Giving away Kashmir – Part 2

This is the second post of a three-part series on how successive recent Indian governments have plotted to give away Kashmir. It is written by Dr. Ajay Chrungoo, Chairman of the Panun Kashmir, a frontline organization of Kashmiri Pandits. Dr. Chrungoo is a guest writer with Canary Trap.

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh greeted the former Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his 84th birthday, in New Delhi on December 25, 2008.

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh greeted the former Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his 84th birthday, in New Delhi on December 25, 2008.

BY DR. AJAY CHRUNGOO

When Kathwari was invited to India along with his proposals ‘Kashmir: A Way Forward’, it marked a major change in the strategic perspectives of Indian State. Kathwari’s plan was a rechristened Dixon Formula. It envisaged a quasi-independent or eventually independent Greater Muslim Kashmir. To Dixon, doing this was completing the ‘unfinished agenda’ of Partition of India.

Nehru from the inception was opposed to an Independent Kashmir. He had outrightly communicated to Muslim leaders of Kashmir that, “he would prefer to hand over the State to Pakistan on a platter rather than support its independence and allow it to be turned into a centre of international intrigue and danger to both India and Pakistan.” It is not to say that Nehru and his successors till Vajpayee considered independence or quasi-independence for Jammu and Kashmir as a political blasphemy. There is a lot of evidence available to suggest that Nehru and his successors in Congress flirted with these options but predominantly from a tactical perspective. For strategic planners in India, counterpoising independence or autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir to counter pro-Pak sentiment in the State has always been a very attractive option. They always believed that keeping these options alive, and also nourishing them would provide India leverage to wrong foot Pakistan. Bereft of the profound understanding of the issues involved and oblivious of the implications they flaunted this maneuver more often than less as a strategic necessity. By accepting independence or quasi-independence options as possible concepts for clinching a deal with Pakistan, India has virtually checkmated itself. Pakistanis now publicly claim that they are actually agreeing to India’s position and so there should be no delay in a final settlement.

The formulation that two-nation theory can be countered only by a three-nation theory is turning out to be a fatal self goal. Both theories are ideologically one and the same. Cutting the two-nation politics into regional or ethnic denominators does not resolve its basic incompatibility with a state based on recognition of plural diversity on the principle of equality. Breaking away of Bangladesh from Pakistan only solved the problem of power sharing within the frame work of the bigger Pakistan. It did not resolve the conflict with an inclusive secular nation because it defined its separation from India on the same principle of two-nation theory.

The symbiotic relation which Pakistan evolved between pro-Pak and pro-independence/autonomy politics in Jammu and Kashmir could not be properly comprehended within the framework of the strategic perspective of India. This perspective visualized harnessing of Muslim identity politics and constitutionally fortifying Muslim sub-nationalism in the State as not only an antidote to Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir but also an effective device to mobilize Muslim vote bank in rest of India. It considered Muslim communalism in India as merely a reaction to the tyranny of Hindu majority. The entire approach over the years has become not only a device to circumvent the issue of Muslim communalism in India but to protect and nourish it.

Despite all this, till Kathwari’s visit, Indian State had not totally closed its eyes to the incompatibility of an autonomous sphere of Muslim interests in Jammu and Kashmir with the secular nation building. That explains why over the years the process of erosion of article 370 remained alive. Extension of jurisdiction of Supreme Court of India, CAG, fundamental rights and many other central laws was an expression to dissolve this incompatibility. A dominant section of Indian State and the political establishment never agreed to elevate Article 370 from a transitory provision to a permanent feature of Indian constitution. The strategic paradigm of fortifying Muslim identity politics in Jammu and Kashmir and rest of India to negate the appeal of two-nation theory has lead to the creation of broadly two sections within Indian State and the political establishment.

One such section has been that always had a subversive motivation and visualized recognition to Muslim Sub-nationalism in Jammu and Kashmir as a space to build a Greater Muslim Kashmir and use this to impair the indivisible unity of Indian Republic from within. This section always wanted Muslim identity politics in Jammu and Kashmir to be alive and kicking to use it as a cardinal insult to balkanize India along its sub-national diversity.

The second segment constitutes of those who gave more credence to the tactical value of harnessing Muslim sub-nationalism, but only to weaken the appeal of Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir. While keeping the affront to Muslim identity politics to the minimum this section however did try to neutralize the disruptive potential of special status of Jammu and Kashmir to the unity of India. This group nourished a misplaced wish that eventually Indian democracy will prove to be a stronger force and Muslim identity politics in the state will loose its relevance. This group has premised their approach on the line that Muslim communalism has not to be contested; it has to be given minimum affront and the best choice is to circumvent it.

Over the years there has been a ping pong battle between these two mindsets; one seeking to delegitimise the religious identity politics, the other doing everything to consolidate Greater Muslim Kashmir. When Muslim majority Doda was carved out of the Hindu majority Jammu province in 1948, followed by carving out of Shia Muslim majority Kargil out of Buddhist majority Ladakh, we were witnessing the counter responses to the process of fuller integration of Jammu and Kashmir unleashed not from Pakistan but from within. Nehruvian strategic paradigm kept this internal conflict in the nation building process alive.

