AFTERMATH OF ATTACK ON PARLIAMENT: DID
‘GODHRA’ SAVE PAKISTAN?
Dr. Anil Athale. ( Retried
Former Joint Director
Writing on recent history is a
hazardous enterprise as the atmosphere is thick with disinformation and
secrecy. But this seems to be season for re-writing of history, Comrade Stalin
style, so this small attempt at pre-empting
ATTACK ON PARLIAMENT 13 DECEMBER 2001.
based terrorist outfit Lashkar e Toiba
(LeT), created a major crisis when its terrorists
mounted an unsuccessful attack on the Indian Parliament. A word about this
organisation is necessary at this stage due to the Indian ‘Doves’ campaign of
disinformation. LeT is NOT a secret organisation. Its
headquarters on a sprawling campus next to Lahore
is well known. Annually, the Lshkar holds rallies
that are attended by a million people and donations on Muslim festival
occasions pour in from all over Pakistan.
It has been long established that the LeT has close
relations with Pak army.
Returning to the theme , thanks to the
bravery of the guarding staff and a slice of luck ( the car bomb failed),
fortunately the attack that aimed at killing/taking hostage large number of MPs, failed. The Vice
President also had a narrow escape. Essentially, it was this failure that saved
the subcontinent from imminent war. It is doubtful if war could have been
averted had say one hundred Members of Parliament and the Vice President would have
been killed by the terrorists.
In next 48 hours, India
ordered the mobilisation of its armed forces and began to move them to battle
stations on the Indo-Pak border. The operation was codenamed ‘Parakram’.
In the normal circumstances, the
armed forces expect to get at least 7 days of warning before being ordered to
deploy for war. That is the job of India’s
external intelligence agency RAW ( Research and
Analysis Wing). Evidently, the RAW and the Intelligence Bureau ( IB, that
is responsible for internal security) had failed to get any inkling of the
attack on Parliament. What it meant was that the Armed Forces had to move
without any warning.
India’s major strike formations including the
armoured units, are located good 800 kms. away from the border. Soldiers stationed in the East are
even further away. The naval ships also need that kind of time to move to
battle stations. The Air Force can be ready relatively quickly, but even they
have to reposition maintenance units as per battle plans. In the best of circumstances, this move to
the border and preparations last anything between two to three weeks. Thus it
would be fair to assume that the Armed Forces were ready and raring to go only
by first week of January 2002.
NEUTRALISING PAKISTANI NUKES.
To be fair, the attack on the
Indian Parliament came as a surprise to Pakistan
as well. The Indian deployment and threat of conventional attack caught Pakistan on the wrong
foot. Despite its advantage of shorter lines of communication to the border, Pakistan
was slow to react to the Indian move. Since it was India
that initiated the move towards conflict, it is to be assumed that the Indian
nuclear weapons were also kept in state of readiness.
stated policy is of no first use, it does not mean that we have to wait for the
first Pakistani nuke to fall on an Indian city. With satellite and MIG-25 based
surveillance in place, India
must have been closely monitoring movement of Pakistani nukes.
Given the fact that Pakistan
has a smaller arsenal and also a small geographical area for its deployment,
the only chance for Pakistan
to use its nuclear weapons is to launch them in a surprise attack without
warning. Its hope of stall the Indian retaliatory strike with a combination of world pressure for
restraint and its own defensive preparations. In case of operation Parakram, as India
moved first, surprise attack was not possible. Instead of India,
the world pressure now mounted on Pakistan
to observe nuclear restraint. With huge American presence on its soil and in
the Arabian sea nearby, the
Americans were in good position to prevent Pakistan
from using its nuclear weapons.
ACHIEVED A MAJOR SUCCESS BY VIRTUALLY NEUTRALISING PAKISTANI NUKES AND GAINED
SPACE TO FIGHT A CONVENTIONAL WAR ON ITS OWN TERMS, WHERE IT HAS A DEGREE OF
According to Major General Ashok Mehta ( Retd.)
( rediff interview 1 January 2003) the Indians were ready
by 7 January 2002 and Pakistan
was still off balance. It is likely that to stall the Indian offensive, Around that time, Pakistan
may have made some moves to ready its nuclear weapons for use. In response to
this the Indian Army chief, General Padmanabhan went
public with an explicit threat on 11
“"As long as I am alive, if nuclear weapons are used
or the forces in the seas, or our economic interests, the
perpetrator of the particular outrage will be punished,
severely that his continuation in any fray will be in
( rediff news report of Jan 11, 2002) .
