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How media and vested interest group destroyed our Army’s perfectly working, very effective Covert Intel Unit: Part-1

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Kenden
A Geek and a PetrolHead who has found a new liking for writing things, during these lockdown times.

[Disclaimer: Each of the information provided in this article is in public domain and none is prohibited or restricted by law. It’s just that they are scattered at 1000 places, I tried my best to pin it all together in one article]

This is part one of two parts of the article. This part details the GOOD STUFF, second will detail the SAD PART, How media and vested interest group destroyed our Army’s perfectly working, very effective Covert Intel Unit, need of which is still felt today.

When I started to write about this. Many friends slammed me- ‘Let bygones be bygones’! Nobody will be interested! I can state one million reasons but foremost, military men and their deed must never be forgotten. Also that I have ample time now, and just started learning to write. Now to write stuff, the topic you chose should be close to your heart, isn’t it? Military history had always fascinated me, apart from tech and auto, coming from a defense community, couldn’t join for whatever reasons back then. It will always be a regret for life.

As I lay in the comfort of my home, hearing the unfortunate news of Handwara Encounter, how our 5 brave men paid the supreme sacrifice during a CT/hostage rescue mission. This article becomes even more relevant.

We live in a fast paced life, News are consumed with tidbits and headlines scattered here and there, Tweets etc. And media people are such crooks, their headlines are almost always misleading. In reality we miss all the details. Many will not even care to know that the Colonel that martyred today had been decorated twice with Gallantry Award, let many CT- Ops from the front himself. Or the young Major was just married 4 months ago. Think of the young lady’s plight, their inning had just started. Every soldier has a family and friends that has a story to tell, their sufferings, sacrifice, things that cannot be put in words. How many of us are interested in those tiny weeny details? And then we have a section of termites, Libbus whose claim to fame is nothing but creating negativity here in the country. Their usual rant, these men are paid salaries for their job, you cannot be insensitive to such levels that there can be no redemption left.

Necessity is the Mother of all Inventions – Mumbai 26/11 Terror Attack

Well our story starts in later months of 2008. Year was already in doldrums due to the 2008 Market Crash. On 26 Nov 2008, 10 highly trained terrorist from Pakistan attacked Mumbai, the financial capital of India, entering through the sea route. The unprecedented attack that lasted nearly 3 days, left 166 people dead and over 300 injured. Among the dead were 29 foreign nationals too, 15 Mumbai Police personals and 2 Commandos from our elite NSG. Only one among the 10 terrorists, Ajmal Kasab was caught alive due to the heroics of one Mumbai Police ASI, Tukaram Omble, who was posthumously awarded Ashok Chakra, for his supreme sacrifice. 

Ruling government of the time Congress led UPA, received lot of flak by public and even on international arena. It was no doubt a massive intel failure.

The account of which is detailed in a book written by Cathy Scott/Adrian Levy: The Siege: The Attack on the Taj. It’s a highly recommended book which describes a well-documented accounts of time, money and personal involved in planning the attack. It’s a must read for non-fiction bookworms!

In the aftermath, M K Narayanan, a former IPS and IB chief who was at that time The National Security advisor to PM Manmohan, was tasked to find a counter offensive. मतलब इज़्ज़त कैसे बचाये?

He subsequently met with heads of all the spy agencies and military brass to know if we had the capability to give a befitting reply (No! Not Tapase Pannu Type reply) to Terror outfits based in Pakistan. To his surprise, we had none. NSA asked them to find a solution and if possible raise a new Outfit for this sort of job.

Our system which is historically entrenched in layers of red tap-ism and babu-dom, sources say that none of the spy bosses or military brass went back to NSA with a solution. Even the, then COAS Deepak Kapoor didn’t give much of a thought to it.

THE NEW GENERAL

The commander must decide how he will fight the battle before it begins‘ – Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery (Kangol Beret वाले)

Come mid 2010, Lt.Gen. R.K. Loomba, then The Director General of Military Intelligence, approached newly appointed CoAS General V.K. Singh with a proposal to raise such a specific team for covert operations. Now the General VK Singh, historically the first ‘Commando’ to hold the position of CoAS, liked the idea and gave a go ahead. 

Lt. Gen Rakesh Kumar Loomba, tasked his best intel guy under his command, Col. M.N. Bakshi to raise such a UNIT which could carry out counter-intelligence, ‘covert’ operations and surveillance on Pakistan, Kashmir and North East. Exciting eh!

Lieutenant General R.K. Loomba, (6th from left) (DGMI) Seen here with the Team Members of Indo-Tajikistan Army Mountaineering Expedition Sep 17, 2009.
Source: Government of India, GODL license

THE INVENTION- Few Good Men

THE TEAM: (From left) Lt Col Vinay ‘Birdie’, Lt Col Sarvesh D., Col Hunny Bakshi, Gen V.K. Singh- COAS, Lt Col Zir, Lt Col Anurag ‘Naughty’ and Lt Col Alfred B. (SOURCE: Ajit K. Dubey @ajitkdubey for theweek.in, 14 Oct 2015)

Col Munishwar Nath Bakshi, a tall flamboyant military spy who was in his early 40s back then, was a rare breed of Officer, who had joined Military Intelligence directly after graduating from Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. It is said that, when he was posted in ‘erstwhile’ state of Jammu and Kashmir, he risked his own life to save a Brigadier, while being ambushed by terrorists. He was fondly known as Col ‘Hunny’ by his friends.

Col. Bakshi’s first choice was a ‘demo’ guy from corps of engineers who had previously served with R&AW. Lt Col Vinay B. nicknamed, Birdie. He had been awarded a gallantry award for his role in certain classified operation. Apart from being a demolition expert he was also a trained Paratrooper.

