India Won’t Survive Lawlessness Of Security Agencies.

Perhaps for the first time in its history the Intelligence Bureau (IB) is in serious trouble, where its senior officers face the threat of imminent prosecution, and possibly of successful prosecution leading to punishment. This prospect would rattle any security agency used to do pretty much what it wants in the name of protecting national security and eliminating terrorist threats on nation’s soil before they happen. If asked whether IB’s efforts have made nation more secure, person in the street would look askance with horror because terror seems to strike at will in India.
Most audacious terror strike was the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, which couldn’t be foiled though Pakistani killers were in the Arabian sea for several days coming from Karachi to Mumbai, they first travelled in Pakistani craft, then commandeered an Indian fishing vessel after killing the crew save except one to guide them close to Mumbai, got into small inflatable crafts armed to the teeth to reach Mumbai’s shore; and still the entire security apparatus had no clue until Fedayeen launched a blisteringly ferocious attack that left hundreds of innocent people dead. Yet, IB has proffered in self-defense that the entire intelligence apparatus would breakdown if its officers are prosecuted. That refrain has found support in an article, Ishrat Jahan case: Intelligence won’t survive the investigation, by a well-known journalist, Praveen Swami, who worked for long with The Hindu. To his credit, notwithstanding the ornate embellishments he used for emotional appeal to his readers –the President of India handed Ajit Kumar Doval a small silver disc exactly one-and-three-eights of an inch in diameter, emblazoned with the great wheel of dharma, a lotus wreath and the words Kirti ChakraIn 1975, Doval won the police medal for meritorious service after just six years in service instead of the usual seventeen; Prime Minister Indira Gandhi wrote a note on the file saying she wouldn’t normally do this, but the circumstances were unusual-; he has argued, “no democratic republic can countenance extrajudicial executions and torture. There’s just no way for what happened in Gujarat to be made acceptable.  Leave aside all the ethical concerns. Police officials who have the power over the life and death of terrorists today can, tomorrow, use it against political opponents and all the rest of us. Encouraging such acts isn’t patriotism: it is a sure-shot way of turning us into Pakistan, or worse”.  
Aware of descend into chaos that encouraging lawlessness engenders, he still immediately distances himself from the seeming *bleeding hearts’ emotionalism* of it by asserting, “Few ethical principles, though, survive encounters with the real world un-bruised — which is why only those who never exercise power have the luxury of moral pieties”. The next point he makes is arguably unblemished, “India has dodged a serious debate on what’s acceptable, what’s not and how to make the system to better.  Indians need to ask what a functional counter-terrorism legal framework might look like, how it is to be administered and who will make sure it isn’t abused”, and needs careful consideration by all. In the absence of such a framework, which doesn’t seem to be the goal or priority of the executive and political parties, the covert security agencies like IB and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) –India’s CIA- would continue to prioritize the bidding to do dirty work for their political masters ahead of their national duty of protecting its citizenry. This is not the first time that IB’s role has come under scrutiny. In 1994, IB had busted dramatically the spy ring operating inside ISRO –the organization entrusted with India’s vaunted space program and had netted among others -Maldivian nationals Mariam Rasheeda and Fawzia Hussain, and senior ISRO scientists Nambi Narayanan and Sasikumaran. Sex and Spying makes explosively titillating mixture, and media was agog with front page stories for weeks together. Later it became clear that IB had imagined the spy ring and CBI was asked to investigate.
Supreme Court directed Kerala government in 1998 to pay compensation of Rs. 100,000/- to each of the 6 accused in the case, and CBI report indicted D C Pathak, director IB, and other senior officials, and had recommended “necessary executive action”. Government took no action against rogue IB elements, though many reputations were ruined, and careers destroyed. The Maldivian “Honey Trap” too turned out to be the product of IB’s lurid imagination. Mainstream media at that time also played the role of partner in crime with IB and police by publishing fervid but baseless scoops. See a sobering account of the whole case by Prem Panicker, who worked in 1994 with The Sunday Observer, “What happens to the four years of life they have been robbed of?” Mercifully, in that total fabrication by IB, no lives were lost, though it became a living hell for the falsely accused persons; one of whom has nearly lost his sanity. The Isharat Jahan encounter case has four dead bodies to account for.
These four bodies of Isharat Jahan, Javed Shaikh, Zeeshan Johar (LeT operative from Gujranwala, Pakistan, source:IB/Swami), and Amjad Ali Rana (LeT operative from Sargodha, Pakistan, source:IB/Swami) are adequately accounted for by IB as per Swami due to what he calls “genuine national-security operations”. It is this conviction of Swami’s that has committed him to give a spin to his story, which finally attempts to convince the reader that it would be foolhardy, if not suicidal, to seek IB’s prosecution in Isharat Jahan case. If someone is not convinced of his spin, then see the title for the tell it all clue, “Intelligence won’t survive the investigation”. That is why the part of his article, which details the Isharat Jahan case, needs to be gone over with a fine comb.
