VOICES JUG SURAIYA AMAR BHUSHAN ANAND NEELAKANTAN RAVI SHANKAR GAUTAM CHINTAMANI MATA AMRITANANDAMAYI THE NEW SUNDAY EXPRESS BUFFET MAGAZINE PEOPLE WELLNESS BOOKS FOOD ART & CULTURE ENTERTAINMENT SEPTEMBER 22 2019 SUNDAY PAGES 12 Patriarchs of Terror EXCLUSIVE EXCERPTS Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified by Iqbal Chand Malhotra and Maroof Raza Curfew in Kashmir Emerging Abyss The Master Cell Is Born The ambiguity of the National Conference towards accession to India manifested itself in March 1964 in the form of certain fringe elements in the organisation establishing the Students’ Federation (SF) and Young Men’s League (YML) to push the case for separation from India more aggressively Three SF and YML members, . Ashraf Batku, Bashir Ahmed Kitchloo and Zafar-ul-Islam, along with another valley resident-turned-Pakistani spy Ghulam , Sarwar, set up what was called the Master Cell to supervise their covert campaign against Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir. Within two weeks of the launch of Operation Gibraltar on August 5, 1965, the Master Cell started printing and posting anti-India posters on the streets of Srinagar. On August 29, 1965, it organised a students’ strike in Srinagar. They also set off a grenade, carrying the Pakistan Ordnance Factories’ seal, on the same day in Srinagar’s Regal Chowk. On September 6, 1965, they also convinced the students of the Government Medical College to go on a strike. On September 11, 1965, another grenade was let off in Lal Chowk. More grenade attacks followed and the campaign of terror unleashed by the Master Cell continued. These activities ran concurrently with the 1965 Indo-Pak War. However, Indian intelligence caught on to the tracks of the Master Cell and by early 1966, it was shut down. Despite the clean-up, some remnants of the Master Cell remained. One of its sub-cells, Poster Cell-1, had a rather nondescript member called Ghulam Rasool Zahgir. It will not be out of place to credit Zahgir for being the father of Pakistani subversion in Jammu and Kashmir. In mafia parlance, he was the capo di tutti capi or the boss of all the bosses. Men like Masood Azhar, Hafiz Sayeed and Syed Salahuddin were worthy successors of this trailblazer. Zahgir showed the way to initiate and execute subversion in the valley with the support of the PIB and the ISI. The Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkare-Taiba had only to follow his trail. Zahgir was detained on October 21, 1965. However, since he was then only on the fringes of the ring, he was released on parole in January 1966. Indian intelligence had unfortunately underestimated him. Upon his release, he established contact with intelligence operatives working out of Pakistan. They (Pakistan) asked him to develop contacts with underground student groups like the Students’ Revolutionary Council. Zahgir’s arrival charged up this group and he took over their leadership. By December 1966, Zahgir and his group mailed posters bearing a map of India with Jammu and Kashmir coloured red and marked as a separate entity to a wide range of people in Jammu and Kashmir. This act caused his group to be named ‘Red Kashmir’. However, his handlers at the Pakistan High Commission wanted him to do much more. In July 1968, Zahgir, along with Nazir Ahmed Wani, travelled across the Ramgarh-Sialkot border into Pakistan. The two met a Pakistani IB official, who identified himself as Zafar Iqbal Rathore; Rathore was to become their case officer. They also met Maj Tufail and Col Bashir. Zahgir and Wani were instructed to send small groups of men for military training and were themselves to return again for a longer period of specialised training. Shortly after Zahgir’s return from Pakistan, two new recruits joined him. They were Mohammad Aslam Wani and Zahoor Ahmad Shahdad. The two planned to rob rifles from an armoury used to store rifles for the National Cadet Corps, situated at the Islamia College. The robbery was a failure and one of the groups of robbers that was caught on the spot led the police to Wani and Shahdad. Once the dots had been joined, the trail revealed the role of Zahgir. He swiftly fled to Pakistan in November 1968. Over there, he was trained by the Pakistan Army field intelligence unit in all the skills he would require to wage a guerrilla war against the Indian state. Sheikh Abdullah outside Special Jail, Jammu WHILE PIB’S RATHORE HAD NOT YET BEEN POSTED to New Delhi, a suspected intelligence operative named Mufti Zia-ul-Haq, a resident of the village of Kreeri, who had left for Pakistan after Partition, visited the valley and held meetings with Zahgir, Nazir Ahmad and Fazl-ul-Haq Qureshi to discuss Al-Fatah's expansion plans. While Al-Fatah was focusing on recruiting new cadre in the valley, its unit in Doda was only involved in covert surveillance activities. Run by Ghulam Hasan Bhat, an ethnic Kashmiri who lived in the remote Kishtwar area, Al-Fatah’s Doda unit generated much of the military intelligence the organisation gathered. It also engineered a dramatic robbery of potassium cyanide from the laboratory of a college in Bhadarwah. The members would use this as a means of suicide in the event that any of PIB: Pakistan Intelligence Bureau Al-Fatah’s operatives were captured. Interestingly, the National Conference had no qualms in permitting the