Sacrifices of Intelligence officials go unsung
By R. C. Ganjoo
January 22, 2021
On 27 January, the world will be observing, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is an opportunity to reassert a nation’s commitment to human rights and the time has come for India to take note of this day and commemorate the sacrifices of its intelligence officials that are not discussed in the public domain. The intelligence inputs provided by these unsung heroes are vital for the nation’s security and protection. Therefore, it is important for their sacrifices to be recognised and honoured.
There are many heart-wrenching stories of officials of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) who made supreme sacrifice in the line of duty while exposing the Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Their sacrifices may have remained hidden from the public eye to ensure the secrecy of the organisation. But it is necessary to bring to light all that had happened behind closed curtains.
In the Kashmir Valley, the IB officials are responsible for demolishing the intelligence networking system of Pakistan. While carrying out sensitive operations, many of them are brutally killed by the enemy forces. Behind each death is a horrifying tale that causes a shudder in the spine. But instead of giving their sacrifices the due honour, all that the central or the state governments do is to give a token amount of pecuniary benefits to the family members and provide employment at the lowest ranks in IB to one member of the family.
One such heart-breaking story is that of Tej Krishen Razdan who was a Technical Officer in IB, Gupkar Road. He was killed by a Pakistan trained Kashmiri terrorist in Srinagar. During the time of this incident, terrorism was at its peak in the Valley and the state administration was paralysed. But the grim and haunting situation did not deter the official to render his duty. On 14 Feb 1990, he visited his residence at Badyar to see his ailing parents. While on his return he used public transport Matador. But at the Matador terminal point Gowkadal, Srinagar, he was forced to disembark from the vehicle and shot down by two unknown youths. Later, his blood socked body was dragged from Matador stop to Red Cross Chowk, Maisuma Bazar, and left at the roadside for public view. The nearby shopkeepers and onlookers were unmoved watching enemy forces robbing an Indian official of his life and dignity. This situation was a signal that the feeling of humanism and centuries-old bonding between the two communities - Hindus and Muslims, had vanished from their consciousness. Even more horrifying incidents followed this killing which has brought to light how the public helped terrorists in the most despicable ways.
On receiving the information, a police jeep from the Police Control Room came to pick up the body. As the driver came near the body, he asked for help from the people around the spot for lifting the body and placing it in the police vehicle. None of them came forward and the driver was forced to drag the body to the vehicle. At the police control room, the body was handed over to the bereaved family for the last rites.
In another incident, on 1 January 1990, R.M.P.Singh who was posted as IB officer in Anantnag District of the Kashmir valley was shot by ManzoorDarzi, a terrorist belonging to the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) at the main bus stand. The official was returning home in the evening with groceries for the family who were staying in government quarters. He succumbed to the bullets on the footpath of the main road. His bullet-riddled body sprawled on the ground with no immediate medical aid. Instead of saving the life of an Indian official, locals in the market area were seen in jubilation.
Closely on the heels of this incident, on 3 January 1990, another IB official KishenGopalChauhan was shot dead in close range by another JKLF terrorist in Beeru town market despite the state government employing a personal security officer to ensure his safety. The body of Chauhan was later handed over to the IB department.
On 15 January 1990, MotiLalBhan was the fourth IB official in Srinagar targeted by the JKLF militant outfit under the leadership of Bitta Karate who is infamous for his role in killing Kashmiri pandits. On that fateful day, MotiLalBhan left for office along with his son and boarded the Khanda shuttle bus service on Natipora's side. Three youth, led by Bitta Karate, barged into the coach and ordered Bhan to get down from the bus. He protested and argued. A co-passenger intervened not to force Bhan to get down from the bus. In a fit of anger, one of the intruders pulled the trigger of the gun and shot the co-passenger on the spot and a pall of gloom and panic spread among other commuters in the shuttle bus. Soon after, they fired upon Bhan in the head at point-blank range. Not a single person in that bus came to the rescue of Bhan and the co-passenger who lost his life defending him. The fault of Bhan was that he had handled the operation of apprehending Abdul AhadWaza, a Pakistan trained Kashmiri Terrorist.
In yet another incident the same year, Rafiq Ahmed Wani of ShalaKadal, Srinagar who was working as a Security Assistant in IB was gunned down at his home when he had come on leave from Assam to celebrate Eid with his parents.
Pakistan-sponsored terrorism had already surfaced in the Kashmir with the occurrences of stray bomb blasts in the valley. The alarming one was the attack at the residence of the then DIG, Kashmir A.M.Watali. In the month of December after RubaiyaSayeed was kidnapped some of the known IB field officers were threatened by JKLF terrorists.
It is true that many of the warning signs were ignored by those concerned. The ground reports from IB and other sister agencies active in the Jammu and Kashmir, about the Kashmiri youth crossing over the border to undergo arms training in ISI run camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) were adequately available with the Central government. The events of violence, bomb blasts, and sudden firing at the vintage crossing, and selective killing of Hindu minorities were providing proofs the spread of Islamic terrorism in the valley. The silence of the local populace and inaction of the state apparatus was rendering inadvertent support to the terrorists in the valley. It was simmering in the Muslim community that these gun-wielding terroristsclaiming to fight for Azadi of Kashmir from India should be supported by all the community members. The number of Muslims in mosques was rising on every Friday congregation purposely to remain abreast about the struggle of Kashmir insurgency.
Unfortunately, the Indian government could not understand the magnitude of the hostile situation that was growing in the valley. It kept ignoring the signs and classified them as law-and-order problems.
The killings can also be traced back to the imprudent decision of the IB headquarters in organising a one-day DG conference in mid of 1989 at Centaur Hotel, Srinagar. This exposed the workings of the IB department in the valley. Farooq Abdullah, the then CM was the chief guest of the conference. Without calibrating on the pros and cons of the situation in a sensitive region, the conference failed to strengthen the national security apparatus and also ignored the enemy’s strategy of sneaking into the system. All the conference did was to gravely compromise the functioning of IB and make its officials the first to be on the hit list of terrorists in the Kashmir region.
It is also pertinent to mention here that the presence of IB was always an eyesore for political leadership in Kashmir. The design for an independent Kashmir got exposed in an interview of Late Sheikh Abdullah to two foreign correspondents, Michael Davidson and Ward Price, in January 1949. IB sleuths were alerted to get the details of the interview given by the late Sheikh through his owncontacts. The information about IB inquiring into the details of the meeting with foreign journalists, reached the ears of Sheikh Abdullah, and he got annoyed. IB Director B M Malik shared the incident with late Gopalaswami Ayyangar, Senior Minister in charge of Kashmir affairs, in New Delhi. But, the reaction to the IB report shared with Ayyangar was quite unexpected. The IB official posted in the Valley was given marching orders from Kashmir, for the reasons only known to Ayyangar.
It became known later thatAyyangar's objective was to placate Abdullah for political reasons. However,Abdullah showed some reservations on replacement of IB officer in the valley. Again, Ayyangar had to use his good office in convincing Sheikh Abdullah to keep IB officers stationed in the valley. During this time, Sardar Patel had disclosed to the IB Director that he did not trust Abdullah. Maharaja Hari Singh was in touch with Patel and had informed him about the hidden communal agenda of Sheikh Abdullah.
Aversion towards IB’s role in the valley had started since independence but came to the fore when Late MirzaAfzalBeigh and G Parthasarthy talks in 1972-73 began and during the talk, late Sheikh Abdullah insisted on total winding off IB from the state.
(The writer is a senior journalist covering Jammu and Kashmir for decades)