The promotion of Kathwari plan by Vajpayee government marked the demise of this strategic perspective. The new paradigm recognizes the three nation proposals of independence or semi-independence of Kashmir as a solution to Indo-Pak conflict rather than a tactical antidote to the two-nation vision. Recognizing Pakistan as a partner in settling the future of the only Muslim majority state of India has not only made the settlement on Jammu and Kashmir as the unfinished agenda of partition but opened afresh the Muslim question in India. The support extended by eminent Muslims like AG Noorani or Shabana Azmi or Wajahat Habibullah to the separatist cause in Kashmir have the sinister forebodings of the new confidence of a section of Indian Muslim elite to question the very unity of the nation. Vajpayee’s strategic vision underlined that the frontline Muslim state of Pakistan can live in harmony with a secular and Hindu majority India. This shift in India’s strategic perspective is of the nature of a mutation. From visualizing the creation of an Independent Greater Muslim Kashmir as more dangerous than its secession to Pakistan and a potential hot bed of international intrigue, the new perspective seems to view the creation of the same as a bridge of peace between Pakistan (a confessional ideological State) and India (a secular state).

Giving away Kashmir

Manmohan Singh’s tenure has carried the strategic shift further away from the Nehru-Gandhi era.  The peace with Pakistan at any price seems to be getting internalized in a way that it has become more than a strategic necessity — an ideological imperative. The subversive entrenchment within, emboldened by its increasing reach and sway, is gradually succeeding in harnessing the might and wherewithal of the State itself to mount a concerted attack on the Nation.

The three Round Table Conferences and the meetings of the various Working Groups and the conclusions thereof are manifest examples of how Indian State is made to invest in creating a Greater Muslim Kashmir.

A section of pro-India participants, invited to the first Round Table Conference (RTC), did debate the wisdom of participating in it. They had legitimate apprehensions that the conduct of such a conference was in fact an exercise to accord democratic legitimacy to certain concessions that Government of India was ready to make to Pakistan and the separatists in the Valley. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had already had series of very high profile meetings with a section of separatist leadership. These meetings, lasting for hours, along with the top most officers of Government of India had catapulted the separatist leadership into the national and international limelight once again at a time when their credibility on the ground was at the lowest. The Chenab Solution, which had prominently come to the public realm after Vajpayee invited Kathwari and sent his special emissary Sh. R K Mishra to start a dialogue process with Pakistan, had  attained the stature of a possible solution considered more by the Government of India than by Pakistan. Was the participation of pro-India leadership in Jammu and Kashmir in the Round Table Conference along with the separatist leadership sought to give an impression of involving everyone so that the compromise already worked out could be presented as a fate accompli to the wider national opinion? Retrospectively, this apprehension seems to have been well founded. At that time however the opinion that Round Table Conference accorded legitimacy to the diversity of political opinion in the State and presented an opportunity to show the separatists their position in over all political environment of the state clinched the argument against dissociating from the RTC.

Through the three RTC’s and the Working Groups, GOI pushed through all such proposals, which have critically strengthened the processes for the creation of Greater Muslim Kashmir. A process of reconciliation with separatism on their terms has by now been firmly grounded through a series of administrative, quasi-legal and political maneuvers. These measures are such that they do not need a legislative sanction of the Indian Parliament and as such are not dependent upon the political consensus.

The deliberations in RTC’s and Working Groups amply reflect a deliberation in implementing an agenda which had already been unleashed. The very architecture of the RTC’s was developed in a way were Government of India was placed as a neutral arbitrator between pro-India opinion and those who wanted to change the status quo of the relation between Jammu and Kashmir and the Union of India. Many times Government of India seemed to facilitate the separatist agenda by maintaining stoic silence even when the Muslim leadership of the valley put forward misplaced constitutional arguments or historically unfounded and false propositions undermining the very accession of the state with India and attacking its sovereignty. When none other than Omar Abdullah said in the very first RTC that, “we have signed only instrument of accession and not instrument of merger,” the statement had profound implications needing a proper response from the highest in the Government of India. In the same meeting the leader of PDP and then Cabinet Minister in the state government, Sh Muzaffar Beigh said, “Article 370 had a treaty status”. He opined that this treaty had developed after an understanding between Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir and Constituent Assembly of India, both of which as per him were sovereign bodies. This blatant falsehood and sinister twist was never contested by Government of India.

A section of Indian State and political establishment seem to be allowing blatant falsehoods aimed at wrecking the sovereignty of the nation in Jammu and Kashmir in such a way so that public at large, not only in J&K but in rest of India as well as internationally, is convinced that India has no case in J&K. The deliberations in the Working Groups were also conducted in a manner to undermine all legitimate imperatives of national interests. Government of India is mirroring the attitudes which the British Government adopted in the build up to the partition of India.

Click here for Giving away Kashmir – Part 1
Click here for Giving away Kashmir – Part 3

Giving away Kashmir – Part 1

This is a three-part series on how successive recent Indian governments have plotted to give away Kashmir. It is written by Dr. Ajay Chrungoo, Chairman of the Panun Kashmir, a frontline organization of Kashmiri Pandits. Dr. Chrungoo is a guest writer with Canary Trap.

