk into that state and finish the operation and get out of there. But then it becomes a head ache for the state to deal with the problems that follow. It is more or less like what the Americans did with Osama Bin Laden. They conducted an independent operation and it was Pakistan which had to deal with the chaos which followed later. It could become a similar case if the operational powers of the NCTC are not properly dealt with.
The IB says that over the past couple of years handling terror cases has become a herculean task. We have had to deal with delays and egos and this has become a major hindrance. It is the IB which has to finally assess the intelligence and come to a conclusion even in today set up. Earlier all the intelligence was pooled and it would be reported to the Joint Intelligence Committee. Then there was a change and it was the National Security Council Secretariat which took over the job of the JIC. Today terrorism has become such a huge problem and India is the epi centre. There are not only external issues, but internal and global ones as well. In such a scenario it is important that we have an agency to handle intelligence without any hindrance.
The biggest issue that the IB faces today is that we get the information but are unable to operationalise it immediately as we are dependant on some one else. Take the recent case in which Yasin Bhatkal managed to give the slip. This is a typical example of how ego clashes with the state units can ruin an operation. Hence we need to have our own capability to act without wasting any time. What the NCTC aims at doing is ensuring that it creates a pool of intelligence at the centre and more importantly it is operationalised with immediate effect.
According to former Research and Analysis Wing Chief, C D Sahay, there is an urgent need to marry the many requirements and ensure that there is a broad consensus on the issue. However one must also ensure that the operational capabilities are diluted. While forming the NCTC the main points to be ensured are that they ensure that the factors Urgency and Importance are taken into consideration.
Officials in the IB say that the NCTC should be an independent authority. We need the best brains and young minds to ensure that this organisation functions properly. There should be consultation with the state authorities and a proper code for this needs to be defined failing which every time there is intelligence it could become a debating body.
Sahay points out that the route that has been taken by the Home Minister is all wrong. If at all he was serious about his proposition saying that it is a shared responsibility then he ought to have sent out the draft before going ahead. What is worse is that he taking cover under what L K Advani did in 2001. This is a different government and they ought to take their own decision. Today when I look at how the issue is going it is clear that today the stakes are higher and the positions are polarised. I have my own doubts whether they can bring in the NCTC as it was originally planned out. There are many other issues for the Home Minister. There are elections in some states so they would tend to object harder. Then he also has his own allies in the government troubling him. For every step that the Home Minister takes today every words and every coma will disputed and hence I feel that the road ahead is very tough. Thanks to his own doing ( not consulting the states in the first stage) he has lost out on a very good initiative.
In the months to come the Parliament would pass a controversial bill- The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill 2011. While there are many salient features in this Bill the most important point would be that no person below the age of 18 will have the legal capability to give consent for any sexual activity.
The above mentioned point is expected to be the most debated as it clashes directly with the provision enshrined in the Indian Penal Code which states that the consenting age for a girl would be 16 years.
The bill emerges mainly due to the high number of sexual assault cases against children. As per the report of the Ministry of Women and Child development there were an estimated 153 million gilrs and 73 million boys under the age of 18 who were subject to forced sexual intercourse and other forms of sexual violence.
Oscar Fernandes the Member of Parliament from Udupi who heads the committee which made these recommendations told rediff.com that the wider perspective has to be seen in order to protect children from sexual offences. However I would not like to get into any more details on this bill as we are still examining it thoroughly. A report to this effect will be submitted on June 15th and then it will be the Parliament which will decide on the matter. I am however confident that it would be passed in Parliament as it is a necessary yet sensitive issue. There are certain things that have been said in the government report on this issue and there will need to be a response on that, Fernandes also added.
However looking at the manner in which the issue is being debated it appears that there would be a rough ride ahead for this bill. The Delhi High Court had two days back sought on a review on the age limit that has been proposed by this bill. The government is expected to file its reply in this regard before the Delhi High Court.
The obvious clash in this bill is with regard to the age factor. Legal experts and activists say that it is bound to lead to a lot of confusion, but at the end of the day it would be the Bill that would prevail as it would be a special law.
Justice Santhosh Hegde, former judge of the Supreme Court of India says that this is special law for a particular offence and as per the recommendation if any person below the age of 18 is seen indulging in any kind of sexual activity it could amount to rape. There is not likely to be a clash with the provisions of the Indian Penal Code as the bill will assume the status of a special law and this would over ride the provisions in the Indian Penal Code. There is a principle in law which states that a special law can prevail over a general law and hence a provision in the Indian Penal Code will not apply to any offence when a special law is in force in relation to the same offence.