The barebones of his narration of the case pivots around the *well laid “Double Agent Trap” of IB*. Two Jihadists (called C1, C2) in Gujarat were identified and secretly captured by IB. C1, C2 double talked and convinced their handler in Pakistan to send over to India/Gujarat LeT cadres Zeeshan Johar and Amjad Ali Rana to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Zohar reached Gujarat in April, and Rana joined him in May. Javed Shaikh, who communicated frequently with main handler in Pakistan, finally got clearance to travel to Gujarat from Pune/Mumbra/Mumbai-Maharashtra in his newly bought secondhand car accompanied by Isharat Jahan. Had the IB/Gujarat Police acted as per law and prosecuted C1, C2, then, contends Swami, India would have never netted the four (or at least three) terrorists. Closely followed by this, he makes two egregious claims, “If they hadn’t got to these men, innocents might have died” and “if they hadn’t killed the suspects, C1 and C2 would have been useless for further operations — and possibly dead”. Had C1, C2 been prosecuted, then two alleged Pakistanis would not have obviously travelled to Gujarat. How would then innocents have died? But this is a minor infraction since it can always be argued that a terrorist alive would kill tomorrow if he doesn’t today. The second sentence though suffers many severe infirmities. The confirmed Pakistani nationals and LeT Operatives of his narration become here now mere “suspects”. Didn’t the IB have enough proof to nail them in a court of law as LeT terrorists, who presumably crossed over illegally into India, since Swami doesn’t mention any specific travel dates like he obligingly does for Shaikh? Or has the word “suspect” been deliberately planted here with an eye on the future defense of IB officers in a court of law? In matters of espionage, spies, terrorists, and counterterrorism; how can courts expect and dare to ask for “hard evidence”? Wouldn’t the very nature of intelligence work preclude hard evidence, or any evidence for that matter, where one works only on hunches, guesswork, and suspicions?  This is not the only problem. Had the “suspects” been arrested and prosecuted based on *available evidence*; would that make C1 or C2 any more useless than by killing the “suspects”? This can be easily answered by a though experiment. Imagine yourself in the position of a Pakistani Handler, who has pressed four or three of his trusted Fedayeen and valuable assets on a murderous mission in India following a message from his two Jihadi agents that all logistical arrangements are in place and coast is clear for “operation”. Now, instead of hearing a mission successful message, you hear that your valuable assets have been eliminated in an encounter or have been arrested. What would you do? You would definitely be interested in knowing what went wrong. Whom would you contact? Obviously your Jihadist agents C1 or C2, who are now unknown to you functioning as IB double agents, but you still can contact them. Or at least they can contact you and you would expect them to contact you as soon as possible. When they do contact you, you expect a clear, cogent account of what went wrong and also how others were killed/arrested while they escaped. This is where whether you are a smart Pakistani handler or a stupid one will count. A smart Pakistani handler would know if anything is fishy and he would test his two agents through some red-herring tasks. Even if no contact is possible between you and your moles in India, you would still assume the worse. Won’t you? Thus C1, C2 would be compromised and rendered useless any which way irrespective of the fact whether four or three Fedayeen assets are killed or arrested. Swami has also consciously skirted the allegation that all four “suspects” were in the custody of IB/Gujarat Police prior to their elimination in a staged encounter. Moreover, it was IB’s idea according to Swami to lure terrorists from Pakistan to Gujarat in the hope that they would get to kill “top political leaders in Gujarat, including Chief Minister Narendra Modi”. That means the “terror plot” to eliminate Modi had not originated in Pakistan as everyone is led to believe, but had an Indian origin.
The references made by Swami to “KPS Gill’s brutal campaign against the Khalistan insurgency”, to “Mizo insurgency and its leader Pu Laldenga”, or to “Golden Temple in 1989, when Indian forces killed 41 terrorists and forced 200 to surrender, and the terrorists thought Doval was an Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI, Pakistan) bombs expert, a misunderstanding that had some bearing on the eventual outcome”, and planted strategically at various places in his article smell of a plot to obfuscate the whole issue by putting in one basket “all good and lawful” and “unlawful and bad” deeds of security/intelligence agencies. The point is quite plain and simple. The lawful and good deeds are to be lauded, saluted, and should be rewarded. However, unlawful and bad deeds, even by the same hero, have to be punished and punished hard especially when personnel of security and intelligence organizations are involved, who in any case enjoy awesome powers.
This brings us to the last point. Swami has referred to West and its offshoring of moral dilemmas. The black deeds of the West, especially of USA, have been exposed several times by many courageous journalists, commentators, activists and even retired bureaucrats and former intelligence operatives belonging to those countries. Quite a few websites are devoted to exposing official lies and deadly overt and covert operations. Seen against the enormity of the black deeds of the West –tens of thousands killed, millions displaced and made homeless, countries destroyed-, the alleged crimes of intelligence bureau look like a trivia, something best overlooked or ignored. But Swami may have overlooked that such comparisons may odiously provoke images of the enormous harm done by mainstream media or what later came be called “embedded journalism”. The article by Swami uncomfortably looks like embedded journalism that seeks to protect Intelligence Bureau on the grounds of what else but “national interest” and “security”. It may not have been ghost written by Intelligence Bureau, but it comes pretty close to that by Swami’s on disclosure, “I have his (Doval’s) permission, though, to speculate that it may have involved the cold-blooded execution of a Pakistani intelligence officer, the illegal detention of terrorism suspects, torture, the smuggling of arms and explosives across India’s borders, and the use of false identities”.
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PS: Food for sober thought from IB’s ISRO scandal, “What, then, of fixing responsibility? On the police officer, who first tried to take advantage of a stranded alien and, when she resisted, had her hounded, then arrested, and introduced the “spy” bogey into the equation? On those within the ISRO establishment who, as one weapon in the vicious faction fight going on at the time, leaked muck about their own colleagues to a media willing to print it all and more without pause for confirmation? On the media itself, for having abdicated all journalistic norms in a mindless pursuit of the front page byline, of newspaper-selling sensationalism?
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