New Delhi: Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah shouted at the then RAW Chief A S Dulat for “hours together” during their meeting after the erstwhile BJP-led government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee decided to release three hardcore militants in exchange for the freedom of the passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane in 1999, a tell-all book revealed on Thursday.
Dulat, the former head of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), also said that Farooq felt the decision by the Union Government was a “mistake” and he had stormed off after their meeting to call on Governor Girish Chander Saxena with the intention of resigning.
When the hijacking took place on December 24, 1999, the government’s Crisis Management Group (CMG) “goofed up” the entire case by not immobilising the plane when it had landed in Amritsar for refuelling. The plane had been hijacked in Kathmandu and would eventually land in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
“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 in an interview to Karan Thapar on his India Today TV programme.
Dulat said that as the CMG agreed to release the three terrorists in exchange for the lives of the 155 passengers and the crew members 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&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 the governor with an intention to resign.”
However, the governor calmed him down and Abdullah eventually accepted the situation and agreed to the release of terrorists, Dulat said.
During the interview, he briefly mentioned about his last meeting with the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in which the BJP stalwart had said “woh humare se galti hui hai (it was our mistake)” about the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Dulat, who headed the external spy agency till 2000, before he was appointed as Special Advisor in Vajpayee’s PMO on Kashmir issue, says Vajpayee always believed that the 2002 riots was a mistake and the grief was “clearly visible” on his face.
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.
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.
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 failed Agra summit, Dulat said that a meeting Advani had with Gen. 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,” he recalled Mishra telling him after the failure of summit and added that he was “palpably disappointed”.
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.