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August 16, 1999

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E-Mail this column to a friend Varsha Bhosle

Burden of proof

June 13, 1997: "...on June 6, you couldn't have missed the day's top story on Major Avatar Singh being arrested for his involvement in the murder of J&K human rights activist Jalil Andrabi... If Andrabi's was a custodial death, we can guess what happened. But what I'd like to know is, what had provoked the army to pull the lawyer in for questioning? No newspaper has bothered to investigate. We're told that the court had declared the officer a 'proclaimed offender,' and that Amnesty International has demanded an inquiry into the alleged murder. I say 'alleged' because nobody has yet proved to me that it wasn't an execution."

November 5, 1998: "I thought of Major Avatar Singh who was arrested for his involvement in the custodial death of J&K human rights activist Jalil Andrabi: While indicting him, no one asked why Andrabi had been jailed in the first place."

Yeah, that's me. Major Avatar Singh has always been there at the back of my mind, gnawing away. Sure, I did ask around. But my sources were mine -- ergo, without credibility...

And here's why I say *all* censorship must be smashed: If the ban on the website of The Dawn had been prolonged, I'd have missed this item of July 17 (and since it's from Pakistan, the great and the good can't denounce it). Just one sentence buried deep in a long and scathing indictment of India by the NY-based Human Rights Watch: "Major Avtar Singh of the 35th Rashtriya Rifles should be apprehended immediately and prosecuted for the March 1996 murder of human rights lawyer and *JKLF member* Jalil Andrabi."

Finally, for me, the case is closed. No Indian newspaper has ever hinted at Andrabi's JKLF connection. I'm certain that reporters know it, but it's a sin to point fingers at: a) a dead person, b) from a minority community, c) whose case has been espoused by an influential international org. I have no such qualms: Andrabi's was an execution of a Islamic separatist in a terrorism-torn state. Not a murder. Rest in Hell, scumbag.

Sure I was needled by being called a "remix artist" -- but actually, that's precisely what pulls me to this job. There's a feeling of unholy glee after one just sits in an armchair, puts two and two together, comes up with eight, and then discovers that it's the correct answer for that particular equation, after all... Trampling around in the mud can't beat cerebral leaps.

Take the case of the Jamait-Ulema-e-Hind's support to Sonia Gandhi, reported by The Pioneer of July 31: "The national executive of the Jamait, by a resolution, extended full support to the Congress in the coming Lok Sabha elections... The resolution of the democratic convention of the Jamait emphasised that the Congress alone could check the advancement of the BJP and its allies..." Fine. Normal, expected development.

But what brought this about was that the Shroud had addressed a minorities' convention, promising that the Congress was committed to implementing the 15-point programme for minorities, which provides for "enhanced representation in the police and other government security agencies." Sonia was responding to the action plan for Muslims -- submitted to her by Jamait-ulema-e-Hind leader Maulana Asad Madani.

When I saw that "government security agencies" figured in the Maulana's demands, my heart sank. Something fishy...

Now here's a bit from The Hindustan Times of August 13: "Goalpara district vice-president of the Jamait-Ulema-e-Hind, Maulana Mohammed Muslim Ali alias Muslimuddin has been arrested. He is also the chief organiser of the Harkat-ul Mujahideen in Assam. Police said he admitted to being the agent for sending Muslim youths to Pakistan to undergo arms training. He had visited Pakistan on five occasions. The police recovered five passports from his possession soon after he was picked up from Goa."

Do tell me: What will be the condition of India if people from such an organisation "enhance" our security forces...?

And before you scream, "But one Muslimuddin isn't the Jamait!", I ask you: Is Dara Singh the same as Atal Bihari Vajpayee? Is Dara Singh the same as Yashwant Sinha? If the Hindutva ideology is at fault -- and therefore all Hindutvawadis are responsible for Graham Staines' murder -- why isn't the Jamait a terrorist organisation bent on destroying India, in collaboration with Pakistan...? If Hindutva is to blame for Dara, why isn't Islam untouchable now?

Why does the burden of proof always rest on Hindus? Again: What makes the findings of the Srikrishna Commission fair and impeccable, and those of the Wadhwa Commission questionable and "controversial"?

Never mind. They have no answers. All they do is repeat the same allegations over and over again -- till the asses among Hindus begin to believe them to be true. And there's a way it's done -- subtly: "The group, named 'Majlis,' is said to be a reincarnation of the Islamic Sewak Sangh, which was banned by the Government of India following the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992... Former ISS chief Abdul Nassar Madani had given shape to the new outfit before his arrest in connection with the Coimbatore blasts." (Rediff, August 14)

That's a neat one. The questions that proud and belligerent Hindus (the rest can pick up their whips for self-flagellation) must instantly ask are: Was the Islamic Sewak Sangh in existence before the demolition of the Babri or not? Has the correspondent told us Madani's history? What was he doing before he formed the ISS? Or will the correspondent have us believe that a nice-nice social worker suddenly turned hostile on December 7, 1992, and formed an org which was banned thereafter? Which, of course, leads to the premise that Islamic terrorism came into existence only because Hindus levelled the derelict structure...

