"Congress insists PM ignored I-B reports on
Kargil," ran the six column heading of The Indian Express on 16
September. Other papers too gave much prominence to the allegation.
This time the Congress spokesman had used as his peg a front-page
story in The Tribune of that morning about a "strategy backgrounder"
which the paper said the Army had prepared and circulated.
Entitled, "PM ignored intelligence reports," the
front page story of The Tribune was an elaborate one. It claimed
that the Army Headquarters "has gone to the extent of blaming Prime
Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for ignoring intelligence reports on
the intrusion." "The strategy paper, 'Important issues: Case of
Brigadier Surinder Singh,' prepared and circulated recently by the
AHQ clearly states that it was possible that the Prime Minister may
have been given some information of Pakistan's designs by RAW and
IB, but he ignored it, 'in the context of the Lahore Bus ride.' "
"The paper has made allegations against the Government for ignoring
its needs," The Tribune reported. But not just against the
Government, it would seem! For The Tribune went on to report that
"the strategy paper makes allegations against all and sundry."
"Similarly, the Joint Intelligence Committee, whose responsibility
is to carry out an assessment of threat and prepare position papers,
never did so," the newsreport quoted the strategy paper to have
Every syllable of the story smacked of concoction.
The title, Army Headquarters suddenly going back on what it has
itself been maintaining, its doing so before the internal review
instituted by the Army Chief has been completed, its doing so before
the Subramanyam Committee has completed even its hearings.
The story was replete with nonsense so patent that
even a fool would have spotted it. Recall that sentence -- the one
on which the Congress based its charge of the day -- "The strategy
paper... clearly states that it was possible that the Prime Minister
may have been given some information of Pakistan's designs by RAW
and IB, but he ignored it, 'in the context of the Lahore Bus ride.'
" That something "was possible". What was possible? That the Prime
Minister "may have been given." And what may have he been given?
"Some information of Pakistan's designs..."!
In one para -- and that too on the basis of "may
be" raised to the power 3 -- the Army was said to have "clearly
state(d)" that the Prime Minister may have been given information.
Two paragraphs later the Army paper was said to have hurled
allegations "at all and sundry."
"The failure is of external intelligence agencies,"
The Tribune quoted the "strategy backgrounder" to have observed,
only to elaborate, "Military Intelligence Directorate is responsible
for external intelligence"! Not only would that imply that Army
Headquarters was owning up to the failure, it would imply that Army
Headquarters does not know what the function of the Directorate of
Military Intelligence is!
Within hours of the newspaper being available, the
Army issued a strongly worded press release. "It is categorically
stated that no 'strategy backgrounder' as mentioned in the article
has either been prepared or disseminated to any source," the Army
said. " ...The news item under reference is baseless, malicious and
has been presented to tarnish the apolitical image of the Army," it
stated. "The article appearing in The Tribune dated 15 September
1999 appears to be sponsored / published by an aggrieved party for
self-motivated reasons best known to the individual sponsor. The
Army Headquarters once again most emphatically denies preparation /
dissemination of such a document."
The Prime Minister's Office also issued a denial --
just as categorical.
Both statements were available by early afternoon.
But of course the Congress could not allow mere facts to come in the
way of hurling its allegation-for-the-day!
The headlines secured, the Congress forgot all
about the "strategy backgrounder" at its press briefing the next
But not The Asian Age! By the 18th September, it
had an altogether new theory. It could not argue that the so-called
"strategy backgrounder" was genuine. While earlier newspapers had
been insinuating that the Army and the Government had been working
hand-in-glove to cover up failure on the Kargil front, the paper now
asserted that the Government had left the Army to fend for itself
during the Kargil conflict, that the Army was incensed that the PM
had kept silent on the controversies kicked up around Brigadier
Surinder Singh. So much so that, without citing any source, the
paper asserted, as the headline across the top of its front page
proclaimed, that a war" had erupted between the PMO and the
As for the Congress, The Tribune fabrication have
been squeezed for such milk as it could yield, its allegation for
the next day had at its prop statements which Niaz Naik, a former
Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, and Sartaj Aziz, its current Foreign
Minister had made. These gentlemen have to contend with the
political turmoil that encircles Nawaz Sharief and his circle there.
