What former RAW chief AS Dulat left out of his book

His silence on passenger number 162 on seat 16C, SBS Tomar, is baffling.

 |  4-minute read |   14-07-2015
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AS Dulat’s book Kashmir-Vajpayee Years is getting media-hype because he is only the second Research and Analysis Wingh (RAW) chief to have penned a book and that too of his brief stay in the agency.

That said, Dulat was never a RAW man. He spent most of his service in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and was later mysteriously brought into RAW during Vajpayee regime supposedly at the behest of Farooq Abdullah. His appointment was strongly opposed by several RAW officers who warned Vajpayee in writing not to erode the basic fabric of RAW by appointing outsider. They were overruled.

Dulat’s only revelation in IC-814 hijacking is the fact that governor Gary Saxena persuaded chief minister Farooq Abdullah to agree to swap terrorists. Dulat’s silence on passenger number 162 on seat 16C, SBS Tomar, is baffling. He did not care to clarify some pertinent details of this hijacking revealed in my book last year. The facts of this bizzare case are this. Sometime in late 1999, Tomar, a RAW officer posted at Indian Embassy in Nepal, was informed by his junior UV Singh of a possible hijack of Indian aircraft from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport. UV Singh, a RAW officer posted as second secretary in the Embassy, got this information from a reliable source, who was a senior officer at the airport. Tomar accused Singh of spreading rumours. Instead of taking pre-emptive measures, he suppressed this report. He never sent it to RAW headquarters in Delhi.

This lapse boomeranged on Tomar when he was among the 176 passengers of IC-814 that was hijacked as it flew out of Kathmandu on December 24, 1999. Had his identity been known to the hijackers, there was every possibility of his being killed instead of another passenger Rupen Katyal.

Tomar is a relative of NK Singh, the then all powerful principal secretary to the Vajpayee government and also to then National Security Guards chief Neeraj Kumar. Singh’s sisters are married to Kumar and Tomar.

Both these officers were members of Crisis Management Group (CMG) just as Dulat, the RAW chief was. Dulat did not clarify role of Singh and Kumar in the CMG deliberations when the aircraft was allowed to take off from Amritsar. If revealed, facts would emerge that this duo was responsible for allowing the aircraft to take off fearing for Tomar’s life when pilot informed that terrorists were killing passengers. After his release, Tomar’s wife, Singh’s sibling, spread stories that the terrorist swap was done to save her husband’s life. There might not be any truth in such stories but Singh’s role in this terrorist release is certainly questionable. The swap was a hard bargain opposed by then home minister LK Advani. The handling of the situation was to some extent compromised by the PMO.

Media reports on Tomar’s presence in this hijacking were exploited by Pakistani government which even blamed him for this hijacking. Tomar was never reprimanded for such grave lapse possibly due to his powerful links in the PMO. Instead, he was rewarded with a foreign posting despite his identity being revealed in the media. Again, this was because Singh was back in the PMO when the Manmohan Singh-led UPA under Manmohan Singh came to power in 2004.

Dulat met Advani prior to demitting his office in 2000 and suggested not to impose any outsider in RAW because he had a tough time handling the in-house Research and Analysis (RAS) service lobby there. This was indicative of the inner squabbles which Dulat has hidden in his book.

The IC-814 hijacking was the only crucial test of RAW in Dulat’s brief tenure between 1999 and 2000 which he miserably failed.

IC-814 hijacking was the brainchild of Pak diplomat Mohammad Arshad Cheema, posted at the Mission in Nepal and nicknamed "Mac". He was deported thanks to RAW operatives at Kathmandu who got him declared persona non grata for his role in this hijacking. Dulat did not write this subsequent achievement of RAW fearing the Officials Secret Act.

Also read: How two youngsters gave Kashmir its own Facebook to beat internet curfew


RK Yadav RK Yadav @rawrkyadav

Former RAW officer and author of Mission R&AW.

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