Now here's an item from The Deccan Herald of April 3, 1998: "The plot to trigger the serial bomb blasts in Coimbatore was hatched in Kerala and the main purpose behind it was to assassinate BJP president LK Advani, according to the police who interrogated People's Democratic Party leader Abdul Nasser Madhani... Madhani, who founded the Islamic Sevak Sangh, a rebel outfit, lost one of his legs 10 years ago in a car bomb blast allegedly masterminded by the RSS. The PDP came into existence after the proscription of the ISS five years ago."

Madhani, or Madani, lost a leg in 1988, allegedly targeted by ever-ready Culprit No. 1, the RSS. If true, why would the RSS target him? Ergo, he must have been an Islamic activist -- four years before the Babri was flattened. The ISS, apparently, was banned in 1993. So he formed the PDP. And then he formed the Majlis. But what was he doing circa 1988 BD (ie, Before Demolition)? Or will I have to scour all the newspapers of Pakistan to get to the root of this case, too?

But wait a minute. Here's another report from The Deccan Herald, of April 4, 1998: "Madhani's role in the riots that took place in south Kerala on April 1, 1992, has been established. His involvement in the Poothura riots, a small fishing hamlet in Thiruvananthapuram, during AK Antony's rule was mentioned in the Aravindaksha Menon Commission report." Riots. April 1992. Eight months BD. (Perhaps now the others would drop their whips?)

This, my friends, is called collating information. The pieces of the jigsaw are always there somewhere -- in the Press or on the Net or in the rumour mills. Truth finds its way out, sometimes inadvertently. But someone has to put it all together to make sense. And here I take my characteristic detour: Kargil happened because, I repeat, there's no such thing as Indian Intelligence...

In his book, Defending India, Mr Jaswant Singh writes, "The main problem is a lack of an appropriate organisation for acquiring, analysing, and disseminating Intelligence of value. A lack of perspective, also attention at the political level, is in turn mainly responsible for this unsatisfactory state of affairs... [RAW and IB] have generally failed to give timely warning of impending national crisis. There is no independent and effective agency to coordinate them."

I agree totally, despite Atalji's stating that there was "no Intelligence failure." I think these agencies can and did acquire the bits and pieces -- some are floating around in the Press, too. But analysing each piece and putting them all together and then drawing conclusions is a different ballgame.

Suppose if the agencies are filled with bright Nehruvian secularists, the sort who strayed in from the IAS (which I think is the case) -- we're done for. That's where perspective comes in: Whom would they consider an "enemy"...? Nationalism is antithetical to them, and they are steeped in the Russian model of bureaucracy. The maverick mind cannot exist there -- and our "Intelligence" agencies are nothing but bureaucratic. It's only non-conformist reasoning that can leap and bound.

V K Sood writes, "What the IB did, or did not do, is legendary. India did not know that China had encroached upon Aksai Chin area until 1959. The humiliating defeat in the 1962 war was because the IB failed to assess China's intentions, military capabilities and consequences of India's 'forward policy.' In the 1965 war, India was surprised by Pakistan's Operation Gibraltar. The launch of Operation Grand Slam on September 1, 1965, by Pakistan was another shock which was compounded by the sudden disclosure of an additional armoured division with Pakistan."

Well, how can the IB have viewed these countries suspiciously? China is bhai-bhai. And so's any Islamic country! Add to that list the Bombay bomb blasts, the Delhi explosions, the Purulia arms drop, the Coimbatore serial blasts, the insurgency in Kashmir, and all that is exploding all over India. In truth, the ISI seems to have taken control.

True, I don't know the scale at which Intelligence agencies really operate. However, one gets a glimpse into the shadowy world of international espionage after living and re-living with John Le Carre's people. Probably the most important requirement is for Intelligence cadre and agencies to work *with* each other. Can Indians -- especially Hindus -- do that? Ha. I know how much more I could have grasped if I had helpful eyes and ears around. But our national tendency is to score points off each other while scoring brownie points from our masters... Why would agents be any different?

But even more significantly, do governing gonzos at all understand the need for having an unbroken stream of information gathering and assimilating? Would a politician who planned to open up the borders of India to Pakistan -- when the ISI's export of terrorism was very much in force -- think of allocating funds towards the satellites required for electronic surveillance of the borders? If the babus have been controlling -- and always rejecting -- the arms requisitions of the Indian Army, what heed would they pay to the needs of RAW and IB? Especially when the perspective of their masters wasn't ever in tune with the actualities of Indian defence?

Ach, it's no use. Until the mood of the people doesn't change; until they don't recognise Pakistan for what it is -- a country whose raison d'etre is to splinter India; until they don't realise the reality of khilafat; until they aren't ready to ruthlessly punish separatism and manipulative politics -- NO amount of Intelligence can solve India's security problems.

PK Surendran wrote in ToI, April 8, 1998: "It is increasingly becoming evident that extremists in Kerala grew on political patronage, for which, both the Congress and CPI-M are equally responsible... prior to the 1996 elections, the Congress-led front government withdrew 325 cases of violence registered in various parts of the state." I rest my case.

Varsha Bhosle

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