Former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) AS Dulat has claimed that the crisis over high profile hijacking of Indian Airlines plane IC-814 in December 1999 was mishandled. In a series of claims, the former head of India’s external intelligence agency also said that former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had expressed his discontent over the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat.
The claims made in an interview to the private news channel have given the opposition Congress party another reason to take on the incumbent BJP.
The ruling BJP, on its part, responded that the “decisions on Kandahar hijack were taken at the highest level and everybody was involved in decision making”.
Talking about the IC-814 hijacking, Dulat said that the Crisis Management Group (CMG) entrusted with the task to handle the matter “goofed” up by not immobilising the plane when it had landed in the Indian Territory.
“No one was willing to take a decision and in that confusion no instructions were passed on to Punjab Police which had moved in its personnel. They carried on debating and the plane flew off,” Dulat claimed in an interview on Thursday.
On 24th December 1999, the Indian Airlines plane carrying 176 passengers and 15 crew members from Kathmandu to Delhi was hijacked by the Pakistan based terror outfit Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. While the Indian authorities were gearing up to deal with the crisis, IC 814 made a brief landing at Amritsar, before been flown to Lahore, Dubai and finally to Kandahar.
The eight day crisis ended on 31st December 1999, after the release of passengers was secured in exchange of handing over three terrorists including Maulana Masood Azhar and Omar Sheikh. One passenger, 25 year old Rupin Katyal was killed after been stabbed multiple times by the hijackers.
Dulat also claimed that the then CM of Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Abdullah was displeased with the way things were handled by the Centre. Mr Abdullah, according to Dulat, had felt that the decision to release three hardcore terrorists was a “mistake” and he had even called upon the then Governor Girish Chander Saxena with an intent to resign as the CM.
In another claim, which may potentially stoke another debate on the issue of 2002 Gujarat riots, Dulat said that the former PM AB Vajpayee had expressed his discontent over the riots, calling it as “our mistake”.
“Woh humare se galti hui hai (it was our mistake),” Dulat claimed that former PM Vajpayee had said so.
Earlier, the principal opposition party, Congress had sought clarification from the BJP on why the entire response was “goofed up”, besides criticising the BJP on Gujarat riots of 2002.
AS Dulat retired as the head of external spy agency Research and Analysis Wing in 2000 after which he was appointed as Special Advisor in Vajpayee’s PMO.
(With inputs from PTI)