In comments that are likely to create a political storm over the next few days, former Research and Analysis Wing chief A S Dulat has reveled that former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had expressed his discontent over the 2002 Gujarat riots and called it "our mistake".
In an interview to Karan Thapar on his India Today TV programme telecast on Thursday night, Dulat briefly mentioned about his last meeting with the former prime minister during which the BJP stalwart reflected about the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Dulat, who headed the external spy agency Research and Analysis Wing till 2000 before he was appointed as Special Advisor in Vajpayee's PMO on Kashmir issue, said Vajpayee always believed that the post-Godhra riots in 2002 was a "mistake" and that the grief was "clearly visible" on his face.
"You could see the sadness in his (Vajpayee's) eyes," Dulat said.
"Gujarat main humse kuch galti ho gayi (We committed some mistake in Gujarat)," Dulat quoted Vajpayee, as saying.
Dulat, whose book Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years is slated to release shortly, also revealed many inside stories of the Vajpayee government.
Farooq Abdullah shouted at RAW chief during Kandahar hijacking
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah shouted at the then RAW Chief A S Dulat for "hours together" during their meeting after a decision was taken to release three hardcore militants in exchange for the freedom of the passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane in 1999.
Dulat, the former head of Research and Analysis Wing, also said that Farooq felt the decision by the Union government was a "mistake" and he had stormed off their meeting to call on Governor Girish Chander Saxena with an intention to resign.
When the hijacking took place on December 24, the Crisis Management Group "goofed up" the entire case by not immobilising the plane when it had landed in Amritsar.
"No one was willing to take a decision and in that confusion no instructions were passed on to Punjab Police which had moved in its personnel. They carried on debating and the plane flew off," Dulat said.
Dulat said as the CMG agreed to release the three terrorists in exchange for the lives of the 155 passengers and the crew members to end the 8-day-old hijack crisis, he was deputed to talk to Farooq in Jammu as two of them -- Mushtaq Latram and Malulana Masood Azhar -- were lodged in J and K.
Recounting his meeting with Farooq, Dulat said "he shouted at me for hours together saying this was a mistake being committed by the Centre.
"After he ventilated his anger, he stormed off to meet Governor Girish Chander Saxena with an intention to resign. However, the Governor calmed him down and Abdullah eventually accepted the situation and agreed to the release of terrorists," he said.
Mufti’s daughter wasn’t target of 1989 kidnapping
Speaking about various issues related to Kashmir, Dulat said Rubayya Sayeed, daughter of state Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, was never the target of militants in 1989.
"It was Saffia, daughter of Abdullah, whom they wanted to kidnap. But, as Sayeed become the home minister in the V P Singh government, they (militants) decided to take her hostage," he said, adding this was told to him by the militant who had planned the kidnapping.
Recalling his days as Advisor in the PMO, Dulat, an IPS officer of 1965 batch of Rajasthan cadre, also said that there was a plan to make Abdullah vice president in early 2002 and Omar Abdullah chief minister of the state.
"The offer to make Farooq Abdullah vice president happened at my residence at a private dinner and it was made on behalf of Vajpayee by Brajesh Mishra. Later, Abdullah told me that both Vajpayee and L K Advani and had reconfirmed the offer," he said.
However, Abdullah always had doubts whether the NDA government would fulfil this promise. "I don't trust them. I don't trust Delhi," were the words of Abdullah to Dulat.
The other problem was that Farooq becoming Vice President was part of an arrangement whereby Krishan Kant would become President.
"When the latter didn't happen the promise to Abdullah fell by the wayside," he said.
Hizbul chief called IB head for medical seat for son
In another disclosure which Dulat has mentioned in his book Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years, he said that in early 1990s, self-styled Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin had called local Intelligence Bureau chief K M Singh and sought his help in securing a medical seat for his son.
"Singh approached Abdullah, who was the chief minister, and the work was done," Dulat said and maintained that these favours are extended always with a hope that they would be converted into a surrender of the militants.
"This is done world over by all the spying agencies," he said.
Mehbooba had links with Hizbul
He also recalled that Vajpayee had called on Congress President Sonia Gandhi and asked her to ensure that there was no tie up with Mufti Sayeed in government formation.
The reason for this, according to Dulat, was that Sayeed was more comfortable with Jamaat-e-Islamia, the political wing of Hizbul Mujahideen and that his daughter Mehbooba had links with the terror group itself.
As a result, during a visit to Srinagar in April 2003, Vajpayee insisted that Mehbooba should not be on the stage with him and Mufti Sayeed, he said.
Speaking about the separatist leadership in the state, Dulat said the Mirwaiz Umer Farooq was one such leader who could be roped into the mainstream.
"But he is a scared person and fears for his life," he said.
About the Sayeed-Abdullah relationship, Dulat claimed that Sayeed has a complex about Abdullah.
"He is in awe of him (Abdullah) and sees himself as socially inferior," he said.
When Advani stumped Musharraf
About the failed Agra summit, Dulat said that a meeting Advani had with General Pervez Musharraf the night before soured the atmosphere.
This is when Advani surprised Musharraf by asking for Dawood Ibrahim. This took Musharraf back and a shadow was cast thereafter on the Agra summit.
"Yaar, hote-hote reh gaya. Ho gaya tha, woh toh (it was almost done)," he recalled Mishra telling him after the failure of summit and added that he was "palpably disappointed".
Brajesh Mishra ran the Vajpayee government
Talking about the role of Brajesh Mishra, Dulat said he "virtually ran the government" during Vajpayee's prime ministership.
"Mishra was more powerful than the home minister (Advani). This made for an uncomfortable relationship between Mishra and Advani.
Vajpayee readily acquiesced to this power arrangement which made Mishra more powerful.