The real work on revoking Article 370 began in the second week of June when Amit Shah visited the Kashmir Valley, his first as Union Home Minister. He held closed-door discussions with civil and military officials on the ground situation and returned to Delhi with a strong resolve to correct what he considered to be a “historical blunder.”
As top officials got on with the ground work, the Narendra Modi government – in coordination with state officials and security forces – started gauging the possible scenarios in the event of any exigency. At a time when the country, including Jammu and Kashmir, were busy celebrating 20 years of the Kargil war, National Security Advisor (NSA)
Ajit Doval made a secret visit to Srinagar on July 23-24. The NSA aligned the Army, Air Force, National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), IB, R&AW and paramilitary forces with the broad idea, as also senior members of the state bureaucracy.
Doval made a note of the basic required infrastructure and equipment for implementing the plan. He also took an overview of surveillance and reconnaissance assets – for tackling any eventuality from the Pakistani side. To keep an eye on the terrorist and separatist movements, a fleet of more than 20 drones was employed. The Indian Air Force – without being specified the reason – was asked to immediately provide the fleet of its 10 C-17 and six C-130Js for airlift of paramilitary troops from all corners of the country.
The police and the Army were told to come up with all the satellite phones that they had in their stocks and more than 2,000 of those were designated to be distributed among troops and civilian officials – for use after the crucial declaration. With more than 45,000 additional troops deployed in the Valley, the NSA and his core team maintained complete secrecy around the plan.
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat and the Air Force to mobilise forces and deploy transport aircraft. Israeli Heron drones from the NTRO were sent across the Pir Panjal for mob control. Sukhoi and Mirage 2000 aircraft made dozens of sorties from Srinagar airport.
The only visible movement was of the 35,000 troops which were sent to J&K, particularly in the Valley, over a period of 10 days. To camouflage the plans, the forces started hitting the Pakistani terrorist camps harder and army bases near the Line of Control and the caliber of fire was enhanced to artillery shells. The NSA went to Kashmir Valley for a meeting with top officials of the countersecurity grid and the decision to deploy additional troops was taken after that meeting.
Doval camped there for three days. Then on July 26 the decision to curtail the Amarnath Yatra was taken. Later, recall of all tourists from the Valley was also suggested by the NSA. Apart from this, an additional 100 companies of Central paramilitary were rushed as back-up to beef up security.
General Bipin Rawat himself toured the state and reviewed the locations which could be seen as a security threat. The overall task of ‘Mission Kashmir’ was handed over to Shah, who, along with Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, was reviewing the legal implications with a core team that included Law and Justice Secretary Alok Srivastav, Additional Secretary Law (Home) RS Verma, Attorney-General KK Venugopal, Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba and his select team of the Kashmir Division. The Army chief, heads of intelligence agencies and central paramilitary forces were also coordinating with the Union Home Secretary and Chief Secretary 24×7.
On the crucial night of August 4, the Chief Secretary instructed the Director-General of Police (Jammu and Kashmir) Dilbagh Singh to take several preventive measures which included house arrest of key political leaders, snapping mobile and landline services, declaring Section 144 and perfecting a drill to clamp curfew in the Valley.
Highly placed sources revealed that finally, on the weekend, Modi and Shah decided to convene a meeting of the Cabinet at the PM’s residence on Monday and pass a resolution thereof, prior to announcing in the House. Similarly, the Ministry of Law and Justice was tasked for prompt issuance of a notification by the President of India on the revocation of Article 370.