‘After the conviction of Kasab by the Sessions Court, two NAC members were batting for Kasab’s clemency. The whole thing was a collaborative exercise—notwithstanding that it was ISI which conceived and mobilised the entire event—to reach a particular narrative.’
Former Home ministry officer, R.V.S. Mani, who is one of the few officers who has extensive knowledge of how the 26/11 Mumbai attack was investigated, has claimed the investigation aimed at shielding Indian involvement in the entire case. Mani, at the time, was in the Internal Security division and was closely related to the working of the ministry’s arm that dealt with pre 26/11 and post 26/11 events.
Q: What is your reaction on former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s recent admission about 26/11 Mumbai attack?
A: What is new about it? We all knew this. But for the first time, there has been a candid admission about how 26/11 was conceived, planned and executed, from an across-the-border person of significance. But this also throws up a few other questions that are related to the Indian involvement in this whole attack.
Q: What questions?
A: See, I do not want to shoot into the muddy air. But you must see the then Home Ministry’s reply to Starred Question of Lok Sabha No. 78. Replied on 2 March 2010, it states that “Intercepts have been shared with Pakistan”. What stopped the Home Ministry from replying that “all intercepts have been shared” instead of merely saying “intercepts have been shared”.
I have answered this in my forthcoming book, Hindu Terror, under the subheading “Another head rolls”. I am not stupid as to not know the difference between “intercepts” and “all intercepts”. You must know that this reply resulted in the concerned Joint Secretary (JS) being transferred from Internal Security Division on 2 March 2010 itself.
Q: Would you like to elaborate on this? Why was this particular JS transferred?
A: Actually there were teams of two joint secretaries who used to examine all the intercepts/evidences and take them to Home Minister before they were sent to the Ministry of External Affairs for onward sharing with Pakistan.
One or more such intercepts were knocked out (not by bureaucrats). I do not know exactly what it was. But these intercepts, if shared, would have betrayed involvement of a political assent and some ethnic group close to the then ruling dispensation. Hence, it was knocked out from the basket which was to be shared with Pakistan by the then Home Minister P. Chidambaram.
This became a ruse for Pakistani authorities to protect the accused (26/11 mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and six other suspects) and not taking their voice test. For the then ruling dispensation in India, this came as a respite as it suited their convenience. The public opinion in India was as if Pakistan was playing truant with trial whereas it was Indian establishment which was paving the way for them to play truant.
Q: That is a serious charge. How can you say this?
A: I will only join the dots based on documents that are in the public domain. First let us take this. What does Indian Navy/Coast Guard do? Their job is to secure the coastal areas of the nations, which is done by continuous surveillance of the coastal areas wherever they are deployed. I have already elaborated this in our earlier meeting.
P. Chidambaram, as Home Minister, had in his statement in the Lok Sabha, on 11 December 2008 admitted that “Indian Navy had sighted ship in Pakistani Waters and later since no further intelligence was generated the search was abandoned “. This is the most specious statement.
The Indian Navy does not abandon their surveillance if Intelligence is not forthcoming. Intelligence is a force multiplier, hence, in the case of intelligence available, they reinforce the surveillance but the converse of it is not true. Here the Intelligence was about a possible coastal terror attack. It cannot be believed that the Indian Navy, still, by its own accord, abandoned its surveillance. You can safely state that the Indian Navy was asked to withdraw (its surveillance).
Now, the second point: During the attack, NSG’s deployment was delayed by three hours by the incumbent minister. This can be corroborated by independent experts, too. That gave the terrorist a lot of strategic advantage. Basically, it was a war. Hence, every minute’s delay was costing us.
Q: What were the officers concerned doing at that time?
A: See, it is a matter of record that by design or by default, the top layer of the Indian Internal Security officers were held up in Pakistan when this attack took place. The rest of the officers, who were there in the MHA on the 26/11 night, did suggest to the Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil that as an interim measure, the locally available resources in Mumbai should be deployed—like the CISF which is an expert force on securing vital installations. One company each could have been drawn up from Mumbai Airport and sent as reinforcement. There is CRPF battalion in Navi Mumbai which could have been utilised ad interim. But the Union Home Minister did not respond to these suggestions. I feel in retrospect that there was design to his silence. The build-up leading to the 26/11 betrayed a lot of things, like the date of Home Secretary Level Meeting that happened on 25 November in Pakistan.
Q: Why do you feel that this meeting was a part of a design?
A: A Joint anti-terror mechanism was started in October 2008 between India and Pakistan. You must note that during such similar previous meetings that were held in July 2007, the Pakistani Interior Secretary left the meeting halfway citing some Lal Masjid Attack. Nothing worthwhile ever came out of all this.
The CBI- FIA cooperation on tackling organised crime syndicate was also coming up as a cropper. The dossier exchange was also a routine, which ended with P. Chidambaram discrediting all our Indian dossiers in March 2011, in the next Home Secretary Level Talk, when one or two persons whose names were in the Indian Dossier that were shared with Pakistan, were found to be in Indian Jails.
Now after the talks had been scheduled for 25 November 2008, someone introduced a new delegate to accompany the officials who were going to Pakistan—this was against the convention. Strategically, this official, by virtue of his job title, became the No. 2 of the delegation. Now, in Islamabad, the then Union Home Secretary earnestly relied upon his suggestion, overruling the suggestion of other delegates on account of seniority. As a result, all but one officer of the delegation were stuck in Pakistan when the carnage was taking place on 26/11.
Q: What happened there after?
A: Kasab is captured. The nationality of Kasab as a Pakistani is confirmed only on 7 January 2009 or some such date. In the interim period, my experience of 30 December 2008, which I have already elaborated to you earlier, was reported to MHA on 31 December 2008, but was taken up with Delhi Police commissioner only on 19 January 2009. Despite that, the Delhi Police did not file an FIR in the case, obviously due to pressure from the minister. It was an attempt to ensure the release of Kasab by trading with a kidnapped officer of the security establishment, but it got botched up.
Hence, the entire 26/11 episode, notwithstanding the fact that it was conceived, executed by ISI, had Indian involvement. Now go to the reply of the above Lok Sabha Question. Kasab during investigation did admit to have received help from Indians which the investigators did not pursue or were told not to pursue—we do not know.
After the conviction of Kasab by the Sessions Court, two NAC (National Advisory Council) members were batting for Kasab’s clemency. Don’t you see a pattern? These are questions which need to be answered. Also, there was a book which stated that the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack was “RSS ki Saazish” (the book was written by a journalist). The whole thing was a collaborative exercise—notwithstanding that it was ISI which conceived and mobilised the entire event—to reach a particular narrative.
You should also see the funding aspect. It was a common knowledge that terror attacks in India during those days were funded by FICN. Few months before 26/11, the State Bank of India, Domriayaganj branch, in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, was found to be holding a huge cache of Fake Indian Currency Notes. There are many dots. These need to be joined to get the entire narrative.