BY DR. AJAY CHRUNGOO

For so many years we have concerned ourselves primarily with how Pakistan seeks to take away Jammu and Kashmir. We are perhaps getting too late to intensely involve ourselves with how a section of Indian State and the political class have been, over the years, crafting the giving away of Jammu and Kashmir. The unilateral submission of the report of the Working Group on Centre-State Relations by its Chairman Justice Sagir Ahmad to the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir is only a reflection on the relentless campaign to keep the Muslim Question in India alive and transform the vision of secularism into an albatross around the neck of Indian nation, fixing its limbs into inaction, so that the Muslim Power continues to inch eastwards through successive partitions of India.

A sinister course correction

The report, submitted by Justice Sagir in the name of Working Group on Centre-State Relations, was done without completing the agenda of the Working Group; without taking most of the members of the Working Group into confidence; without seeking the opinion of the members on the draft of the report; and last but not the least, without formally winding up the proceedings of the Working Group. It seems that the entire exercise is aimed at some sort of a course correction crafted by those who have prefixed the direction and the outcome of the internal dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir. There are pertinent reasons to think so.

The delay in submission of the report by Justice Sagir was certainly causing worry which found expression once in a while in the public sphere. On March 10, 2008 a prominent local daily in Jammu and Kashmir reported National Conference (NC) patron Dr Farooq Abdullah blaming New Delhi for not being serious towards the resolution of the Kashmir dispute and quoted him making direct and almost indicatory references about the Working Group on Centre-State Relations. He said, “appointment of a Muslim Judge to give report on the contentious issue of centre state relations reflects their whimsical approach…. The report could have catastrophic consequences for Justice Sagir.” As per the report of Kashmir Times, Dr Abdullah maintained that reluctance of Justice Sagir in convening another round of meeting of the Working Group reflects his understanding of “how the contents of the report could impact his career prospects.”  The newspaper further quotes Dr Abdullah as having said, “…in a country where the minorities are under suspicion all the time, expecting Justice Sagir to give a report which could maintain his image of being a nationalist would be a little irrational.” In his expressions, Dr Abdullah referred to the population dynamics in the country, “If the centre would have been serious, Justice Sachar would have been the best choice”. He openly confessed about his resentment on the appointment of Justice Sagir at the time when the heads of the working groups were being chosen and frankly said, “I resisted his name, since I knew the repercussions of (his) heading this crucial Working Group on centre-state relationships…”

The statement clearly brings out that a person of the stature of Dr Farooq Abdullah had a clear-cut expectation from the Working Group on Centre-State Relations and an apprehension whether the person like Justice Sagir would be able to deliver the same.

It is relevant to quote what Prof Amitabh Mattoo was saying months before Justice Sagir submitted his report given the fact that he has been one of the more visible backchannel actors in the engagement between Pakistan, India, separatists and the so called moderates in Kashmir. He wrote in early October: “An important working group of the Prime Minister on J&K dealt with centre state relations but it was unable to arrive at a breakthrough. This doesn’t mean that we have a cul-de-sac. There are many proposals on the table including those on autonomy, self rule, self governance and achievable nationhood….These internal discussions must flow into the backchannel which can then attempt to work out a non-territorial India-Pakistan settlement on J&K based on providing a similar political architecture on both sides of the line of control working towards converting the LoC into Line of Peace, that allows free movement of people, goods, services and ideas.”

The way Justice Sagir submitted his report has some resonance in the way National Conference submitted the Greater and Regional Autonomy Reports. Like the constitution of Working Group on Centre and State Relations the Dr Abdullah government constituted the Committees on Greater Autonomy and Regional Autonomy after coming to power in 1996; giving an impression of adopting a non-partisan and inclusive process. He made Dr Karan Singh the Chairman of the Greater Autonomy Committee and made another non-Muslim — Balraj Puri — to function as Working Chairman of the Regional Autonomy Committee. Sooner than later Dr Karan Singh resigned and Balraj Puri was forced out. The reports of the State Autonomy Committee was suddenly finalized, submitted to the government and then pushed into the State assembly for adoption.

The Regional Autonomy report of NC envisaged the division of the state along the same lines as former Pakistan President Pervez Musharaff did later on. It put the division of Jammu province into Muslim and Hindu majority domains firmly on the agenda for the settlement of the Kashmir issue. Balraj Puri later wrote about the proposed breaking of the existing regions in the State: “Though re-demarcation or creation of a region or a district was not included in the terms of reference of the committee, I still sought a clarification from the chief minister who categorically ruled out consideration of any such demand….. I sent my report to all members and the chief minister in all humility for favour of their kind consideration, scrutiny and comments. Despite a reminder, I did not receive any comment……. I received a letter from the Chief Secretary on 21 January 1999 that my term had expired on 31 December 1998. Through another order dated 4 March1999, the term of the Committee minus me was extended in a similar retrospective way w.e.f 31 December 1998 till 31 March….It seems an alternate 28 page report was hastily got drafted and signed by three out of six original members which was tabled in the legislative assembly when it was about to adjourn sine die on 16 April.”  What made the then Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah to suddenly abandon the pretensions of accommodation and legitimate consultation, and like Justice Sagir did recently, push through the reports having a bearing on the future of the state?

