• Held Kashmir’s ex-governor Satya Pal claims Indian PM wanted to blame Pakistan
• Calls Modi ‘ignorant’ on Kashmir, demands restoration of statehood for the region

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hid key facts from the public about the Pulwama terror attack that killed dozens of paramilitary troops in India-held Jammu and Kashmir in February 2019, a former governor of the disputed region has said.

Satya Pal Malik also told The Wire in an interview that he immediately realised that Mr Modi wanted to use the attack to blame Pakis­tan for the benefit of his government and the BJP.

In a wide-ranging interview with Karan Thapar, published on Friday, Mr Malik also slammed corruption under Mr Modi’s watch. “I can safely say the PM has no real problem with corruption,” he said.

Mr Malik was governor during the Pulwama atta­ck and the scrapping of Article 370 in August that year. He said the Indian prime minister was “ill-informed” and “ignorant” about Kashmir, and that he had told Mr Malik not to speak about the home ministry’s lapses, which led to the devastating incident.

Mr Malik revealed that the attack on the Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Pulwama was a result of “incompetence” and “carelessness” by the Indian system, specifically the CRPF and the home min­i­­stry.

Mr Malik gave details of how the CRPF had asked for aircraft to transport its personnel, but was refused by the home ministry.

More importantly, he said all of these lapses were raised by him directly when Mr Modi called him from outside Corbett Park, shortly after the Pulwama attack. He said the prime minister told him to keep quiet about this and not tell anyone.

Separately, Mr Malik said that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval also told him to keep quiet and not talk about it. Mr Malik said he immediately realised that the intention was to put the blame on Pakistan and derive electoral benefit for the government and BJP.

Mr Malik also said that there was grave intelligence failure in the Pulwama incident, because the car carrying 300 kilograms of RDX explosives had allegedly come from across the border, but was travelling around the roads and villages of India-held Jammu and Kashmir for 10-15 days without being detected and without anyone knowing.

Mr Malik also detailed why he did not let Mehbooba Mufti form a new government, even though she claimed a majo­rity of 56 in the 87-member assembly and why he chose instead to dissolve the assembly in November 2018. At one point, he accused Mehbooba Mufti of lying, saying that the parties whose support she was claiming, such as the National Conference, were separately telling him to dissolve the assembly because they feared horse-trading.

Mr Malik said the prime minister is “ignorant” and “ill-informed” about Kashmir. He said that removing India-held Kashmir’s statehood was a mistake and it should be restored immediately.

Speaking about Mr Modi, Mr Malik said the prime minister is not at all concerned about corruption.

He said he was removed as governor of Goa in August 2020 and sent to Meghalaya because he had brought to the prime minister’s attention several instances of corruption, which the government chose to ignore rather than tackle.

He alleged that the people around the prime minister are indulging in corruption and often use the PMO’s name. Mr Malik said he had brought all this to Mr Modi’s attention, but added that the PM did not seem to care.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2023

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