YML and the SF from operating out of these premises. Does one wonder how many senior officials of the National Conference knew what these people were up to? Master Cell’s Transformation into Al-Fatah As early as 1968, during the waning years of Ayub Khan’s presidency Paki, stan’s greater strategic imperatives were being integrated with the planning and execution of a widespread covert war with India. Zahgir became the nucleus of this effort. He had developed a map that would The political situation of the day required that Beg had access to Zahgir’s network while Zahgir needed access to Beg’s legitimacy. IN SRINAGAR, ON THE NIGHT OF FEBRUARY 3, 1967, a BSF constable was on duty at the Nawakadal Bridge. He was armed with a .303 army-issued rifle, loaded with five rounds in its chamber. Armed with daggers, Zahgir and Sarwar stabbed the BSF guard in the chest. Officials at the Maharaj Gunj Police Station registered a First Information Report recording the murder but had no information on who carried it out. The police investigation of the Nawakadal murder moved no further even after Red Kashmir claimed responsibility for the murder in the next issue of its newsletter. Soon after the murder, Zahgir was arrested under the Defence of India rules because of intelligence reports that said that he had resumed his anti-India activities. However, the Jammu and Kashmir Police had no idea that Zahgir was involved in either the Red Kashmir posters or the Nawakadal murder. not just cause the defeat of the Indian security forces but would also bring down its entire apparatus of power and control. In this visionary plan, tax strikes, protests by the unemployed and demands by bureaucrats for higher pay—all had a role in the larger political struggle against India. Zahgir now chose the name Al-Fatah for his organisation. In Arabic as in Urdu, the name means liberation, salvation and conquest. The initiation of this major plan to subvert India through the starting point of Jammu and Kashmir predates the WHAT BEG AND ZAHGIR never realised was that all their meetings were under surveillance of the security arms of the Indian state. Apparently, at another meeting on November 14, 1970, Afzal Beg finally told Zahgir that the Plebiscite Front was ready to contest the coming elections and that he was principally worried of the Congress party rigging the elections. One major concern was booth-capturing and its corollary of stuffing ballot boxes. Beg wanted the SF and YML to help the Plebiscite Front secure a respectable showing by being polling booth vigilantes. Beg, in parting, asked Zahgir if he had any message to pass on to the Pakistan High Commission, where he was scheduled for a visit the next month. Zahgir did not take up the offer because he did not want to expose his own links. Mirza Afzal Beg Bangladesh War and the new turn of militancy in the state beginning from 1987. In January 1969, Zahgir, Fazl-ul-Haq Qureshi and Musadaq Husain returned to India from Pakistan via Punjab. They then made their way back to Srinagar. Nazir Ahmad Wani was eagerly waiting for them. The old networks were reactivated and new members recruited. Having achieved this, in May 1969, Zahgir, Qureshi and Wani then travelled back to Pakistan where they received specific instructions from PIB’s Zafar Iqbal Rathore, Brig Asghar and Maj Tufail. The latter two were, in all probability ISI officers , seconded to assist Rathore. Wani received military instruction and learnt how to operate machine guns, rifles, hand grenades and explosives. All of them were taught how to fabricate improvised explosive devices from easily available materials such as potassium chlorate and arsenic sulphide. In July 1969, they returned to India, again via Punjab and started teaching courses in guerilla combat tactics for eight recruits in the Hak-Khul forests above the village of Arizal, in Beerwah. Significantly this was the same village where some years earlier, in May 1965, in the run-up to Operation Gibraltar, the subversive group of Hayat Mir, an affiliate of the Master Cell, had carried out a savage terrorist attack. It was also the place where an old prison mate of theirs, Salim Jehangir Khan, a former Pakistani covert operative, had opened a poultry farm. This poultry farm would serve as a cover for Al-Fatah’s training activities. All of their time was spent in building up the organisation and fine-tuning their tradecraft. In January 1970, Zahgir again travelled to Pakistan, this time with two new members of Al-Fatah— Bashir Ahmed and Gulzar Ahmed ‘Khaki’. Zahgir provided his case officer and the ISI support team with a detailed account of AI-Fatah’s organisation-building activities as well as some intelligence of military value. The group was now told it was time to act. Rathore told Zahgir that he would shortly be posted to the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi. A fortnight later, the group returned to Srinagar. Their first target would be the office of the education department at Pulwama. Late on the night of April 1, 1970, Zahgir’s group travelled in a stolen jeep to Pulwama. Outside the education department’s office, they encountered three unarmed guards. Confronted with the heavily armed group, two of these guards promptly surrendered. One, who put up Turn to page 2
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