Pre-fixed destination

The entire peace engagement, internal as well as external, has a pre-fixed objective for a well entrenched lobby and every process employed by the Government of India is being judged on the yardstick of this objective. When PDP released its Self Rule document, not in front of the Working Group on Centre-State relations, but in Pakistan, NC President Omar Abdullah openly blamed the Indian High Commission in Pakistan of having facilitated the entire process. The Indian foreign ministry chose not to contradict the allegation. There are many Kashmiri analysts who privately believe that the Self Rule document is the creation of some section of PMO. In the recent past, we have many instances where the Indian government acted almost in tandem with the Muslim leadership of the Kashmir Valley (mainstream and the separatist).

During former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime, a USA based Kashmiri secessionist leader, lobbyist and fund-raiser, Farooq Kathwari, arrived in India. He came with the full knowledge of the Indian government in March 1999, carrying a series of proposals for the creation of an independent Kashmiri State. At that time, both USA and the Indian government underplayed his jihadi connections. His son had died in Chechnya while fighting the Russians. He met very important persons belonging to Indian intelligence service and the ruling BJP. On March 8, Kathwari had a closed door meeting with Dr Farooq Abdullah and a group of his top Cabinet colleagues on the premises of Secretariat in Jammu. This meeting induced the urgency into the Dr Abdullah Government to come out with its reports on greater and regional autonomy in the state. During his visit, Kathwari seemed ‘encouraged enough to push ahead with a new version of his blue print for the solution of Kashmir’. The blue print — Kashmir: A Way Forward — later became commonly known as Kathwari Proposals. The National Conference reports had ‘striking similarities’ with Kathwari proposals as the later had with Dixon’s proposals. Noted columnist Praveen Swami, while commenting about this convergence wrote, “As significant, Abdullah’s maximalist demands for autonomy dovetail with the KSG’s (Kashmir Study Group) formulations of a quasi Sovereign State.”

It was not a coincidence that almost simultaneously the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers would meet in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo in March 1999 and reach an agreement envisaging ‘plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir on regional/district basis’, ‘maximum possible autonomy to Kashmir and its adjoining areas’, division of Jammu province along the Chenab River and so on. Significantly, the BJP-lead NDA was in power at that time.

The Regional Autonomy report of NC advocated dividing the State into its Muslim and non-Muslim domains, exactly the same way Kathwari envisaged. Pushing Balraj Puri, the Working Chairman of the regional Autonomy Committee, out of the decision-making loop was a course correction applied to see the endorsement of the Greater Muslim Kashmir to which he probably would not have agreed.

It is highly improbable to conceive that Dr Farooq Abdullah, who was also the Chief Minister, was not adequately briefed by Government of India about the purpose of Kathwari’s visit to India. Even if he was not, it is more improbable to think that Americans didn’t educate him. Kathwari’s closeness to the US State Department and his presence in India with his “way forward’ proposals on Jammu and Kashmir was more than a hint for NC to move fast enough to finalize the reports of his government on greater and regional autonomy and push it through the state assembly where NC had a two third majority.

To be fair to Justice Sagir, he refused to take into consideration definite signals from the interested quarters in the Government of India to fall in line and took his time. He in fact took undue time, in the view of those, who are in a haste to strike a deal with the separatists and Pakistan. In the very first meeting of the Working Group, to the clarification of a query posed by this author as to whether decisions will be taken in the Working Group by a majority vote or total consensus, Justice Sagir had assured that report of the WG will be finalized only if there was a total consensus. During the deliberations of the Working Group, this author, while making his expositions on the  Greater Autonomy report of NC attracted the intense attention of the Chairman while making the following comment, “Sir, While coming to participate in this Working Group I was acutely conscious of the fact that I have the responsibility of the very survival of my community on my shoulders, during the deliberations which have taken place here I have come to realize that I have the responsibility of the minorities of the State on my shoulders. After listening to the expositions of NC, PDP and even Congress I feel I have the responsibility of the minorities of the entire country on my shoulders. Sir I am sure that you will agree with me that you also have the responsibility of the minorities of this nation on your shoulders while conducting this Working Group.”

Justice Sagir could not have submitted the report, which he eventually did, if he would have followed the due process of first completing the remaining agenda of the Working Group, then submitting the draft report for acceptance by the members, seeking a total consensus on it as he had promised and then duly winding up the proceedings of the Working Group. When he changed midway the agenda for the fourth meeting of the Working Group and incorporated the presentation of Wajahat Habibullah, he left no one in doubt about his helplessness by offering no answers when the members asked him the reasons for doing so. He looked with embarrassment towards his secretary in the Group, Sh. Ajit Kumar, perhaps telling us that someone else had taken this decision. Justice Sagir could not have submitted the report if he would have listened to his conscience, which he did for sometime. He eventually neither disappointed Dr Farooq Abdullah nor that section in Government of India for whom the unfinished work of the Working Group was becoming a major hurdle. Submission of a report, which at least will not come in the way of the pre-fixed objectives of the so called search for peace with Pakistan, had perhaps become an imperative necessity.

