Former national security adviser M K Narayanan, who was at the heart of India’s security and intelligence apparatus for decades, says it is obvious the government affidavits in the Ishrat Jahan case were changed but he does not know the reasons for it.
Speaking to Hindustan Times in London on Wednesday, Narayanan, 81, said there was an intelligence report based on “fairly good evidence” of Jahan’s alleged links with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) at the time of her killing in June 2004.
Narayanan, who is on a visit to London, said intelligence agencies produce many reports but it is up to the government of the day to accept them and act.
Recent revelations claim the first government affidavit submitted in court mentioned Jahan’s links with LeT, while the second one did not. The change was reportedly made at the political level during the tenure of the UPA government.
Narayanan said: “It is obvious that the affidavit was changed. (Former home minister P) Chidambaram seems to have said that an intelligence report is not necessarily proof, but I don’t know what went into the changing.”
He added: “The question is whether a government is willing to accept an intelligence report or not. There was an intelligence report...It (the report on Jahan) was based on fairly sound evidence at the time.”
Referring to Pakistani-American LeT operative David Headley’s recent revelations about Jahan, Narayanan said he had been “very clever” and had given details of what was already known.
“His purpose in referring to the Ishrat Jahan case, in addition to everything else, was to give a propaganda advantage to the Lashkar. We don’t accept what he says but there was an intelligence report about Ishrat Jahan, it was based on fairly good evidence but intelligence is what government finally accepts and acts on it,” he said.
According to Narayanan, the Islamic State in India was more than a threat at the moment. “It is a challenge, which can become very serious if ways and means are not found to deal with it…The number of latent supporters of ISIS in India is pretty large.”
Narayanan had previously estimated during a talk at the International Institute for Strategic Studies here in September 2014 that between 100 and 150 Indians – mostly engineers – had left the country to join IS.
It is difficult to come up with the number of IS supporters, he said, though the organisation is making a “deep dent” in the minds of youngsters. The danger is that because it was appealing to the mind, most of its ardent supporters are coming from the educated classes, he said.
“We were all the time comfortable saying that no Indian Muslim fought in Afghanistan (or joined international terrorist organisations). There has been a transformation in that sense because they are not fighting a battle on the ground, it is a bigger issue,” he said.
“Dealing with a threat like this goes beyond government. In the UK they are doing this deradicalisation programme. I think this is totally misplaced. This is quite different from what existed in the past.
“India has intrinsic strengths because it has a large percentage of Muslims who understand the world in which they are living in. It is they who will have to fight this, governments can only help them fight the internal battles.”
On student-related controversies in Hyderabad and Jawaharlal Nehru University, Narayanan agreed that “a certain polarisation” was taking place and said while political parties could be part of the polarisation, no government could be part of it.
“There is a feeling that there is a dark state operating that is denying Dalits their due. All over the world we know students raise slogans. What happened in 1968 in Paris? They talked about Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara, it had nothing to do with Paris.
“We need to be careful that we don’t overreact. Clearly some anti-national slogans were raised (in JNU) but how do you deal with it? If a child behaves in a particular fashion, you can’t beat him black and blue. This is like wildfire, this is what happened during the JP movement. He literally asked the army to revolt.
“It was decided to crush this (JP) movement, but look what happened. So we must learn some of these lessons and the extent to which you can go,” he said.