Justice Hegde says that with regard to the age of consent there has been a lot of discussion in this regard. It is a social issue and different classes of people feel differently about it. There are a good number of people who also feel that no law should control such issues. On a personal level what I feel is that if it is a question of consent then it is the penal and not the special law which would be more appropriate. We are already burdened with many false cases of sexual harassment in this country and by reducing the age this problem could only worsen. One cannot jump to the conclusion that an adult is defined by her voting age and hence according to me 16 is an appropriate age. The bill once it becomes a law can be subject to scrutiny by the Supreme Court of India. However courts normally do not tend to interfere unless it finds that it is extraordinarily arbitrary in nature.
H S Chandramouli, state public prosecutor of Karnataka says that before getting into any detail it is extremely important that a child is defined under law properly. Under the juvenile offenders act a child is defined between the age of 16 and 18. Under the IPC the consenting age for a girl is 16 while under the new Bill it once again takes it back to 18. I have been arguing in almost all my cases that the age for a juvenile should be between 14 and 16 as the times are changed as children have much more exposure.
On one hand the marriageable age in India for a woman has been fixed at 18 and on the other the IPC says that 16 is the consenting age. Before we set out making more laws there is an urgent need to codify the entire issue properly and bring out some clarity in it. It is clear that it would be the special law which will over ride the provisions of the IPC, but then again what happens to the Juvenile offender act? In such an event it would be both the IPC and the Juvenile Offenders Act which will require an immediate amendment failing which it would become very confusing. Moreover before making any such amendment I feel that the social issues need to be taken into consideration here as the situation that we faces in the villages and the cities are entirely different according to me.
According to Sonia Kaur, a student the consenting age should be 18 and it is the bill which should over ride the provisions in the IPC. One cannot always take into consideration education and exposure in a city to decide on the consenting age for a woman. A woman has a better understanding of what her mind and body needs only when she turns 18. There is a reason why the government has fixed 18 as the voting age as that person is capable of taking a decision. Some may argue that reaching puberty should be the age that should decide on the consenting factor. I however do not agree with it as there is mental maturity which is also needed.
What the Bill seeks to do?
The Bill seeks to protect children from offences such as sexual assault, harassment and pornography. The bill defines any person below the age of 18 as a child. There are penal provisions for an offender who commits a sexual offence against anyone below the age of 18.
A person commits “sexual harassment” if he uses words or shows body parts to a child with sexual intent, shows pornography to a child or threatens to depict a child involved in sexual act through the media.
If a person penetrates his penis into the vagina, mouth, urethra or anus of a child or makes a child do the same or inserts any other object into the child’s body or applies his mouth to a child’s body parts it would constitute an offence
If the child is between 16 and 18 years, it shall be considered whether consent for the act was taken against his will or was taken by drugs, impersonation, fraud, undue influence and when the child was sleeping or unconscious.
Penetrative sexual assault shall be considered aggravated if it injures the sexual organs of the child or takes place during communal violence or the child becomes pregnant or gets any other threatening disease or is below 12 years.
There are penalties for storage of pornographic material and abetment of an offence.
The Meadow is a shocking story of brutal kidnapping in Kashmir which marked the beginning of modern day terrorism. – In July 1995, ten Western backpackers come to Kashmir in search of many things take a trip of a lifetime. They have come in search of many things – nirvana, exhilaration, a sense of self. But over the course of the next week, their holidays take a terrifying turn when they become entangled in a nail-biting hostage drama that will suck them into an alien world of jihad and Islamic fundamentalism. In the months that follow, their fates will become caught-up in a bloody struggle between India and Pakistan, fought out in the airless heights of Kashmir.
Adrian Levy along with Cathy Scott-Clark in their book titled “The Meadow examine in detail the deadly Al Faran group which was responsible for the kidnappings of 1995. Startling revelations are made in the book as to how the Indian Government and the military allowed the hostages to die which itself was a larger part of the political game.
Award winning journalist Adrian Levy has written three other investigative books. In this interview with rediff.com, Levy takes us through the journey and the shocking revelations which are made his latest book-The Meadow.
How has your book been received?
The book has caused consternation and some pain in the UK and US as it delves into matters that are still raw and touches on a wider relationship (between the UK and India) that remains tense, in a familial sense.
The book is not yet out in India and so we await a response which I am certain will be as divided as is public and institutional opinion on Kashmir generally.
However, the book is far more nuanced then some people evidently imagine, and contains a subtler and more balanced analysis then some people are giving us credit for.