Click here for Giving away Kashmir – Part 2
Click here for Giving away Kashmir – Part 3

Intel inputs, terror alerts, and the Indian intelligence

I watched an interesting movie the other day on one of the English movie channels. The movie, Traitor, broadly shows how important it is to infiltrate terror organizations in order to get actionable intelligence about impending terror strikes. The reason I started the post by mentioning the movie is the pathetic state of intelligence gathering in our country.

After every terror strike, almost all the agencies (including the netas) involved in internal security would try to save their skin by claiming to have issued intelligence alerts and warnings (many of which are given by foreign intelligence agencies). An alert/warning is a general information about an impending attack, with no specific information on the target, planner, timings, and motive. For getting this info, an agency need an informer inside the terror organizations whose sole aim is to destabilize India.

Ground level intelligence, apart from electronic intelligence, gathering has become so challenging in the current scenario where various terror cells are operating independently of each other. So even if you penetrate one, the other cell can still carry out another strike without being bothered.

Maloy Krishna Dhar, a former senior IB official, has explained the terror matrix. According to him, “The network is complicated, often interconnected and often separated by invisible walls of tanzeem incompatibility. It may be noted that different tanzeems normally do not collaborate with each other and very often the selection of the tanzeems and personnel in India are done by the ISI and the DGFI.”

Initially, the Pakistan-based terror organizations had to send people from across the border to create mayhem in India but now they have a huge pool of Indian jihadis to choose from. Our opportunistic and short-sighted politicians have always attempted (to protect their vote-banks) to hide the fact that there has always been local involvement in terror strikes across India (even in the 26/11 Mumbai attack). Everytime there is a blast, the security agencies are ready with a statement that Pak-based terror groups are involved in the attack but nobody highlights the fact that there is an active local involvement and that they have miserably failed to investigate that.

According to security experts, Pakistan-based terror organizations — with help from Inter-Services Intelligence — have set up hundreds of terror cells/modules across India. A terror module is a functional unit  which includes one or more terror cells. Every cell works independently of the other and the handlers in Pakistan manage these cells without worrying about the Indian agencies. The recurring terror strikes in our country suggests that the Indian agencies does not have the required human intelligence about the numerous cells and modules that operate here. They are simply clueless and even if they catch a suspect, he may not be able to give much information as other cells operate on their own.

An illustration of a cell given by M K Dhar is below:

Typical terror cell

According to Dhar, module are more complicated than cells. A module may have 3/5 hubs and each hub may have 3/5 cells, he says. An illustrative diagram of a module given by Dhar is as follows.

Peculiar terror module

So, given the complicated nature of terror operations, it is very vital for any intelligence agency to have human intelligence about the adversary. Bilateral talks with Pakistan (to please the US or under pressure from it) can go on but India must never forget the fact that there are some people in power in Pakistan whose sole aim is to bleed India forever.

In one of my previous posts after the attack on Mumbai on November 26, 2008, I had advocated for reviving the covert unit of RAW in order to teach Pakistan a lesson. The terror elements across the border (both within and outside the government) should pay a heavy price for killing Indians.

What is Freemasonry?

Last week, Freemasons — members of a secretive organization — in Delhi shed the veil of secrecy and invited around 300 non-members to witness an ‘investiture ceremony’. This is not the first time that the Freemasonry movement in India has decided to come out in open. Non-members got a chance to witness the same ceremony in Chennai on November 21, 2009. There is a lot of ambiguity among people regarding this secret society and its Indian angle. Canary Trap brings this write-up to provide more information about this secretive organization.

BY MANOJ KEWALRAMANI

“The great secret of Freemasonry is that there is no secret at all,” Benjamin Franklin. Yet secrecy seems intrinsic to this ancient brotherhood.

Officially the society came into being in 1717, with the creation of the United Grand Lodge of England, and since then it has spread its influence far and wide.

However, researchers point out that references to Masons date at least as far back as 1390 (The Regius Manuscript). They talk of an ancient fraternity that descended from medieval guilds of stonemasons and cathedral builders.

What started as a grouping of fellow tradesmen linked to the craft of building and architecture coming together to share, protect and enhance their skills through community-based societies slowly evolved into a philosophical association of businessmen and artisans who embraced the ideas of Enlightenment, freedom of thought and spirituality.

Right from the beginning till today Masonic lodges have two basic criteria for memberships. The first being that you must be a man and the second is your faith in a Supreme Being – the Great Architect of the Universe or the Grand Geometer.

As much as that might annoy atheists today, the fact remains that back in the 1700s or even prior to that, such an ideal would have been seen as quite revolutionary and therefore dangerous to the prevailing power structure.

It isn’t surprising, thus, that Pope Clement XII (1738) attacked the fraternity as heretics and forbade Catholics from becoming members, threatening punishments for those who disobeyed. That was followed by Pope Benedict the XIV warning the faithful of the dangers of Masonry, the key one among them being the group’s growing international linkages as it took a hold in the US and even India.

Considering their international nature along with such a strong opposition from the church back then, it’s perhaps not a shock that the freemasons have been accused of subversion, satanic practices and plotting to create an alternative world order – the kinds of theories that continue to do the rounds.

