The Meadow: A book full of secrets – II

On August 3, 1998, 20 people including an unborn baby and 13 women were killed by pro-Indian gunmen in Sailan village in Surankote tehsil of Poonch district. Eight years later, one of the respectable journalists of Kashmir, Hilal Ahmad, tracked down the lone eyewitness who survived the horror killings in which three families were wiped out. Reporting for a daily , Hilal wrote, “Among the dead was Shabir’s (the lone surviving witness) pregnant sister, Zareena, 24, married a year back. Her unborn child would round up the figure of the massacred to 20, if counted. The axe was found embedded in the ribcage of Shabir’s another sister, 12-year old Javeda, so stubbornly that villagers couldn’t free it.” (Flashback Surankote: 19 persons of a clan were massacred in ‘7 to 8’ minutes, Oct 03, 2006). The FIR as usually reported the killers as unidentified gunmen. Such kind of killing spree in Kashmir at the hands of renegades has largely been left uninvestigated. These Ikhwanis were so effective for India that even former Divisional Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah, recommend a dreaded renegade, G M Mir alias Momma Kanna for the Padma Bushan awards—one of highest civilian awards of India.     

When Peoples Democratic Party led by former Indian Home Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was put into the political firmament of Indian administered Kashmir, they were given the task of occupying the space of pro resistance parties. The State, aware that people have been ruthlessly put down, brought a sponsored relief in the form of PDP.

The latter brought a lexicon of ‘Healing Touch’, ‘Peace with dignity’, demilitarisation and fib of all ‘Self Rule’. The State withdrew support from the National Conference party and placed PDP on the forefront along with Congress Party—which was once declared pariah in Kashmir by NC leader Sheikh Abdullah. PDP also legitimised the dreaded pro Indian gunmen. They were incorporated into the police force and touted as the elite force of police. The Special Operation Group’s promotion was linked to the number of killings. Many of these SOGs earned rank of inspectors, Superintendent of Police, SSP and DIG in quick time. Now they have become a vicious force killing protestors by forcing bamboo stick through their mouth leading to internal injuries and death in couple of hours as was done to 8-year old Sameer Rah in Batmaloo area or by drowning protestors.   

The State also planted these renegades in many strategic positions. They were given licence to open up newspapers and news agencies. The two largest news circulating agencies in Kashmir are both headed by former militants. So are many newspapers in Valley. These renegades had strong clout in media in Kashmir. Some of these renegades were settled in political parties where they were declared winners in many constituencies.

In the year 2008 when Kashmiris protested in unison against oppression, the State declared the dates of Assembly elections in Kashmir. That the election was divided into many phases and the first phase was scheduled in the hub of renegade area, Bandipora, didn’t come as a surprise. A lackey of slain Hurriyat (M) leader, Abdul Gani Lone, Engineer S Rashid was declared winner in 2008 Kashmir elections from Handwara constituency. Buoyed by this success, Lone’s son and head of Peoples’ Conference, Sajjad Lone, also tried his luck to struck chord with Indian administration by standing up for Indian Parliamentary elections of 2009. Sajjad was declared loser. Sajjad has now become a broadcast politician. He pops up in many Indian news channels just like a corporate ad. In an interview with ‘Rising Kashmir’ newspaper, former Intelligence chief, RAW, A S Dulat while referring to Sajjad’s defeat said, “He could have participated in 2002 or in parliament elections in 2004. I am glad to see he is working hard politically. But he has lost time.” It may indicate that Sajjad has lost his way with Indian administration. Dulat’s statement carries a significant weightage. In the same interview Dulat also pointed out that Hurriyat will participate in 2014 elections in the State. (Kashmir can change overnight: Dulat; May 02). Four days later, Hurriyat (M) leader Prof A G Bhat repeated that UN resolution has become redundant. This was in sync with his 2010 statement. “As of now, Prof Bhat said in Srinagar, “implementation of these resolutions does not seem a possibility. We have to, therefore, find alternatives to resolve this dispute.” (UN papers, militancy won’t settle Kashmir: Prof Gani, RK, Oct 11, 2010). A pandemonium was created by his party on this statement while the election news got bolted.  In the same interview the former intelligence chief of India said, “You can’t have Hurriyat without Mirwaiz.” Dulat is not known to express words without any significant meaning.

Following a mass protest uprising against the Indian State, in the year, 2010, the State decided to lunch two new pro Indian political parties with an aim to choke the space of pro resistance parties. “Headed by former militants and Ikhwan commanders, with the backing of the Union home ministry and the Indian Army,” wrote India’s premier English newspaper ‘Times of India’. According to the newspaper the move was aimed, “To counter the rising influence of "freedom movement" in J&K while providing an alternate space to pro-India elements in the Valley.” (Two pro-India parties floated in J&K with Army, MHA help, Feb 22, 2011). Trained and tutored in many workshops these renegades speak in a language that attract gullible masses.  