For example, the DGP in Srinagar, Mr Khoda, described it recently as “rubbish”. Given that he has not read it, nor studied the evidence, or been involved in the initial inquiry, I think it would be fair to say that this constitutes an uniformed response.
The book deals with the manner in which the Indian government and the military allowed the hostages to die as part of a larger political game. What was the role played by the Indian government and when did you realize the same during your research?
The crux of the book is not that straight forward. First, Pakistan enabled an act of terror, which led to the abduction of six tourists in total, the barbaric beheading of one of them and the imprisonment of four others. The kidnappers’ leadership was grown in Pakistan, funded and trained in Karachi, the Punjab and Muzafarrabad, before being infiltrated across the LoC, kidnapping tourists (as their initial targets – foreign engineers – had got away).
Indian intelligence recognised the crime from the off as an error on Pakistan’s part. It was potentially a useful tool with which to expose its neighbour’s proclivity for dabbling in Kashmir and making India bleed, at a time when the West was reticent to comment on Kashmir, (and perceived the state’s insurgency as a human rights issue).
Rather then quickly solving the crime, as it had many others that came before it, a clique within intelligence and the army made it run long so as to eke out maximum pain for Pakistan, fulfilling a key plank of the Rao doctrine, to frame Pakistan as a state sponsor of terror, winning an argument on the international stage where India had spectacularly failed before to get heard on terrorism and Pakistan.
In the end, when al Faran had folded, exhausted, frozen and demoralised, state-sponsored Renegades took over the hostages, to keep the crime running, men who had the support of a rogue element in the Valley’s intel and military establishment.
These figures, led by Nabi Azad had grown within a short time beyond control, and were as criminal as they were brutally effective. The same could be said of the J&K police’s Special Task Force or SoG, which worked with them.
We had no inkling of the ending when we began. We thought this was probably a dirty, opaque story and like many incidents in Kashmir, was likely to be complex, and fraught with difficulty. We thought too that this was an everyman tale, innocents packing their bags for a dream holiday that goes horribly wrong, people taking ordinary decisions, as we all do, that have unforeseen consequences. However, this being Kashmir, we were certain from the start that there would be a political dimension and indeed there was.
You have pointed out that the Indian politicians had said that the entire kidnapping incident was not in their control as there was Governor’s rule in the Valley. How true do you think this statement was?
I think there is a good deal of truth in this. The political set up had been quashed. The Governor in J&K was in charge. He was surrounded by military and intelligence factions who presented an often distorted and conflicting view of the Valley. War creates distortion. But here intelligence fed the Governor and then acted on their own intelligence too, without oversight of any kind.
Compare this to 1999, and the hijacking of Flight 814. In 1999 the politicians were in charge, and consulted IB and RAW , some agents advising them to sacrifice the passengers on the jet, as “that many people die every month in India”.
However, the advice was over-ridden. Instead, watching the teary demonstrations outside PM house in Delhi build, and families threaten to immolate themselves, noisy families who never shut up, while the families in 1995 were told by all in power to say nothing and keep quiet, the government rolled, fearing the political price of not doing so, and ordered the release of Masood Azhar, as well as Latram and Omar Sheikh.
Senior contacts in the ‘civil service’ in Kashmir and Delhi were out of the loop. Some in Rai’s inner circle must have known something.
How do you think India has gained or lost as a result of this sabotage. You have quoted Rajinder Tikoo stating that there was a sabotage during the negotiations as the Indian Intelligence Bureau didn’t want it.
The J&K police, the Security Advisor to the Governor, and others tried to solve the crime, and nearly all concluded they were impeded by external forces. Every crucial stage of the secret talks between India and al Faran was undermined by a pattern of leaks so persistent and accomplished, dealing in highly classified information, that it had to stem from a very high level. Politicians and civil servants reflecting on this period recall that they were side-lined by the military and intelligence factions that ran the show. This suggests and they believe that some in intelligence were behind the leaks – rather than the odd drunk policeman as one reporter has lately suggested.
The feeling within the al Faran inquiry itself was that it was being sabotaged from without. This view was widely held, and debated. And then hushed up. An inquiry into this episode might discover the names of the leakers and then grill the, on their intentions.
Prior to this, the IB and R&AW, as well as some in the army, knew of the hostages whereabouts for almost the entire time they were in the Warwan Valley – some 10 or 11 weeks. The police discovered this by interviewing villagers there and sampling statements from a network of informers and agents they had in place. IB/army acquired photos of the hostages so detailed that according to some of the agents who saw them they could see the sweat in their brow as they played ball games, to alleviate their boredom.
