chapter  3
27 Pages

THE MASTER CELL

Hayat Mir spent the night at the shrine of Baba Reshi, after crossing the 4000-metre Chor Panjal pass with the Pakistani column moving towards battle. In the morning, he discarded his uniform: his job was to live on to fight after the soldiers had died. Over the next few weeks, Mir established himself in the mountains above

Badgam. A resident of Bandi Abbaspur, from the Poonch area of Pakistanadministered Kashmir, Mir had spent two months before the offensive of August 1965, in special intensive training in the tradecraft of the covert operative. He had been taught how well-guarded enemy positions could be taken by stealth, and how ambushes were laid. He had been taught to cook in the forest without setting off a telltale column of smoke, to watch for signs of surveillance along his sources of water, to set up a system to signal danger to his associates and to live off wild vegetation, if necessary.2 Now, he was to put that education to use. Through the first weeks of the 1965 war, Mir established himself as a formid-

able presence among the peasantry in the rural areas of Badgam. Like similar units elsewhere in Jammu and Kashmir, Mir’s cell carried out raids on the relatively affluent, in order to raise cash for distribution among the rural poor. Communal solidarities were manipulated to give such actions legitimacy, a model perhaps

for the terrorists who would do much the same from the late 1980s onwards, although at infinitely greater levels of intensity. On August 18, 1965, for example, a covert unit raided the shop of an affluent Arigam grocer, Raj Nath, and looted cloth, provisions and cash for distribution among the poor. Interestingly enough, Nath’s watchman, a Muslim, sought to fend off the raid, and was shot for his pains.3 Mir used faith as the keystone of his efforts to build legitimacy among the peasantry. In one instance, he descended on the village of Wutligam, after hearing tales of the supposed promiscuity of a woman there. He gathered the entire village and condemned the woman for her un-Islamic conduct. In the sight of all, Mir then shot the woman through the head.4