That and the uncanny truth that some of the richest and most powerful people in history have been freemasons. For instance, at least nine of the 59 signers of the American Declaration of Independence and 13 of the 19 signers of the US Constitution were freemasons – cementing the popular belief that the American struggle for freedom was aided, funded and carried out with Masonic assistance.

Besides this, several American Presidents ranging from George Washington to Franklin Roosevelt have known to be members of the fraternity. Researchers argue that while the membership of a number of former presidents is known, even the more recent ones, including Barack Obama, belong to the fraternity, while Bill Clinton (though not a freemason) used to be a member of the Youth Order of DeMolay – a Masonic sponsored youth group.

In the Indian context too, several key members of the political, bureaucratic and judicial community along with former Maharajas have been freemasons. The list goes from Motilal Nehru, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Swami Vivekananda to even Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and JRD Tata. (Click here for the full list)

The first steps to bring the fraternity to Indian shores were taken in December 1728, with lodges being set up in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. The Grand Lodge of India was eventually set up in 1959. And since then, the membership has only grown – now estimated at some 20,000 members.

The purpose of the society is explained to be a space for people to come together as brothers who are concerned with moral, family and spiritual values. They aren’t a religious group, but they aim to make better men for a better world and have extensive and well-document charitable engagements. The oath taken by new Masons says it all: “You agree to be a good man and true; you agree to conform to the laws of the country in which you reside; you promise not to be concerned with plots and conspiracies of the government.”

Yet there remains a shadow that looms large over everything that they do.

Critics and conspiracy buffs argue that there is much that lurks under the surface. While there exists a lot of information about their presence and philanthropy, there is little known about the daily practices and the rituals followed by the group, and neither are the members ever willing to discuss these openly.

The three degrees of the freemasons are listed as Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason, which come under the Blue Lodge. Thereafter, it is said that the Master Mason may receive additional teachings and rise up 30 more degrees, each symbolizing his growth and evolution. President Gerald Ford and Harry Truman had reached the 33rd degree. It is the men at the higher levels who are argued to be the ones who are aware of dark secrets and the real purpose of the group, as they plot to overthrow governments, manipulate economics and rule the world with an invisible hand.

If you sit down to research, as I did, the stories and accusations range from fascinating, titillating to the unbelievably absurd – from worshiping the devil to blood-drinking initiations and mystical powers, from clandestine plots to undermine democracy to hidden communication through public hand gestures and linking people through ancient bloodlines. Did you know that Obama, George Bush and Brad Pitt are distant cousins? Likewise, some researchers argue that just about every former US president has had a royal European bloodline link, implying the dynastic few who continue to rule the many.

Interesting trivia, but you’ve got to be kidding me, I said to myself despite knowing fully well that dynasties old or new continue to dominate positions of power in India or anywhere else. That was until I came through a quote that made me scratch my chin with intrigue.

“The individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a conspiracy so monstrous he believes that it cannot exist,” Former FBI Director J Edgar Hoover.

That, argue many cynics, is the essential nature of how ancient societies like the Freemasons have adapted to perpetuate their agenda in our times: secrets are often best protected when they lie open in full public glare.

(Manoj Kewalramani is a guest writer with Canary Trap. He has worked with top media houses like NDTV before becoming an Independent Blogger and Writer.)

The Pune mayhem and a sleeping India

BY MALOY KRISHNA DHAR

Pune bomb blast on March 13, 2010 has revived the ghastly memories of 26/11 Pakistani attack on Mumbai, nearly about 15 months ago in 2008. It is surprising that Indian political leaders and common citizen express shock, surprise and remain agitated for a few weeks and then relapse into the humdrum of daily life. There is no effort to stitch all such incidents into a pattern; which are planned in Pakistan and executed against Indian targets either by the Pakistan based tanzeems or their Indian collaborators. The Pune incident is a part of that unbroken chain of jihad against India.

There are certain considerations which require intensive examination. A couple of my Pakistani media friends have been sending warning messages that jihad war against India from Pakistan based tanzeems should not be seen as a part of proxy war to grab ‘Indian held Kashmir.’ According to them there are deep rooted conspiracies in Pakistan, between the Armed Forces, the ISI and section of political stalwarts and clerics who want to multiply the jihadist tanzeems from Punjab, PoK and even from the tribal areas and use them as auxiliary units of Pakistan Army to fight irregular wars against India and act as vanguard of the regular armed forces when real frontal war is planned against India.

I have no reason to disbelieve my media friends in Pakistan who do not want conventional or nuclear war between India and Pakistan. I have reasons to believe that the STATE OF PAKISTAN is engaged in this strategy and the latest meeting of the jihadis in Muzaffarabad and Markaz ud Dawa rally in Lahore are indicators of that very strategic policy of Pakistan. Starting with deputing the Mehsud tribals to invade Kashmir in 1947, Pakistan has depended on dual policy of direct ISI intervention and intervention through the tanzeems created by it. A third dimension has been added to the strategy after Pakistan succeeded in creating hundreds of Modules and Cells amongst sections of Indian Muslims; whose visible faces are SIMI, Indian Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba Al Alami (International).

This third dimension has been added to allow Pakistan the diplomatic deniability of any of the terror groups in Pakistan. Already there are propaganda in Pakistan and through the electronic media that Indian Muslims are now geared up for another war of liberation and creation of two more Pakistan like nations out of existing India. Hopefully, Indian leaders in Delhi are listening to these underground rumblings.