Villagers in the Warwan reported on numerous occasions the hostages presence to the Rashtriya Rifles. On at least one occasion, documented by police, villagers complained to they were beaten and detained by soldiers of Victor Force who told them to mind their own business.
What India ‘gained’ from all of this was to create a visceral image of Kashmir in the West as a cradle of terrorism rather than a paradise Valley. However, as many senior police and intelligence officers conceded, what was lost in all of this war and gamesmanship was humanity.
It is stated that India’s agenda was to show that terrorism in Kashmir was backed by Pakistan. What is the thinking in Pakistan regarding this and what did you find during your various interviews conducted with those close to the Al-Faran group?
There has been no official comment on the findings of the book in Pakistan yet, although there was concern at the time about the Al Faran case. Federal investigators and Benazir Bhutto in 1995 expressed dismay to us about the beheading of one of the hostages, Hans Christian Ostro, describing the killing as “a watershed”. That kind of act was unknown before then, and yet afterwards it would become part of the grammar of the so-called terror war.
The impression we gained from police statements and eye-witness, as well as from mujahids in Pakistan, was that al Faran or Harkat al Ansar, as it was, would have rolled over and released the hostages, but was prevented from doing so. However, the Al Faran team, former Harkat al Ansar people say, was divided, with one faction siding after a time with the hostages. Some in the party together with villagers from the Warwan seem also to have assisted the hostages with an escape bid and to get their messages out – some of which, incredibly, eventually reached Srinagar.
However, there was also another, hard-line faction within Al Faran, led by a foreign fighter known as The Turk, that was more pragmatic and battle hardened. This faction was behind the decapitation of Ostro, something for which it was admonished by its handlers in Pakistan, who saw it as a senselessly cruel act that would play terribly in the Western press, which it did.
Al Faran ultimately gave in, they say too. They settled for Indian money. This deal was exposed and sunk so as to prevent it happening. They then let it be known that they would offer the hostages up for free. At this stage renegades were instructed by their handlers to try and buy the hostages from al Faran.
Did you manage to get names of those in the political circles and also the Indian security establishment who were responsible for this sabotage? Who do you think from New Delhi in the P V Narasimha Rao government was controlling this situation?
An inquiry needs to establish this precise question. Who sabotaged Rajinder Tikoo’s negotiations? Who sabotaged the operation to free the hostages. An independent hearing that seeks out all those connected might resolve that question.
The information that has been put out in this book is shocking. Could you tell us a bit about the difficulties and pit falls faced by you and Cathy Scott while going about your work for this book?
We spent several years on this, dipping also into 18 years of prior work in the region that has aided us in developing really good contacts on both sides of the LoC. We traveled extensively across J&K, interviewing hundreds of eyewitnesses, former intelligence agents and their assets, police officers serving and retired, politicians and civil servants, renegades and their families, army officers (retired), jihadis in Pakistan, former militants in Kashmir, intelligence and investigative agents and officers in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, as well as their opposite numbers in Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar. Some of the work was done while we were carrying out other reporting duties.
We have been working in Kashmir as writers and foreign correspondents, for The Sunday Times and then the Guardian, since the era of the kidnappings, following events unfold in J&K and across the sub-continent.
We reported and investigated Pakistan’s intervention in Kashmir, it’s backing of the armed struggle and it’s subtler steering of the political scene too. We heard it from Indian intelligence agents and saw for ourselves in Pakistan that jihadeers were getting up steam to stoke Kashmir.
We also reported in detail India’s response, and how in this state of constant emergencies the law (and often moral judgements) was subverted to satisfy the supposed security demands of two countries fighting a proxy war. The same had been true in our protracted non-war in Northern Ireland, where we subsequently discovered that our security services had lost their moral compass, on many occasions, so desperate had our government been to win.
Some of this research went into our book Deception, of 2007, which charted how the US had secretly abetted the Pakistan nuclear programme, creating a volatile regional landscape that today we are still learning to deal with. We recounted how George B Bush’s “axis of evil” was partially enabled by the US itself that had had a lot to do also with unravelling the epoch of terror we are still living in now.
We covered massacres cold-blooded killings in J&K perpetrated by militants, Kashmiri jihadis, foreign fighters, and Indian soldiers and spies. We witnessed Pakistan’s adventurism in the Kargil heights, but we also gradually saw how all sides lost their humanity in the melee that no one was winning.