There is a war of statements going on there: that ex-diplomat had
alleged that India and Pakistan had come close to an agreement on
Kashmir, and it is the Pakistan Army which had killed it by its
incursion into Kargil; the Foreign Minister -- who had earlier been
saying that the Pakistan Army had done nothing in Kargil -- had
countered by saying that whatever the Pakistan Army had done in
Kargil was in the interests of Pakistan! That is the impulse and
origin of statements emanating from Pakistan these days. But the
sole concern of the Congress was to locate some news peg for its
Brajesh Mishra, the Principal Secretary to the
Prime Minister, who is the one who had dealt with Niaz Naik, stated
on record that no secret deal had been in the works. But for the
Congress, the Indian Army is not to be believed, Indian civil
servants are not to be believed, of course the Indian Prime Minister
is not to be believed. But every tid bit from Pakistan is gospel
Telling reciprocity! During the Kargil war the
statements of Sonia Gandhi and her spokesmen were of such succour to
Pakistan that they became top stars on Pakistan TV. During the
elections, the statements from Pakistan have become props for the
The consequences are obvious. By making statements
of Pakistani personnel as the basis for charges here, these
spokesmen contrive a situation in which Pakistan can set the agenda
of debate even during elections in India: they can say whatever they
think will help the side they think is better for them.
The other side is that there are statements and
statements of Pakistani politicians. To which of these would these
spokesmen of the Congress respond? In her interview to the magazine
Sunday of 1-7 August, 1999, Benazir Bhutto maintains that she and
Rajiv came to an agreement about, among other things, "withdrawal
from Siachin". As Indian forces alone are in control of Siachin,
this would imply that Rajiv had agreed to withdraw Indian forces
from Siachin. Benazir provides a circumstantial detail: she says
that when she was at the Commonwealth meeting, Rajiv telephoned her
and told her that while he could not see through the agreement
during elections, he would implement it after the elections. The
Going by its criteria, would the Congress,
therefore, explain how its much-vaunted Prime Minister agreed to
hand back Siachin? Moreover, going by its daily mud-slinging about
non-existent "secret deals", would the Congress explain whether
Rajiv Gandhi took Parliament, to say nothing of the country into
confidence before coming to such an agreement -- an agreement to
vacate land which our Army has sacrificed so much to retain?
While it is at the job, will the Congress explain
whether Pandit Nehru took the country, did he even take Parliament
into confidence before halting our advancing troops in 1948, and
thereby inflicting a loss of 83,100 sq km of territory on our
country? Did he work out a national consensus, did he work out a
consensus even in the Cabinet before needlessly referring Kashmir to
the UN, and thus saddling us with the problem that plagues us to
this day? He did not: Sardar Patel was ever so opposed to this
unnecessary show of internationalism -- in fact, even Liaquat Ali
was pleasantly surprised as even he had not asked for this to be
Dr P N Dhar, one of the main participants in the
Simla negotiations, who later became Principal Secretary to Mrs
Indira Gandhi, has disclosed on record that she and Z A Bhutto came
to an agreement to convert the Line of Control into the
international border between Indian and Pakistan in Jammu and
Kashmir. Indeed, this would have been a part of the documents signed
at Simla but for Bhutto saying that such a step would disable him on
his return, that instead it should be left out for the moment and he
would see it through within a few months. Did Mrs Gandhi take the
country or Parliament into confidence before coming to such an
Rajiv Gandhi commenced aid to LTTE: that has caused
a lethal civil war in a neighbour which has been our friend for
centuries, it has caused the death of over 1500 Indian soldiers. Did
he take the country or Parliament into confidence before doing so?
It is known, in fact, that even after he sent the Indian Army to
fight the very terrorists that he had foolishly agreed to arm and
equip, his Government continued assistance to those very terrorists.
Is there a single instance of another Government arming terrorists
who were killing its own soldiers? Did he work out a national
consensus or take Parliament into confidence to continue assisting
terrorists so that they could kill our soldiers?
But today, cock and bull concoctions about secret
deals, peremptory demands about taking the country into
And in any case, where does the Congress allegation
based on Niaz Naik's statement stand now? For just two days after
the Congress built up its conspiracy theory on his reported
assertion, Niaz Naik repudiated what had been attributed to him! The
report which had him saying that India and Pakistan had been close
to a secret deal was a "fabrication", he stated in a written
No problem for the Congress. It had passed on to
the next allegation!
Forgeries have of course been an industry with the
Congress since Rajiv's time.