Indian Generals rarely speak, and
when they do, the Pakistanis take them seriously. It appears that the
General-speak had the desired effect, and Pakistan
henceforth lost the nuclear war initiative. General Musharraf’s
speech on 12 January, accepting some of the Indian demands
may well have resulted from this nuclear standoff.
It is obvious that India
was not satisfied with concessions given by Musharraf.
There also may have been a school of thought that this time around India
January/February is ideal time
for India to
act against Pakistan.
Due to the snow bound passes of the Himalayas, chances
of Chinese intervention is minimised. This also enables India
to thin out the troops from that border. Despite the rhetoric of ‘ Aar Paar
Ki ladai’ (decisive battle)
it seems clear that India
may well have wanted to only ‘punish’ Pakistan
and not destroy it. There are several options on the J&K border to carry
out limited offensive. Attacks in the direction of Muzzafarabad
or Skardu are well within the Indian capability. But
doing this could well invite a retaliation elsewhere.
The Indian deployment all along the border was essentially to forestall this
The most likely scenario worked
out in 1987 ( during the exercise Brass Tags) was a Pak
counter thrust in Sialkot
area. To respond to this India
could then use its superior tank force to advance in Sindh
and cut Pakistan
into two. These moves and countermoves as well as behind the scene diplomacy
went on throughout January and February. It is here that ‘Godhra’
comes into picture.
With neutralisation of Pak nukes
and readiness to deal with conventional threat in Punjab,
by February 2002, the Indian army was well set to ‘punish’ Pakistan
on the Kashmir front. But then Godhra
There have been many claimants to
credit for avoiding war in the subcontinent in 2002, the year when for ten long
months the Indian Armed Forces were poised on the Indo-Pak border. Collin
Powell, the American secretary of State, has gone on record to claim that it
was the efforts and influence of the United
States that averted the war in the
sub-continent. If the US
is so influential with Indian govt, one is tempted to ask, then why did it not
succeed in preventing the nuclear tests at Pokhran in
May 1998? American Multinationals who outsource their work to Bangalore
based IT industry claimed that it was
their threat to withdraw their contracts that in turn forced Indian companies
like Infosys, Wipro et al
lobby with the govt in favour of peace and restraint.
While there is some truth in both
these assertions, it is likely that it was the Godhra
arson and the riots that followed in March 2002 , that
really saved Pakistan
from being attacked by India.
To understand the link between Godhra killings , Gujarat
riots and events of 2002, it is necessary to go back in time and see the
sequence of events of that momentous year. It is necessary to jog one’s memory
to understand how the events unfolded.
THEN ‘GODHRA’ HAPPENED !
Rumours of an attack on temple spread like wild fire. The whole
Ahmedabad city was put under curfew. Yet the violence
did not stop. The local police were accused of showing anti Muslim bias and
were ineffective. After two days of
unsuccessful attempt at stopping the violence, city of Ahmedabad
was handed over to the army.
Two Trains were stopped, Muslims were pulled
out and killed. The rioting had spread to Mehsana, Surat, Anand and Jamnagar and Rajkot, the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi. Even
the Sabarmati ashram, established by Mahatma Gandhi,
was not spared and was attacked by a rampaging mob. It was only after ten days
that the situation was finally brought under control. It was estimated that
over 1500 people were killed. Thousands left their homes in panic and sought refuge
in temporary camps.
“We had begun to get reports of scattered violence shortly after we had
watched on television the barbaric
video tape of motorists being ripped out of their cars, hammered, pounded and chased by
rock-throwing men on the ground. The
image of a man being pulled from his
truck by thugs, still burned in my mind. My memory was seared by the
vivid imprint of the motionless, beaten
man lying on the ground, being kicked and
brutalized. I was still filled with rage at the sight of one of the
assailants picking up a large piece of
cinder-block and throwing it at his apparently
lifeless body, smashing him in the head. Then, after the savage beating,
the attacker appeared to do a dance,
raise his hands towards the helicopter
overhead and flashed a victory sign.
As our helicopter circled over the city, we could see that fires were
breaking out over a widespread area.. The dark plumes of smoke were ominously
spreading to different spots of the city. Firemen could not respond to many of these early fires because snipers were shooting at them. Later police escorts went
in with the fire fighters to protect
them from the snipers.”
No, this is NOT the description
of Gujrath riots of 2002. The scene described above is
from Los Angeles, on early evening
of April 29, 1992. The Los
Angeles Riots were just erupting then. The picture of other riot is of Gujrath
all right, but NOT Gujrath 2002, but Gujrath of September 1969.