Indians have either become immune to such dastardly Pakistan sponsored attacks, which has the potential of engulfing the country, or they behave like zombies who leave their welfare to fate or at best to the snake-charmer politicians, who sing paean from time to time saying – Sab Thik Hain. After the Pune incident also P. Chidambaram, Union Home Minister, asserted that there was no intelligence failure and the state government was earlier alerted about the possibility of jihadi attack on Osho Ashram, German Bakery and the Jewish Chabard establishment. The alert was issued after the FBI informed India about David Headley’s visit to Pune and his surveying of the sensitive establishments. Pune also figured in the jihad speech of Makki, number two in the Markaz ud Dawa establishment.

It should be understood that Alert is a security exercise based on Intelligence Assessment. On the basis of alert the security wings of police arrange for physical security of the threatened vulnerable places and installations. This exercise should not be confused with actionable intelligence generation. The logical sequence of security and intelligence drill is: Intelligence assessment>>Threat determination>>Alert Notice>>Intelligence generation to buttress the intelligence assessment. In case of Pune, even in case of 26/11 incident, intelligence assessment and threat determination stages were observed by the Central IB and the State police were adequately alerted.

The next important course of action is related to intelligence generation about the likely perpetrators of the terror action through Human Intelligence and Electronic Intelligence. In case of Pune, it was known that modules of the Indian Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba were active in Kondhwa, Janwadi etc areas of Pune. There were reports of several hardliner clerics from Azamgarh being employed in local madrasas and some of the Lashkar and IM members had recently migrated from Aurangabad and Pimpri to Pune. In spite of these inputs, neither the Central IB nor the State police intelligence succeeded in generating Human Intelligence or Electronic Intelligence to decipher the nexus between the Pune plotters and their handlers in Pakistan and their planned modus operandi of the dastardly terror attack.

In simple language, there was complete intelligence blackout. None of the intelligence agencies had made any effort to penetrate the modules and cells which normally function from within the clustered Muslim areas in and around Pune and nearby towns. Such continuous failure to generate Human Intelligence and absence of sophisticated Electronic Intelligence is unpardonable. Informed Pune sources assert that the intelligence units in the city are in hibernating condition. There is no sophisticated equipment to gather electronic intelligence.

Even basic measures of physical security were not taken in adequate manner to enforce German Bakery to install CC TV and metal detector scanners. Surprisingly the important and vulnerable locality did not even have a police post to patrol the area. Only after the incident a temporary camp has been opened up. Therefore, Chidambaram’s observation that in Pune there was no intelligence failure and the attack was insidious in nature is nothing but a political cover-up of colossal state failure.

In the Pune bombing the jihadis used RDX, ammonium nitrate and petroleum hydrocarbon, possibly with electronic timer device using a mobile phone. The modus operandi and the technology were similar to serial bombings in Rajasthan and Gujarat and some of the train bombing incidents in Mumbai. However, it must be remembered that IED formulae are widely known and several Indian Muslim youths have been trained in Pakistan in the craft of manufacturing explosive devices. There is no brand right by any group. The technology is well known and widely available in the Internet. However, use of ammonium nitrate indicates that the chemical may have been locally procured and the IED was manufactured in one of the cells of the Lashkar or the Indian Mujahideen.

Several speculations are on the air about Riyaz Bhatkal being the ‘mastermind’ behind Pune blast. According to reports, Riyaz Bhatkal is in Karachi and he works in tandem with the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the mafia gang of Dawood Ibrahim. His brother Iqbal Bhatkal is reportedly in Dubai. One of the two persons detained by the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) in connection with German Bakery blast case had sheltered the elusive Indian Mujahideen co-founder Riyaz Bhatkal in the neighbouring town of Pimpri between 2005 and 2007. Present indications point fingers at IM, LeT and HuJI. Existence of a huge illegal Bangladeshi concentration in the clustered areas require deeper probe. Though banned in Bangladesh, HuJI is active in India.

The other question that has whipped up political debate is about the timing of the explosion. India-Pakistan secretary level talks are likely to be resumed in end February. The BJP has demanded suspension of talks on grounds of possible Pakistani hand behind the terror attack. They also quoted the Prime Minister who had earlier said that there could not be any talk with Pakistan unless all the infrastructures of terror in Pakistan were demolished. The USA also is keen to see resumption of India-Pakistan composite talks and has even said that such talks are central to a permanent solution in Afghanistan. The US, on the other hand, has undermined India’s position by liberally supplying weapons and billions in grants to Pakistan, major parts of which are used in building war infrastructure against India.

India may as well talk to Pakistan but must keep on the table the issue of dismantling terror infrastructure in the neighbouring country. Slogans are being raised in Pakistan that without solving the Kashmir problem any permanent peace can be achieved. There are points of view in India that Kashmir as a whole belongs to India and the Kashmir problem can only be solved if Pakistan vacates illegal occupation. From these diplomatic and strategic rigmaroles it is understood that this time around Indian and Pakistan would talk for the sake of talking. Engaging an adversary is good in diplomacy but not preparing the country to defend against that very enemy’s direct and proxy attack is a pointer to political and strategic bankruptcy. It is feared that the UPA government has run out of ideas and policies to fortify the country from sniper jihadi attacks to be followed by avalanche to jihadi rampage all over the country. Pune is just one of those indicators to starkly remind the country: We never learn lessons.