Truce Pact

‘The Meadow’ authors contend that by 1995: “Truces had been hammered out with virtually all of the militant outfits in the Valley, in return for taking down some prominent Indian security force bunkers and pickets in Srinagar.” The year 1995 was significant also that JKLF leader, Yasin Malik, was released pledging non violence. 

The authors also claim that Harkat and Ikhwanis in South Kashmir had a truce pact in 1995.  Harkat in South Kashmir at that time was headed by Javid Iqbal Bhat alias Sikander. The latter was hounded by the troops so fiercely that the residents of his area, “for twelve months had been forced to undergo a humiliating cordon and search operation every Wednesday evening as a punishment for its most notorious son.” Apart from that both the authors argue that Harkat and Ikhwanis had common enemy i.e Hizb and it was on the insistence of Indian troops that Ikhwanis offered truce pact to Harkat. They argue: Both the heads of respective parties maintained contacts despite being adversaries. Intelligence handlers of renegade, Gulam Nabi Mir alias Alpha, asked him “to pass weapons and explosives to the Movement, with which Sikander could better pound HM.” They even traded fighters, claim the authors.

It was clever manoeuvring by the Indian army to secure attacks from one side so that they can wipe out Hizb from the area and then deal with Harkat later. Both Harkat and Hizb were involved in fratricidal battle at that time aided and abetted by the Indian troops. They say that Ikhwanis managed to convince Al Faran commander, Al Turki, to handover the four hostages and get them back once the winter season is over. How much truth is in this truce pact? The fact is that in war sometimes tactics make strange bed fellows.

While the media was briefed daily that there is no news about hostages the then IG Police, Mr Tickoo, was conducting negotiations on behalf of Government of India. Tickoo’s talk is a classic example what State is doing in Kashmir. It wears down the opposition while letting its interlocutor known that nothing is to be given. While IG Police, as per the book, was keen in securing the release of hostages his government was working against him. Reports were circulated deliberately, as the authors write, to thwart any attempt of negotiations. The farcical negotiations reached to such a level where militants were ready to release them on pittance or even without that, as the two authors reveal in their investigative book. “There was no way”, write investigative authors, “those playing the Game would allow a fading militant like Sikander, demonised by his misjudged kidnap plot, to rehabilitate his own reputation and that of the insurgency by freeing the backpackers.”   

India has a dubious distinction of discrediting both the negotiators and negotiations. Realising that negotiations will only endanger him, Tickoo, took leave to stay away from the muck. In the beginning of this millennium Hizb offered unilateral cease fire and talks for negotiations. The Indian State portrayed the gesture as surrender and then, wrote Indian analyst on Kashmir, Prem Shankar Jha, “the Hizbul representatives arrived at the Nehru guesthouse for off-the-record talks only to find the entire world press waiting for them.” (Who Betrayed Peace? Outlook India, Aug 21, 2000). It was thoughtful tactic by the Indian State to dismember the largest armed resistance group of Kashmir. It worked for them. Nine years later they initiated another round of talks in the guise of “Quiet Diplomacy”. The “Quiet Diplomacy” went on until India’s most respected English newspaper ‘The Hindu” broke the news.  Its correspondent, who writes on Kashmir from New Delhi, wrote a detailed piece on the secret talks. It is certain that the information came from the insiders who didn’t want talks to go. It was facsimile of the leaks of negotiations between Tickoo and Al Faran negotiator in the 1995.  Hurriyat (M) leader Fazal Haq became a victim of India’s dubious negotiations tactics.
Taking no action is action itself

The Indian chopper which rescued the American hostage was ostensibly on reconnoitre for Amarnath pilgrimage. Why then, the authors question, were the immediate search operations not carried? Why was the Americans hurriedly sent back to home? Why was his help not sought in nabbing the hostage takers? The Indian State had exact details of where the hostages where, the authors argue. They claim that troops tailgated hostages and took their pictures.

That no action was taken to rescue hostages should not be a surprise. India, at that time was ruled by P V Narisimha Rao—a shrewd tactician. His mantra was taking no action is action itself. He allowed the destruction of Babri Masjid so that the issue is settled for once and all. He openly allowed Israel to open embassy in India and was father of India’s ‘look east policy’. The nuclear bomb that India tested in 1998, Rao was its architect. He was in charge when Dargah siege took place in Kashmir. Before the 1996 general elections in India, Narisimha Rao promised ‘short of secession sky is the limit’ to Kashmiris. Of course all that proved burp. National Conference which agreed to rule Kashmir as civilian government, moved its outdated Autonomy resolution which was thoroughly rejected by the Indian government.  

Narisimha Rao had another distinction of appointing Manmohan Singh as the Finance Minister. A protégé of Rao, Manmohan Singh in his first term of Prime Ministership asked Hurriyat (M) activist, Sajjad Lone to write a road map. Sajjad presented his ‘Achievable Nationhood’ in 2007. Once the 268 page document was ready, Singh followed the footsteps of his master and paid no heed to the roadmap. —(To be concluded)