Angeles riots were provoked by a video clipping of
police brutality and lasted over a week. The Gujrath
riots of 1969 were far more serious than the 2002 ones. The death toll, as
proportion of population was far higher and the violence had spread to many parts of the state.
What the synopsis of two events
- Police brutality and biases are NOT uncommon.
- People show great brutality in killings during
riots the beast in human beings comes to surface.
- In a ‘tinder box’ like situation, both at Ahmedabad in 1969 and Los Angeles in 1992, all that is
required to start violence is a ‘trigger event’.
- Ultimately serious riots can only be controlled by
the Armed Forces/National Guard as they are beyond police capability. How
quickly the armed forces arrive on scene virtually determines the duration
riots of 2002 were important as well as unique in a sense. The country was at
that time on the brink of war with Pakistan.
On earlier two occasions, 1965 as well as 1971, remarkable internal peace had
prevailed. In 1971 despite the well known fact that Pak army had killed close
to 300,000, mainly Hindus in Bangladesh ( a figure accepted by the official Hamidiur Rehman commission as
well Pak General Gul Hasan
Bangladesh claims that over 600,000 were killed), there was no internal strife
as all parties ( including the much reviled RSS)were co-opted in keeping this secret. Ninety percent of the nearly 1 crore refugees that poured into India
were also Hindus. But even this was successfully hidden from public. Godhra incident and Gujrath riots
were the first instance when even in face of external threat, the internal
BEHIND ‘GODHRA’ KILLING.
and its twin city of Dahod
is famous in the subcontinent as the birth place of Aurangzeb, the fanatical Mughal
Emperor. It is also a well known trouble spot that has seen violent riots
between Hindus and Muslims for over a hundred years. A large number of people
of Godhra have links with people in the violence
prone Karachi city of Pakistan.
The population of Godhra is pro Pakistan
and easily excitable.
On 27 February 2002, early in the
morning when ‘Sabarmati Express’ streamed into Godhra, it carried the usual load of Hindus returning from Ayodhya, a Hindu pilgrimage centre. These pilgrims travelling
in large groups often act rowdily and altercations with
vendors is a common occurrence. In fact, it is a known phenomenon that
the vendors shut shop on approach of such trains. But 27th February 2002 was unusual. No sooner had the train left the station, it was stopped by pulling the emergency chain, just
a little distance away from the station. Here the train was surrounded by a mob
of thousands that pelted stones. Apparently some people then entered a bogie
S-6 that had mainly women and children, by cutting the cloth partition between
two bogies and poured petrol and burnt 60 women and children to death.
The incident at Godhra on 27
February 2002 had all the hallmarks of a pre-planned attack. Move
of Hindu pilgrims by this train was a routine affair, not a sudden provocation.
The why ‘now’ is the question? Also at
the early morning hour it is not easy to suddenly get together a mob of several
thousands! The mobs action in blocking the way to fire engine that tried to
reach the spot also shows a degree of leadership and planning.
The state of Gujrath
where Godhra is located, was then (
and even now) being ruled by a hard-line Hindu leader who faced a
difficult election in few months time. That he would make capital of this
incident was a foregone conclusion.
In less than two days time the
city of Ahmedabad
erupted in an orgy of violence. The local police either played a partisan role
or were woefully inadequate to deal with the rioters. The only option was to
call in the army.
But where was the army? Unlike
the earlier occasions when the army stationed in Ahmedabad
could move in on hours notice, this time it took more
than two days. The troops earmarked for internal riot control duties were more
than 600 Kms away, deployed on the border and ready
for war. To re-adjust the defences took time. The troops were flown into Ahmedabad without their transport, and were unfamiliar with
the geography of the city. It
took nearly three days before the army became effective in Ahmedabad and brought the situation under control. It is
noteworthy that most of the killings and violence took place BEFORE the arrival
of the army on the scene. Sporadic arson and violence did continue, but the
worst was over within a weeks time.
killings had taken place in normal times, on its own, army would have been
ready on the 27 February itself. For instance, in another horrific instance of
riots, that of 1 Nov. 1984 in wake of Indira Gandhi’s
assassination, the army in Delhi itself and in nearby Meerut
( just 40 kms away) was alert and ready to move! Then
the army did not move in earlier as the government of the day did not
deliberately call it. This was certainly not the case in 2002 and the delay in
putting army to use was due to the circumstances, the war like situation on
It appears that the brain behind
the Godhra incident had rightly calculated that this
would trigger mass rioting and that large number of troops would have to be
moved from the border. In actual fact close to a Division worth of troops had
to be moved ( 40,000) and another Division kept on alert to move to other areas
should the need arise.
