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CBI v/s Terrorism

It was sometime in 1984 that the Country was thrown into the problem of terrorism and the Central Bureau of Investigation was asked to investigate such cases. The first  was the case of waging war against the nation by Bhindranwale and others. In otherwords,  the Sikh Militancy.  Terrorist Activities and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) was not in force till then.

We investigated that case. But similar militant activity was found in the murder of  Baba Gurcharan Singh, Chief of  Nirankaris in 1980 which was also investigated by the CBI. This case ended in conviction of the accused. Middle of 1980s was the peak period of Sikh militancy in Punjab and other relevant areas. Fight for a separate state so called as Khalistan started. Sikh youth were brainwashed by such militant elements placed in Canada, United Kingdom, Pakistan etc. who funded them and facilitated illegal smuggling of sophisticated arms including AK-47 and so on.

Militants like Bhindranwale  openly moved with heavy arms and group of militants. He started operating from the precincts of Golden Temple. Dr. Jagjit Singh Chauhan, a Sikh militant declared himself as Chief of Khalistan and operated from United Kingdom and provided support to the fighting militants. We registered a case against him for Sedition etc. in 1983 and investigated but subsequently closed the investigation for want of evidence.  A S Atwal, Deputy Inspector General of Punjab Police, who was monitoring and taking action against those militants,  on a visit to the Golden Temple was shot at and killed at Golden Temple.

We registered a case in 1983 and investigated and finally closed the investigation for want of evidence.  Manchanda, President of Delhi Gurudwara   Prabandhak Committee was killed. We registered and investigated this case, arrested the accused but the case ended in acquittal as witnesses turned hostile. In the same year, in 1984, Indian Airlines flight from Srinagar to Lahore was hijacked. Accused were tried in Pakistan and convicted. Regarding the support given to the militants, a case was registered by the CBI against  G.S.Tohra, President, SGPC. This case was subsequently withdrawn. CBI also investigated  case related to hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC 421 on 24.8.1984 from Chandigarh to Dubai which case ended in conviction. The other case related to terrorist activities of  Jasbir Singh, President of International Sikh Youth Federation and Vice President of Khalistan Council in UK. This case was subsequently withdrawn.

In 1985, CBI investigated  Sant Longowal, murder case, arrested the accused and filed charge sheet and finally the accused were convicted. Another case related to  attempt to hijack Indian Airlines aircraft from Srinagar to Pakistan. This case ended in conviction of the accused. In 1986, we registered and investigated three such cases. One case related to murder of  Karam Singh, (brother of Gen. RS Dayal,  Commander of Blue Star Operation) and his family members on 24.2.1986 which case ended in acquittal of the accused for want of evidence. Another case related to murder of Gen. Arun Shridhar Vaidya, who was  Chief of Army during the Blue Star Operation.

In this case, hardcore terrorists Harjinder Singh @Jinda, Sukhvinder Singh @Sukha etc. were arrested. The case ended in conviction of these two accused Harjinder Singh @ Jinda and Sukhvinder Singh @Sukha with death penalty and they were executed. Two accused were traced in New Jersy, USA, on the information given by the CBI and we processed and followed up the Extradition proceedings in New Arc and then in New Jersy but inspite of order from the Court, the then ruling power in USA did not extradite them. But in 2000 March, when Mr. Bill Clinton, President of America visited India, people in Rajasthan protested as they were involved in terrorist activities in Rajasthan also and therefore, on return to USA, President Clinton ordered their extradition. The third case related to the attempt to kill Shri Rajiv Gandhi, Prime Minister at Rajghat in which case the accused were arrested and finally convicted.

In the year 1987, we  investigated a sensational case relating to the dacoity at Punjab National Bank, Civil Lines branch in Ludhiana in which hardcore terrorists Harjinder Singh @Jinda and others looted about 6 crores from the said bank. Accused were arrested in the coming years and charge sheeted. In the year 1990, we investigated IPS Officer Ms.Vandana Malik murder case which is a terrorist case of Assam. One accused was arrested and charge sheeted. 3 accused were absconding. Kunje Thokchom, accused arrested in this case stands acquitted.

Terrorism came to define the political responses in Kashmir in 1989. In the beginning, it was a small indigenous group of Kashmiris who initiated the era of militancy under the banner of JKLF which was initially supported by Pakistan but was later on abandoned in favour of a newly floated organization, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (Hizb). Hizb, like the JKLF was manned by the local Kashmiri youth but its ultimate objectives were quite different from those of JKLF. While JKLF aimed at complete independence of the erstwhile state of J&K as it stood before October, 1947, the Hizb aimed at a merger of the state with Pakistan.

Though many things happened in between, the actual militant activities started in the Valley in the end of 1989 with the kidnapping of Dr. Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of the then Home Minister of India Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, on 8.12.1989. She was kidnapped by members of JKLF who demanded the release of 5 of their men in custody and the government released the 5 militants in exchange of Rubaiya Sayeed.

