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Monday, December 15, 2008

Counter-terrorism lessons from J&K By Jagmohan

When I was sent as governor of Jammu and Kashmir for the second time on January 19, 1990, I was told that the administrative and political machinery of the state had totally collapsed under the onslaught of Pakistan-sponsored militancy, and that I should, taking advantage of the good rapport that I had established with the people and bureaucracy during my first term from 1984 to 1989, do something to prevent the state from slipping out of the Indian Union.

On arrival at the scene, I found that an extensive network of terrorism and subversion had been spun in the Kashmir Valley by ISI and its agents. The technique was the same as employed by the CIA strategists in the Afghan War (1979-89), during the course of which a few attributes of Islam were selectively picked up to arouse extreme fanaticism amongst the Afghans against the "godless Russians". Subversive literature, couched in militant terminology, was distributed in the Valley on a massive scale. A typical example was a widely circulated cassette which recording of what was called "Kashmir’s song of freedom". In translation, it meant: "From all directions, the slogans of takbir are being heard. The Muslim of the Valley is as brave as Farooq and Hyder and as courageous as Shabir. The history of the battles of Badr and Uhud is going to be repeated. And we will usher in Islamic revolution in Kashmir".

To meet these grim conditions, a series of firm and innovative measures were taken by me. These included seizure of subversive material, removal of loud speakers from which violence was incited in the name of religion and setting of Special Initiative Squads which functioned on the principle of "fighting a guerrilla with the tactics of a guerrilla".

The constraint of space does not permit me to give detail of these measures here. Suffice to indicate, the multi-pronged action resulted in a solid improvement, noted by almost all the reputed national dailies. What was written to me by Lt. Gen. (Retd.) N.C. Rawlley was still more significant: "I have had a fair amount of experience of guerrilla operations. Two months ago I was of the opinion that we had lost Kashmir. Since you adopted the present policy, the whole position has changed. Now I feel that we would not lose Kashmir. For the sake of India, I only pray that you can carry on without having to pull back due to pressures".

The fast improving conditions at the ground level upset the gameplan of the ISI and its mentor of the time, Benazir Bhutto. They had come to believe that within a few weeks the Kashmir Valley would fall in Pakistan’s lap, like a ripe apple. Frustrated, they mounted a special propaganda "blitz" against me. Benazir Bhutto came to PoK and started making virulent speeches: "Jag-Jag-Mohan ko bhag bhag Mohan, kar denge". I wondered why her hysterical outburst was directed against me in person and not against the home minister or Prime Minister or President of India. Presumably, she understood that my firm, focused and comprehensive approach would frustrate Pakistan’s designs. Her main effort was to ensure my removal.


What followed is for everybody to see. In Jammu and Kashmir alone, over 60,000 persons, mostly innocents, have been killed and millions of rupees spent. The malady that could have been eliminated by a coherent and animated national will has been allowed to spread to a vast area of the country. All this has happened because we, as a nation, have never developed that sense of clarity and cohesion that is needed for tackling a menace as serious as terrorism. If the truths of present-day India continue to be buried under ground, the Mumbai carnage would not be the last.


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