Former PM Vajpayee called 2002 Gujarat riots a ‘mistake’: ex-RAW chief AS Dulat

New Delhi(PTI): Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had expressed his discontent over the 2002 Gujarat riots and called it “our mistake”, according to former RAW Chief A S Dulat.

Dulat said this while recalling a meeting with Vajpayee.

In an interview to Karan Thapar on his India Today TV programme, Dulat briefly mentioned about his last meeting with the former Prime Minister during which the BJP stalwart reflected about the 2002 Gujarat riots and said, “woh humare se galti hui hai(it was our mistake).”

Dulat, who headed the external spy agency Research and Analysis Wing till 2000 before he was appointed as Special Advisor in Vajpayee’s PMO on Kashmir issue, said Vajpayee always believed that the post-Godhra riots in 2002 was a “mistake” and the grief was “clearly visible” on his face.

The handling of the Gujarat riots when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister has been at the centre of a controversy.

Speaking about various issues related to Kashmir, Dulat said Rubayya Sayeed, daughter of state Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, was never the target of militants in 1989.

“It was Saffia, daughter of Abdullah whom they wanted to kidnap. But, as Sayeed become the Home Minister in the V P Singh government, they (militants) decided to take her hostage,” he said, adding this was told to him by the militant who had planned the kidnapping.

Recalling his days as Advisor in the PMO, Dulat, an IPS officer of 1965 batch of Rajasthan cadre, also said that there was a plan to make Abdullah Vice President in early 2002 and Omar Abdullah Chief Minister of the state.

“The offer to make Farooq Abdullah Vice President happened at my residence at a private dinner and it was made on behalf of Vajpayee by Brajesh Mishra. Later, Abdullah told me that both Vajpayee and L K Advani and had reconfirmed the offer,” he said.

However, Abdullah always had doubts whether the NDA government would fulfil this promise. “I don’t trust them. I don’t trust Delhi,” were the words of Abdullah to Dulat.

The other problem was that Farooq becoming Vice President was part of an arrangement whereby Krishan Kant would become President. “When the latter didn’t happen the promise to Abdullah fell by the wayside,” he said.

In another disclosure which Dulat has mentioned in his book “Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years”, he said that in early 1990s, self-styled Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin had called local Intelligence Bureau chief K M Singh and sought his help in securing a medical seat for his son.

“Singh approached Abdullah, who was the Chief Minister, and the work was done,” Dulat said and maintained that these favours are extended always with a hope that they would be converted into a surrender of the militants.

“This is done world over by all the spying agencies,” he said.

He also recalled that Vajpayee had called on Congress President Sonia Gandhi and asked her to ensure that there was no tie up with Mufti Sayeed in government formation.

The reason for this, according to Dulat, was that Sayeed was more comfortable with Jamaat-e-Islamia, the political wing of Hizbul Mujahideen and that his daughter Mehbooba had links with the terror group itself.

As a result, during a visit to Srinagar in April 2003, Vajpayee insisted that Mehbooba should not be on the stage with him and Mufti Sayeed, he said.