The lack of oversight and accountability, through the judicial and parliamentary systems, which were often held in abeyance, led to massive abuses of power in J&K: rapes, murder, abductions, torture, disappearances. And seldom a guilty party was prosecuted or put on trial. J&K became a kind of proving ground for the intelligence agencies on both sides of the Line of Control, a place from where they have been reticent to leave.
While in the West, torture, renditions, political judgement and human rights abuses are now seized upon and rigorously investigated, igniting massive debates as to what defines our humanity, nothing of the sort has happened in Kashmir or elsewhere in India where the non war ( that has in recent years all but been extinguished in J&K) has been poorly reported and analysed, it’s real cost still unknown, any debate about its continuance framed by allegations of treason and heresy.
That changed somewhat after 2005 when the earthquake opened up vast areas of the Valley. Out of the disaster, which enabled lawyers and reporters to travel freely everywhere, rose the first accounts of unmarked and mass graves. An open discussion about the Disappeared in Kashmir took flight too. By 2008, it became clear that the two issues were likely inter-related, leading to the first credible reports on the missing and the unlawfully buried, the scale of which gave some clue as to the full horrors of what had taken place in this non war. How much had Pakistan thrown into the Valley to set it on fire? How far had India gone to quell the insurgency and rebuff its neighbour? How badly had the residents of the state suffered, caught in the firing line. The price appeared unconscionable on all sides.
People also started to talk about Kashmir’s most puzzling missing case: the al Faran episode. New eye witnesses, old hands who had investigated it. A sea change also took place within the Indian establishment where former and serving police and agents began to open up, as if they too felt that enough was enough. For some the al Faran case represented justice delayed, for others, justice denied, and for another faction it was a myth that needed to be dispelled. People we tracked down were relieved to talk and said they had been sitting guiltily on secrets for 16 years.
Only six people were directly affected in this case, and many tens of thousands of souls have been victims of the Kashmir crisis. Why pay undue attention to these six only? We were asked this over and over as we began investigating. But we sensed that the numbers were not the story and that through this one small case of six trekkers who were abducted a reader could see much of the entire Kashmir imbroglio. This one seemingly insignificant crime, when compared to the daily tragedies of Valley life, was a prism through which to assay the cost of the war.
Do you feel these revelations of the manner in which the Indian establishment reacted to the kidnappings would strain India’s relations with the United States, United Kingdom or Germany?
I don’t think it will do on an official level, as trade comes before everything. However, I do think it has revealed something of the truth about the Kashmir imbroglio, the cost to all sides, India and Pakistan, and what has been done in the name of winning.
Looking at Kashmir today, what are your views on the militancy there and also what sort of a role are both India and Pakistan playing?
The Indian army says that foreign militancy has dipped to about 125 fighters, with total militancy standing at 400 odd fighters. Is this a militancy at all? And yet emergency legislation to counter a fully fledged militancy remains in place, the AFSPA, the PSA etc, ‘lawless laws’, as Amnesty calls them, that prevent the judiciary operating freely and that undermine India’s claim to establishing equanimity in the state. The militarization of the Valley remains as well, a place where the security forces admit that not a single prosecution has succeeded against them since 1989, although approximately 59 court martials have taken place against nameless soldiers, for unknown crimes. These issues remain live in the mind of the international community.
At present youth in Kashmir are shunning the gun. The figures show that as do our extensive interviews in the Valley. How long will this window of opportunity remain open, especially after the non starter of the interlocutors sent from Delhi? Already, a section of society in the Valley is visibly moving very rapidly towards radical forms of Islam, that are not organic to the Valley, which are offering ‘respite’ to alienated teenagers, and also moving them towards a kind of conservative, hard line religiosity never seen before in Kashmir and that could wreak havoc if no real normalcy prevails.
On the Pakistan side, there is far greater instability now than ever, with the military in a bruising conflict with its US sponsors, and the civilian government staggering from crisis to crisis, especially with the judiciary. A destabilized Pakistan is disastrous news for peace in Kashmir, and post Mumbai there is little cause for cheer in Pak-India relations.
Based on your experiences which country (India or Pakistan) would you fault for the state that Kashmir is in?
I don’t want to get involved in a blame game. However, Britain evidently played a disastrous role at Partition. Pakistan repeatedly has used Kashmir as its default bargaining chip, a substitute for any progressive foreign policy. India has failed to act imaginatively or boldly in the Valley, other than its creative use of intelligence assets etc, throwing money and little else into the equation. Where are the big ideas to outflank the default positions of succession (to Pak) and Islamism? Post the 2010 agitations, an opportunity presented itself but that too has been lost.