RIOTS ON OPERATION PARAKRAM.
On an average, a division covers
close to 50 to 75 km border. The loss of close to two divisions on riots
control duty, weakened the Indian threat of action
It is as if all the actors involved in the drama were acting like puppets of an
unseen hand. In nutshell, the sequence of events was,
- A planned attack at Godhra
burns to death over 60, mostly women and children.
- The ‘Secular’ media and some political parties try
to minimise the tragedy with some going to the extent of blaming the
victims themselves. The Gujrath govt. brings the
dead bodies to Ahmedabad and makes every attempt
to inflame passions of the victim’s co-religionists. The combination of
‘Secularists’ indifference and local govts. exploitation of
the tragedy creates a fertile ground for a mass hysteria and revenge
killings. With its 200 year old history of animosities, the city of Ahmedabad erupts in orgy of
- The local police are both biased in favour of
rioters and also woefully inadequate to deal with the situation. Army is
withdrawn from border, creating a gaping hole in the defences. Till the
situation is not brought under control, the threat of armed action against
is held in abeyance.
With the reduction of troops on
the Rajasthan border, India
was no longer ready to launch an offensive against Pakistan.
It was only towards early May 2002 that the troops engaged in internal security
duties rejoined their comrades on the border. The window of opportunity was by
then shut, as only in two months time the snows in Himalayas
would melt and Chinese threat had to be catered to.
Troops From Gujrat
Move Back to Their Operational Locations
May 21, 2002
Vaisakha 31, 1924
Some Indian Army formations and units, earlier diverted from OP PARAKRAM,
for internal security duties in Gujarat, have been
relieved of these duties post haste and they have started moving to their
Such a move has been undertaken keeping in view the emerging security
scenario post 14 May 2002
terrorist attack at Kaluchak.
On 14 May 2002, the terrorist stuck in Jammu
area, at Kaluchak. The gruesome attack targeted the
wives and children of the soldiers. The sheer audacity of the act was to show
to the world the ‘impotence’ of India.
The terrorists achieved their aim as thanks to Gujarath
riots the army was NOT in a position to react. If any proof was required of the
impact of Gujarath on Operation Parakram,
here it is in black and white.
According to General Ashok Mehta ( from rediff
interview quoted above,)
happened in May and a new D-Day was selected- June 15. On US prodding, General Musharraf made his May 27 speech reaffirming compliance (of
Indian demands of curbing terrorist activities).”
It seems clear that the attack on
Parliament as well as the Kaluchak massacre were the
handiwork of ‘free lance’ terrorists, nurtured by Pakistan but nor
necessarily under its direct control.
The aim of terrorists was very clear, provoke a war between India
and Pakistan by
hook or crook. But Godhra incident was a calculated
act, organised and executed by Pakistan to save itself
from an imminent Indian attack.
As an act sponsored by a state,
with all its resources in forensic help, legal expertise and police inputs, it
falls in the category of ‘perfect crime’. No enquiry commission will ever be
able to trace the true culprits and solve the mystery of Godhra.
The entire analysis above is
based on military logic and understanding of military mind and not on any
insider information. Many would think
the author to be presumptuous. I would cite just one example in support. During
the First Gulf War of 1991, there was intense speculation over how and where would the Americans launch the ground offensive?
Based on a simple map, knowledge
of military history and reading of military mind, I had predicted a week before
the actual event the exact pattern of attack. The prediction was that 82 and
101 Airborne Divisions would take Al Kurna and Al Nasariya with Patton’s Third Army launching a an armoured
thrust from West to link up. The Americans would thus cut off the Republican
Guard located to the East and South and be poised to drive into Baghdad
should Saddam not surrender. I had even published a map showing this plan. In
the event I was spot on.
author wrote a daily column for Marathi newspaper ‘Loksatta’
during the first Gulf War.)
pleasant offshoot of this was an invitation to visit American troops in their
base at Florida in June 1991!
Though sadly at the last minuet the Americans had second thoughts on permitting an
‘alien’ professional meet the Gulf War veterans so soon after the events. After
all, though security was give out as an excuse, I as a military history man
know that more than security it is individual military reputations and
promotions that are as stake……..one of those ‘beneficiaries’ of the media build
up was one Collin Powell…………