The "letter" which was supposed to have been
written by the then Director of CIA, William Casey, to the President
of the conservative think-tank, the Heritage Foundation of the USA
-- spelling out a design to destabilise Rajiv's Government.
The forgeries to establish that V. P. Singh and his
son, Ajeya Singh, had a foreign account in St. Kitts, that $ 21
million had been paid into it as kickbacks.
The forged letter by which my colleagues, S.
Gurumurthy and A. Janakiraman were arrested, and V. P. Singh hounded
on the ground that a foreign detective agency had been engaged to
excavate facts about Rajiv's associates.
The "letter" which V. P. Singh was supposed to have
written to the President naming his colleagues, Arun Nehru and Arif
Mohammed Khan as having been involved in corrupt deals.
The "letter" JP was supposed to have written in
which he was said to have called V. P. Singh "spineless" and much
The "hotel bills" proving Arun Nehru's stay in New
York, and "telephone records" that established that he had been
calling tax havens in the West Indies.
The "letter" to that same American detective in
which V. P. Singh is supposed to have asked him to locate the
foreign accounts of his colleagues -- including ones who were dead,
like Karpoori Thakur! And so on.
In each case, there was a pattern. The forgery
would be elaborate, as was the one in The Tribune, with details and
all. It would appear in one, preferably out-of station paper: the
St. Kitts forgeries started in distant Middle east, in The Arab
Times! It would be picked up by one or two papers -- The Telegraph
and The Hindustan Times led the rest in the St. Kitts affair. Waving
these "news reports" Congressmen would hurl their falsehoods.
A well-practised routine, therefore. But even by
the lamentable standards of the Congress, forgeries in this round
mark a new low. They seek to implicate not just political opponents.
They have implicated the Army of the country. First, spokesmen of
the Congress talked of a letter and file that contained intelligence
information that had been furnished to the Government about the
Pakistani buildup. They spelled out an elaborate number. They
declared that if the Government denied the existence of the letter
and file, they would produce it. The Army stated that it wasn't just
that there was no letter or file of that number, there was no
numbering system that matched the number that had been put out. The
Congress spokesmen just let the matter drop!
Next, they and friendly magazines like Outlook,
flaunted "letters" that Brigadier Surinder Singh was said to have
written in August and November, 1998, in which he was said to have
warned the Army about the Pakistani build up. The letters had never
been received in Army Headquarters, nor at any other level or part
of the Army.
The Congress spokesman then flaunted a receipt
which he said established that the letters had been received.
Friendly papers -- some of which have been campaigning even more
energetically for the Congress than Congressmen -- ran with this
receipt. "Lying Kargil Generals nailed," ran the headline across the
front page of The Asian Age. They reproduced the facsimile of the
The legend on the top of the receipt itself said
that it was for a "Redressal of Grievance" communication from the
Brigadier -- the officer had been transferred, he had filed an
appeal against it. Moreover, it was dated 28 June, 1999. How could
it prove the receipt of letters in August and November in the
preceding year? On inquiry I learnt that this oddity had not been
But the next day the paper compounded the fib.
"Army acknowledges receiving the letters," it proclaimed. What the
Army had done was to state what the receipt itself stated, that the
Redressal of Grievance communication had been received -- on 28
June, 1999. How did this amount to an acknowledgment that the
letters in question -- ostensibly written in eight and eleven months
earlier had been received?
But the paper was no less zealous than the
The remedies are obvious. Things have reached such
a pit that readers should as a rule disbelieve what papers say till
the record of the publication or journalist in question establishes
to the contrary.
Second, newspapers should scrutinize each other's
work, and report the findings to the reading public.
And in the present case so should at least two
other institutions. The Election Commission has been so concerned
about things that may affect the fairness of the election process.
Surely, nothing but nothing has so polluted the electoral
atmosphere, no one has done as much to mislead voters as the liars
in the Congress. Why not make a study of the allegations which were
hurled, and give us your finding about their veracity?
The other institution of course is the Press
Council. Its function is to help maintain standards in the press. It
is evident that the fabrications would have got nowhere -- not in
1987-89, not now -- without the active collaboration of some of our
leading newspapers and magazines. Why not examine the allegations
they broadcast, and what the basis was for them?
After all, to purvey a libel uttered by another is
libel. To broadcast falsehood uttered by another is to compound