We investigated this case and prosecuted the accused. Thereafter, there were continuous such militant activities like murder of 14 Air Force personnel who were gunned down while they were waiting for their buses on the road; murder of  Lassa Kaul, Director, Doordarshan, Srinagar;   Mir Mustafa murder; Murder of Vice-Chancellor of Kashmir University; Kidnapping and murder of HL Khera, General Manager of HMT in the Valley; murder of Maulvi Farooq and Inspector Dharamvir murder; bomb blast at DGP office in Srinagar and Jammu Stadium blast and so on. Close proximity to the Pakistan border and determination of the ISI assisted militant handlers efforts pushed in trained militants with arms and ammunitions.

CBI, on orders investigated 59 such cases in total, over the years, including the 2 cases which were under Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act namely the DFO Sanjay Singh’s murder by MCC Naxalites in Bihar and the Haren Pandya murder in Gujarat. The accused were convicted. Out of the 59 cases, 19 cases pertained to Sikh militancy, 18 cases to Kashmir militancy and 22 cases related to other militant activities including assassination of Shri Rajiv Gandhi by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE). Of the 19 Sikh militancy cases, 11 pertained to the instances in the State of Punjab, 2 in the state of J&K, 02 Maharashtra, 01 originated and planned in UK, 01 in Delhi, 01 in Rajasthan and 01 in Gujarat. Regarding Kashmir Valley militancy sponsored by Pak based militants and their splinter groups in the Valley, 17 such cases pertained to the instances in the State of J&K and 01 in Delhi(Terrorist funding case). Out of the 22 other cases, one related to Rajiv Gandhi assassination; 02 POTA cases, Bombay Bomb blast case, 05 Train blast cases, Malegaon blast, Nanded Blast, Mecca Masjid blast cases(which were under investigation), LD Arora(Asst. Collector of Customs) murder case etc.

It was found that in 16 cases, the Modus Operandi involved was mass killing of innocent people with a view to create terror in the Society while 22 cases pertained to target killing where people engaged in fighting militants and or high dignitaries were eliminated. In some of the cases innocent people were also got killed, like in the case of Rajiv Gandhi murder in which some police/ security officers guarding Rajiv Gandhi and innocent people were also killed. 03 cases pertained to kidnapping of important persons or hostages with the motive of securing release of arrested militants. In the IC 814 Kandahar hijacking case, the motive was to get Maulana Masood Azhar , a Pak militant lodged in Jammu Jail released. 04 cases pertained to funding of terrorists, 04 cases related to hijacking, 10 cases related to other incidents like smuggling of explosives for terrorist activities etc.

In the IC 814 hijacking case (Kandahar hijacking case) all the 3 accused in custody were convicted. Abdul Latif, a Gujarati Muslim who had got training in ISI and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen training centers in Pakistan was the main handler of the militants in India and facilitated their stay etc. in India, Nepal and arranged forged passports etc. Pakistan government is obliged to trace, arrest and handover them to the Indian authority under the Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation of 1971(Montreal Convention); the Hague Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft of 1970(The Hague Convention) and the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism as also in accordance with the Simla  Agreement and the spirit of Lahore Declaration as also in conformity with normal inter-state/ International relations. It is high time that a thorough study of all terrorist cases and the end results and reasons for failures etc. is made and corrective steps are taken to control the menace, in the larger interest of the Country. It is necessary to have a data bank for effective control and management of the problem.

CBI had a Terrorist Cell and all these cases were monitored by it. Besides investigation and handling of trial of these cases, collection of intelligence etc., the Cell was also holding Co-ordination Meetings with the DGsP of terrorism affected states and or their representatives at senior level. In these meetings we used to share all terrorist related information like associates of accused terrorists, hide outs, funding of terrorist activities, harbourers, training spots and facilitators etc. CBI had excellent rapport and co-ordination with officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) of Canada and we used to get excellent information from them about terrorists, their hide outs and so on as Canada was one of the main operating bases.

We used to share such specific intelligence reports with the state representatives which proved to  be  beneficial to handle these crimes. The co-ordinated efforts were very effective and all such state police and other Intelligence Agencies were happy to interact and co-ordinate with the CBI. In the facts and circumstances, it will not be out of context to say that the CBI may prove to be a good centre point/Nodal point  to collect and disseminate such terrorist/militant related intelligence and data in the larger interest of all affected states and the nation as a whole.

This applies not only to terrorist cases but all types of militants, Naxalites, smugglers, black money hoarders, currency counterfeiters and so on. CBI may be considered to be a good source as the state police will not feel aggrieved to co-operate.  One exclusive Zone may be created in the CBI to effectively handle all such information at one point rather than having a NCTC.  It should also monitor all cases and there should be one platform without any politics attached to it.

If criminals of this category are killing innocent people, security personnel etc. and fighting against the Nation, why to bother about the cry that innocent people may also be get killed during and in a justified and genuine security operation against these criminals? Well, we should take all precautions to protect the innocent. There is need to have a National Policy on this subject. Bullet to bullet and may be bullet to hundred bullets attitude/response cannot be a negative thinking or strategy?.  When it comes to the question of security of the nation, we should forget all other things.  Soch badlo, Desh bachao.

(The author  – M Narayanan – is a former joint  director of CBI and is also the author of the book—Voice of CBI and worked in the terrorist cell of CBI during 1980s-1990s and onwards and handled large number of terrorist cases in the CBI. The article comes out of his experiences in the field and recollections. The views expressed by the author are personal)

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