Sunday, 12 January 2020


Afzal Guru: The Man Who Knew Too Much
A wit’s answer to the question that is set to become an eternal one: ‘Why did they hang Afzal Guru?’, reads: ‘Afzal Guru was hanged because the Indian law doesn't allow electric chair, lethal injection, stoning to death, guillotine or any other form of execution.’ However, there is another straight answer: He knew too much. He had already exposed the Indian state’s behavior in Kashmir in his pleadings for justice over the years. But the true face of the state is unremarkable. He knew more. He was the exposed link into a chain of subterfuge leading into the STF (Special Task Force), a unit of Kashmiri rebels who turned coat.
He had pointed this out while alive referring to a certain ‘Tariq’ in the shadowy world of the renegade rebels who set the stage for India to prevail in Kashmir by systematically killing their former comrades and their supporters using fair means and foul. The outfit called Ikhwan was inducted into the police to regularize them. Their notoriety was such that one campaign promise of a political party that won in the polls in 2002 was that they would be disbanded. They were rechristened instead, regularized and hopefully more disciplined since. That Pakistani trained jihadis were degenerate and their terror acts reprehensible, the cliché ‘fight fire with fire’ provided legitimacy to such paramilitary outfits. In that troubled era in their heyday they served to undertake the ‘dirty war’ on behalf of the state.
The ‘conspiracy theory’ needs airing at this juncture. Was the STF used, and did it, in turn, use Afzal Guru for nefarious purpose? Spelling out the conspiracy theory is necessary. This has been done competently elsewhere by the likes of Arundhati Roy and Nirmalangshu Mukherjee. It is with reason they have titled the volume in which their case appears: 13 December, a Reader: The Strange Case of the Attack on the Indian Parliament(Penguin India, pp. 233, Rs. 200, 2006). The very term ‘conspiracy’ is a way to marginalize what could well be the truth. The fact that no inquiry has gone into the parliamentary attack, the truth has not been plumbed. With Afzal gone, it is now also probably beyond reach.
As with any ‘strange case’, it is best to begin with the motives. Parliament attack led up to the Indian military mobilization. That the mobilization stopped at the border and did not cross it suggests more than just statesmanship on Prime Minister Vajpayee’s part. It indicates a strategy, one premeditated and not one thought up at the spur of the moment in the crisis brought on by the dastardly attack. Crisis environments do not lend themselves to cool heads. Stopping at the border was  cool headed decision. That can only have been induced by a predetermined plan of action. In effect, the conspiracy theory has it that the parliament attack was a doing of the intelligence agency put to it by the national security apparatus at the apex level. The one who could have more information on this, the then national security adviser and principal secretary, Mr. Brajeah Mishra, is now no more to confirm this. That in his absence his denial can be anticipated makes the theory a ‘conspiracy theory’.
The diplomatic coercion - coercive diplomacy in strategic terms –mounted thereafter also needed a trigger. Pakistan had crept back into American good books with 9/11. India that had begun courting the US ever since it burst its way into the nuclear club, felt left out in the cold. It needed to embarrass Pakistan, snap America out of its Musharraf infatuation. India needed a trigger. A trigger could not have waited for a bunch of obliging terrorists to come round and timelystorm the parliament. India required instead manufacturing a trigger. This is where the STF comes in.
Given the nature of the violent conflict on in Kashmir at the time, the existence of detention centers is well known. That these would have had inmates with very little chance of seeing freedom once again can also be conceded. Consider that in case a few of these inmates – who were incarcerated since they wanted to harm India – were given a choice of dying a death they had always imagined for themselves, one of a jihadi, how many would have agreed to the proposal. It is obvious that there would be at least some wanting a crack at India, dying in a blaze of imagined glory rather than blindfolded in front of a death squad.  It can be surmised that there would have been no shortage of recruits from those dark chambers. All it needed now was to put together the supporting cast and the equipment, and have a cover story. It is here that unfortunate Afzal figures in the story. The rest as they say is history; but most of it unwritten, deliberately kept unknown, and now, unknowable.
If this is too implausible, then the second manner such a show can be put together is to insert double agents into terror groups. They can then be manipulated into conducting outrages that they are intent on in any case and the manipulator may wish carried out for own political purposes. For instance, in a famous case in Handwara, an SPO induced a couple of unemployed youth to go into a forest after giving them weapons with the promise that a jihadi armed group awaited their joining the group in the forest. The gullible duo went into the forest only to be shot down by the Rashtriya Rifles ambush party conveniently placed on the track to intercept them. Thus, all went home happy: the RR for their brave ambush; the SPO for his information on jihadi movement in the forest and the duo as martyrs to everyone’s final home. This is not an unknown tactic in intelligence circles. In the US, there is record of agents penetrating jihadi internet sites and manipulating net warriors into planning jihadi attacks, based on which they have been arraigned before the law for terror. Their incarceration would not have happened otherwise had the netizen been otherwise engaged in purveying or consuming extremism, as distinct from planning or participating in terror.  It is therefore not impossible for intelligence agencies to carry out terror attacks by proxy. Indian agencies, to their credit, are no exception.
Afzal therefore had to go. The shortcomings in his trial are now well known. The unacceptable reason for his hanging – the demand of the ‘collective conscience’ – is reversion to the bygone days of human sacrifice. He would have gone earlier had the ruling formation and its lead party of the period of the parliament attack returned to power in 2004. They had much to hide. The Congress that has been around since needed him alive to keep the pressure on that party, now in opposition. However, the tide having turned against the Congress to the extent the writing is on the wall, a human sacrifice was decreed for its revival. This explains the timing of Afzal’s departure. As for the Congress, it will prove an insincere act equivalent to the opening of the locks of Babri Masjid the last time it was under siege.
Perhaps dark clouds overhead in that era – nuclear tests, Kandahar hijack, fidayeen attacks, Kargil War, Chittisingpora massacre, Srinagar assembly bombing, right wing rule, 9/11, military rule in the neighbor etc – made the intelligence games necessary. These are games nations play since Chanakyan times. Machivelli testifies that these are indulgences of princes. When elephants fight, grass suffers. Afzal Guru was but another blade of grass.