By: Dr. Omar Akhtar
A S Dulat, the man who, in various capacities, was involved in Indian intelligence in Kashmir in the tumultuous 1990s, has recently written a book on his experiences. After reading it, I think it should be renamed ‘What I think of Kashmiris.’
There are few surprises in the book, despite the attempts by vested interests to rake up the issue of the ‘admission’ of a militant leader’s son in a medical college. It was a non-issue, since the young doctor had been selected on merit, and only a ‘transfer’ was managed between the medical colleges in Jammu and Srinagar. Another issue was that of the surrendered militant Firdous Syed, now a writer who still abhors violence and abets non-violence, and still is searching for a place of relevance in Kashmiri politics.
The book makes for interesting reading, no doubt. However, as a Kashmiri and, as the author has repeatedly mentioned, someone who has been under centuries of ‘Mughal, Afghan, Sikh, Dogra, and now Indian’ rule, I have learnt the art of reading between the lines.
Here is what Mr Dulat did not write about, and what he ought to have mentioned, at least in the spirit of ‘insaniyat.’
There is no mention of the thousands of Kashmiri boys who were picked up and who disappeared. In his various capacities in Intelligence, Mr Dulat would have known more than a thing or two about what was happening. In the spirit of ‘insaniyat,’ he could have softened the gaping wounds of Kashmiris by at least referring to what he did about these tragic episodes when he was in Kashmir and when he was in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Are we to believe that he was unaware? Or was he complicit? Or, worse, was he involved in these disappearances? If India is to give Kashmiris any quantum of justice, the families of the disappeared need to know what happened to their loved ones.
There is only a fleeting mention of the dreaded counter-insurgent Kuka Parray, and a passing reference to another counter-insurgent who was bestowed a national honour in India. What about the over 300 members of the Jama’at-e-Islami who were killed by counter-insurgency operations in the 1990s? Whose policy was that? And what was the purpose of that policy? There is no mention of the thousands of Kashmiri Muslim families internally displaced in the 1990s who had to leave the towns and migrate to Srinagar to save themselves from the daily torture of the Security Forces in the hinterland.
While Mr Dulat did say that Shabir Ahmad Shah was a ‘wasted opportunity,’ what he misses is that Mr Shah has refused all attempts to bring him into the mainstream, sticking to his demands of a ‘peaceful resolution’ of the Kashmir issue. Yes, Mr Shah may have become jaded, weak, and aged, but he has done so on the ‘other’ side of history, a side Mr Dulat does not take kindly to.
And what about the only leader he has never met, Syed Ali Geelani? He makes no mention of why he did not meet him, or was it that Mr Geelani consistently refused to meet him? His reference to Mr Geelani as a ‘nuisance’ is a pitiful assessment coming from someone who was the head of India’s intelligence services. There is much more to the political opinion that Mr Geelani represents.
And we could do without the patronising tone towards the end, when Mr Dulat recommends that Omar Abdullah, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Sajad Lone, and Mehbooba Mufti should get together and form a government. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride, Mr Dulat. Perhaps, unwittingly, Mr Dulat just reinforces the belief among Kashmiris that ‘India’ gets what it wants in Kashmir by coercion, and his open attempt at promoting hereditary politics in an era when it should have been ending is quite condescending.
Mr Dulat uses all sorts of epithets for Kashmiris while describing their character, calling them ‘hypocrites’ and ‘insecure.’ And he openly claims that most leaders in Kashmir have been ‘bought and sold’ at some point of time, something that has come into the open recently, with a leader claiming that ‘it has been done since 1947.’
He ends his book by quoting Agha Ashraf Ali who, he says, told him: “you were sent to disrupt the movement… and you did so in the most gentle way.” A completely wrong assessment. A certain Ajit Doval, a junior to Mr Dulat, and currently the National Security Adviser, recently paid a visit to Kashmir. His agenda: to take stock of a ‘recent spurt in militant activities,’ and ‘an increase in their numbers, especially in South Kashmir.’