His 2nd pick was Lt. Col Sarvesh D., a short stature veteran Sky diver who had experience of more than 3000 jump under his belt. Saw many action during the Kargil War in which he commanded a Company. It’s said during one of the CT Ops, in Sopore, J&K, where he was part of SAG with National Security Guard, he sensed that his men were in danger and barged into a house where terrorists were holed up. He neutralized all of them and saved his men.

3rd pick was Lt. Colonel Alfred B. He was a seasoned negotiator. While he was on deputation with 28 Assam Rifles, he had managed to create intelligence assets for espionage in ULFA, a Marxist aligned insurgent group in Assam. These was instrumental in creating a truce between the Army and ULFA leadership, which ensured peace in Assam for many years.

Lt Col Zir was the fourth pick. During his stint in North East, he had built a wide network among terror groups which was instrumental in unearthing various gun running route from Burma (now Myanmar) to India. This led to many successful seizure of such consignments.

Last and 5th man, Col Bakshi picked was Lt. Col Anurag, a.k.a naughty. Diabetic and overweight, he was the last man on the planet to look like a spy. Smart choice eh? During a previous training session, he had injured his leg, which was instrumental in him gaining weight, but stamina that he had the most. He could hike for miles through the hilly terrain of J&K with the help of a walking stick. Maybe this simpleton looking stature and his sharpness helped him create many assets in J&K which was later used by Army to identify miscreants during all those stone pelting protests.

Thus the discreetly named Technical Support Division was formed with 6 handpicked officers, 5 JCOs, and 32 men. An unmarked building, in Delhi Cantt was repurposed for their base. It was a colonial era two storied slaughterhouse jokingly dubbed as ‘The Butchery’. Aptly named eh?   

Its not clear who thought to name it Technical Support Division, but World over these kind of covert units is named as such for its inconspicuousness (मै भी शशि थरूर!!). Maybe someone read about CIA’s own Technical Services Division of the 70s, one of their couple-duos was a very effective operative of their time-Tony Mendes. Remember ‘Argo’ !? Or take the case of US Navy’s DEVGRU-Development Group or commonly known as Seal Team 6, there is nothing about any sort of ‘development’ in that Unit, except for developing soldier into effective fighting machine. Infact when Comm. Richard Marcinko created Seal Team 6, he named it 6 to confuse enemy, to imply that maybe there were many similar teams in existence.

World over, various conflicts of the past have proven that such small purpose built covert Intel forces has been more effective than a usual inbuilt MI of large infantry. Be it the case of OSS or LRDG during WWII to name a few. 

Most of the exploits of men of such Units are never known to general public, until Govt themselves decides to declassify for whatever circumstances or reasons.

DEEDS

“All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.” Sun Tzu – Art of War.

Now how effective was our very own TSD? Everything was going very well with the working of TSD. And its effectiveness was being felt so much that it was able to create rift in Pak based terror establishment.

It carried out as many as 8 effective covert operations across LOC, especially the said bombing of an ISI office in Faisalabad in 2011.

Many terrorists head including the likes of Syed Salahuddin, of Hizbul Mujahideen was kept on constant radar so much that it was giving sleepless nights to ISI and its sleeper cells in India. Real Life James Bond Stuff, eh?

Information Warfare and propaganda has always been an effective tool for any army. TSD through its sources, secured many images and videos from across the LoC. Videos and Images showing atrocities by Pakistan army and Rangers on people of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Images of economic hardship showing how neglected the area was by Pakistan government.

All this in a mere budget of 20cr a year! It was the cheapest Military Intel Unit in the planet. A paltry amount compared to what Pakistan ISI spends against India and its Kashmir Unrest mission. Also less than half the cost of a bungalow owned by certain journalist.

Kashmir was more or less peaceful during the following year. Panchayat election was held successfully after a gap of 30 years in 2011. Tourist inflow was like never before in 2012. These can be attributed to the TSD and its hard working men who had risked their lives day in and out.

In total there were only 5 terrorist attack during 2011-12 year, throughout India. Compare this with 15 attacks that happened in 2013-14, when this unit ceased to exist. (In Part 2)

Now all these Ops are Covert, meaning there is total factor of deniability. That’s why that Faisalabad bombing’s responsibility was taken by a Paki terror group. Ironically all these ops would have been never known to general public if not for Media and some vested interest groups treachery against TSD and its men (PART 2).

Media the so called ‘fourth state’ and some of its prominent journalist did a great disservice to the nation and the men who risked their lives so that you and I can enjoy the Freedom we have.

The pain these men and their families, their kids had encountered in last 8 years, cannot be put in words nor it can be felt by us Civvies. Not to forget the great security risks that comes as part of such a dangerous job when the cover is blown.

While TSD men were doing what they do best, diligently working, putting their own life at risks for the country, but all was not calm on the Delhi Front.

To be continued…..

Special mention:

  1. @SumonaChakrabo8 (You have been my inspirations to write)
  2. @LevinaNeythiri of resonantnews.com (Thanks for following me, and taking time to reply my DM umpteen times, your research was very useful)
  3. Ajit Kumar Dubey Sir @ajitkdubey (leading journalist @ani who relentlessly followed this case, Cannot Thank you more)
  4. @Vidula_201 of www.lifeskills.center (I try to contact for permission to use your research material, maybe you were busy)

Recomendations: Do watch movie Aiyari (now available on Hotstar/Netflix) featuring Manoj Bajpai. fictional encounter of a MI unit named DSD, You will thank me. 🙂

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Kenden
A Geek and a PetrolHead who has found a new liking for writing things, during these lockdown times.
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