Srinagar: The NDA government had made preparations to thwart possible misadventures by Pakistan before it revoked Article 370 that accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir. This included alerting the Army, the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) about the possibility of a “tough decision” at least two weeks in advance.
“How is the situation (on the border)? If something drastic happens, are we ready?” K. Vijay Kumar, adviser to Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik, had enquired from his representatives after they emerged out of the unified command meeting in the third week of July.
“We should be ready for some tough decision on Kashmir,” Kumar had said, a security official, privy to the deliberations, told ThePrint. The official did not wish to be identified.
When Home Minister Amit Shah visited the Valley between 26-27 June, he had dropped enough hints. In his interaction with top officials of the paramilitary forces, he had told them that they should be “vigilant” and the government wouldn’t hesitate even if it had to take any “kathin nirnaya” or tough decision for national security.
ThePrint spoke to five senior officials in the security establishment and two in J&K bureaucracy to piece together the sequence of events, leading to Shah moving a proposal to nullify Article 370 in the Rajya Sabha on 5 August. None of the officials, however, had any inkling of the exact plan.
‘Something big’ was going to happen
In the third week of July, when National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval visited the Valley, he had wide-ranging discussions on the situation on the ground, but he gave out nothing. The NSA also visited Amarnath cave, giving an impression to officials that he was reviewing security arrangements in view of the then-ongoing Amarnath Yatra.
Top security officials sensed something would be done after the yatra was over, possibly after 15 August, the Independence Day. It was only when there was “substantial deployment” of BSF followed by that of the CRPF in the last week of July that they thought “something big” was going to happen.
“But we thought it could be Article 35A. Never did we have any inkling about the abrogation of Article 370,” conceded a senior paramilitary force official.
J&K police, administration were also clueless
Jammu and Kashmir police, and administration officials remained clueless, with reports coming in from Delhi that the additional troops could be there in preparation for elections or due to some intelligence inputs about possible terror attacks.
J&K administration officials said a number of contingency plans were drawn out and discussed in meetings without any clarity about why this was being done.
“Officially, we were told it had to do with flood preparedness, but we could feel there was a different agenda,” said a senior state government official, requesting anonymity.
The erstwhile state had witnessed massive floods in 2014. Every summer, the J&K administration holds meetings to check its preparedness for natural calamities. Issues such as air evacuation, stocking up of rations and gas, and even alternative routes from Jammu to Srinagar were discussed in such meetings in the last week of July and the first week of August.
The reason cited for such contingency measures were adverse climate conditions.
Officials jocularly say that the “success” of the Centre’s contingency plans to deal with the fallout of Article 370 has much to do with the failure to put the same in place after the demonetisation in 2016.
The Shah-Doval-Kumar trio clearly managed to spook everyone with the decision, despite all the telltale signs there for all to see.