(Maloy Krishna Dhar retired as a Joint Director of India’s internal intelligence agency, Intelligence Bureau. He is a guest writer with Canary Trap.)

The Story of US’s Project Azorian

The United State of America undertook one of the most secret projects, led by the CIA in coordination with various US agencies, between 1968-74. Media reports in 1975 praised the CIA for pursuing one of the most imaginative intelligence gathering operation of great magnitude and complexity. Unsubstantiated reports about the project appeared in the US media in 1975, but most of the aspects of the operation remained classified till now.

So, what is Project Azorian? It was a CIA codename for one of its most ambitious plan to recover a sunken Soviet submarine from the floor of the Pacific Ocean. A recently released CIA document, an article (Project Azorian: The Story of the Hughes Glomar Explorer) published in the fall 1985 edition of the agency’s in-house journal Studies in Intelligence, details the events from conception and planning to the retrieval of the submarine in August 1974. The declassified document, in possession with Canary Trap, does not include all the information on the project as some of it is still considered highly sensitive.

Sometime in mid-March 1968, a Soviet Golf-II class submarine (K-129) sank 1560 miles northwest of Hawaii along with its entire crew. The submarine, which was carrying nuclear ballistic missiles, was located 16500 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. The declassified document does not mention how the submarine was located by the US.

The Soviet undertook a massive two-month search operation to locate and recover the submarine but ended up with no success. Senior officials in the US Department of Defense (DoD) and the CIA “recognized that if it were feasible to devise a plan to recover important components of the submarine, extremely valuable information on Soviet strategic capabilities would be obtained,” the document states.

Hughes Glomar Explorer

Representatives of the CIA and DoD began discussing the feasibility of recovering components of K-129 during late 1968 and early 1969. CIA was tasked to lead the project and according to the document “on July 1, 1969, it established the Special Projects Staff within its Directorate of Science and Technology to manage Project Azorian.”

On August 8, 1969, a high-level Executive Committee was briefed about the proposed organization for the submarine recovery effort. The details of the briefing included structure of the organization, management, assets, personnel assignments, and intelligence objectives.

The expected intelligence benefits from the project — mentioned in the recently declassified CIA document — were as follows:

  • Acquisition of nuclear warheads and the SS-N-5 missile system with related documents.
  • Receipt of much improved baseline for estimates of the current and future Soviet strategic threat.
  • Important insight into Soviet command and control and certain aspects of their strategic attack doctrine.

Then US President Richard Nixon approved the creation of the task force to recover the submarine in August 1969. The operation was extremely secret and right from its inception, extraordinary security was imposed and clearances to know the its details were severely limited. The US agencies understood the importance of keeping the project leak-proof in order to carry out the recovery mission without any diplomatic or physical interference from the Soviets.

The project was immensely challenging and all the agencies involved (including three security cleared defense contractors) explored various technical and operational options in order to carry out the recovery mission. After all, nobody had ever successfully tried to raise an 1750 ton object from the depth of 16500 feet in the ocean.

By late July 1970, the task force came to a decision to use the heavy-lift concept to recover the K-129. The concept involved lifting the estimated 1750 ton object by means of heavy-lifting equipment mounted on a large surface ship. “A deep-sea mining venture was to be used as the cover story for the operation,” the declassified document states.

Senior officials involved in the project were initially less hopeful of successfully lifting the submarine from the seabed. The US government, at one point of time, even thought of canceling the project due to heavy cost overruns. The document states that the only thing that saved the project from being terminated was the potential intelligence information that the US would have got if it succeeded in its operation.

The work to build a ship — to be known as Hughes Glomar Explorer for undertaking the operation started and it was to be delivered to the CIA on April 20, 1973.

The project faced many problems like huge cost overruns, future international political climate, workers strike, and doubts over expected intelligence gains. Despite all this, President Nixon allowed the project to continue and finally on June 7, 1974, he approved the launch of Project Azorian mission. The Glomar Explorer, after undergoing vigorous sea trials and testing, arrived at the recovery site on July 4, 1974.

The Glomar Explorer’s recovery operations were greatly threatened by almost 14 days of close surveillance of its operations by two Soviet naval vessels. The recovery work continued despite the Soviet presence and necessary directions were issued to destroy sensitive material in case the Russians landed on the ship.

The ship began lifting the Soviet submarine on August 1, 1974 and managed to secure it inside the ship on August 8, 1974.

The declassified CIA document, however, is silent on some very vital information related to the project. It does not state whether the Hughes Glomar Express was able to recover the entire submarine or parts of it. The document does not say anything about whether the project was successful or not.  There is no mention of the strategic information that was obtained from the submarine. Also, no details of the project’s cost has been mentioned.

Let’s hope that someday the CIA will declassify the remaining details of Project Azorian so that the world, specially Americans, would know whether millions (perhaps billions) of dollars of tax-payers money went down the drain or not.