There is a need of an investigative process to arrest the fake currency trail
The years 2000 and 2001 were the worst in the fight against terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir. A large number of battle-hardened militants had infiltrated into the state during this period, in the immediate aftermath of the Kargil war. Fidayeen attacks had started, with a number of attacks taking place in the Valley and in the Jammu province. Jammu & Kashmir police alone lost over a hundred men in each of these two years. Infiltration was taking place all along the international border in Jammu and Kathua districts, and in Poonch and Rajouri districts of the Jammu province. Officers and men of the Jammu & Kashmir police, together with those of the Paramilitaries and the army, were engaged on a day-to-day basis in fighting the terrorists. From 1990 to 1995, Poonch and Rajouri districts were used by terrorists mainly as infiltration routes, avoiding confrontation with security forces. It was not possible to guard every inch of the border in these districts to prevent infiltration due to the difficult topography.
Upper reaches of the mountains in Poonch were used by the terrorists as hideouts, living in caves, using the mountainous route from Poonch to Shopian in the Valley to cross over into Kashmir. Though the border along Jammu and Kathua districts is called the international border, even this region was used by the terrorists to cross over into the State. They had guides who knew gaps in the border where deployment of forces was not easy on account of the topography.The state police focused on collection of intelligence about infiltration by terrorists, the routes used by them and the hideouts where they could be located and neutralised them in joint operations with the army and the Para-military forces. With their spread in the districts, and their local knowledge of men and the topography, the state police were the best equipped to collect information that was actionable. So they focused on collection of intelligence and operations, fortifying their police stations and police posts, and other sensitive and vulnerable installations situated along the infiltration routes to withstand terrorist attacks. As a result, little attention was given to any kind of investigations of cases — including those linked with terrorists.
It was under these circumstances that, on Gandhi Jayanti in 2000, a constable, posted in the district of Kathua, was going to his hometown of Vijaypur, on casual leave. Kathua is about 80 kilometers from Jammu, and falls along the national highway. There are several points along the highway that are close to the international border, and are used as popular inroads by terrorists to infiltrate into the state. Vijaypur is situated about 30 kilometers from Jammu on the highway to Kathua close to a town called Samba which is about 15 kilometers further off, towards Kathua. In fact, three Jammu & Kashmir policemen had been killed by terrorists on Christmas eve in 1999 in Supwal, a village close to Samba, which is presently the district headquarter, after a confrontation with the terrorists.
The bus with the constable stopped at Supwal, when two men got into the bus. Judging from their conversation, the constable suspected them to be Pakistani infiltrators. When the bus stopped at Samba, the constable rushed to the nearby police station and returned with reinforcements. They nabbed the two suspects and took them to the police station. Their suspicions were confirmed as one was identified as a terrorist and the other, a guide — both Pakistanis. The policemen soon found an AK 47 rifle with ammunition, two improvised explosive devices and thirty-six 9 mm Chinese pistols with ammunition, all neatly packed in polythene covers, hidden in bushes in an isolated spot near Supwal. But what was surprising was that they also carried cash worth five lakhs in five-hundred rupee denomination (all new) crisp and fake notes! To a layman, the notes looked totally genuine. Detailed interrogation of the Pakistanis revealed that the pistols and fake notes were meant for an ISI cell operating in Delhi. Details of their Delhi contact were obtained after sustained interrogation, and the information was passed on to central agencies for further follow up action in Delhi. At the Jammu end, no further action was taken. Little thought was given to any detailed investigation about the fake currency as the force prepared for their next encounter with the terrorists.
This writer was then the Inspector General in Jammu, and had about 13 years’ service in the Central Bureau of Investigation, with abiding faith in the efficacy of police investigation. Yet, the pressure on the law and order machinery was so intense that there was no time to think of anything else, least of all investigation which was time consuming, and required patience. While cross border terrorism was creating mayhem in Jammu & Kashmir, destroying innocent lives and property, our hostile neighbour had also planned to attack the Indian economy. One plan appeared to be to flood this country with fake Indian currency. A large number of individual cases were being registered in different parts of the county after seizure of fake Indian currency. But no concerted, co-ordinated study or investigation appeared to have been done by any agency about the influx of fake currency into India, till one case in Mumbai was taken over by the National Investigation Agency. Till then, investigations did not go beyond the carriers of fake currency and the names of Pakistani agents that the carriers gave out during interrogation.
There was no way to identify or locate the Pakistani agents. Such investigations therefore did not have any impact on the inflow of the fake currency. This is not the first time that a hostile power has resorted to such tactics to undermine an ‘enemy’ power. Counterfeit US dollars with striking similarities to the original called ‘super dollars’, came into the market in the Eighties. After years of painstaking investigations, including ‘sting’ operations, and statements of defectors, it was believed that these super dollars were printed in North Korea. It is reported that the US government used considerable pressure on the North Koreans, including threats of sanctions, to have this controlled. NIA’s charge sheet shows that a study was made of fake currency notes seized from different parts of India, including Samba in Jammu & Kashmir which was referred to earlier, after being convinced that a wide network was operating in India circulating fake notes in huge quantity.
Apart from using ISI agents in Nepal, Dhaka and Bangkok, Indian expatriates returning from the Gulf via Colombo and directly to Cochin and Calicut, among others, were also being used to flood Indian markets with fake Indian currency. Report of the Reserve Bank of India on these fake notes showed that several features on the genuine notes had been cleverly faked. India’s Bank Note Press in Mysore, which further examined these notes, opined that such features could be made only using highly sophisticated machinery which is available only to sovereign governments. NIA’s charge sheet discloses that the fake notes were then sent to the chairman and managing director, Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India Limited (SPMCIL), for expert opinion. The experts at the SPMCIL, after thorough examination concluded that the fake Indian currency notes (FICN) had been printed on highly sophisticated machines not available to common people who could not acquire machines that involved huge capital investment. The pulp used to make the fake currency was the same used for genuine currency. ‘The perfection of window and watermark formation indicates the manufacture of FICN paper on regular currency making machines which can only be owned by a country/state’. This was as close to finding that the fake currency was being manufactured with the blessings of the Pakistani state as one could get. FICN seized from different parts of India were seen to have common features and marks of common processes, indicating that they are from the same source.
It was later found out during investigations that the FICN seized in Samba in Jammu in October 2000, was for funding terrorist acts in India. On the information provided by Jammu & Kashmir police, several Pakistanis operating in Delhi had been arrested, and jailed after going through a judicial process. They were involved in blast cases in and around Delhi, and in the sale of heroin, obviously used for funding their nefarious activities in India. It was thus through a well co-ordinated and research oriented investigation that the conspiracy hatched abroad to undermine India’s economic security was laid bare by the National Investigation Agency of India. If such a pan-India based investigation, taking expert opinion on overt and covert security features available on the genuine currency notes and fake notes had not been undertaken, we would have continued to shout hoarse that the ISI is pumping FICN into India, with no one being impressed with our cries.
The quality of our investigation, and the expert opinion that we have to back it, should enable us to take Pakistan to an appropriate international forum, and expose its nefarious activity. This would show why investigation is important. Investigation entails collection of admissible evidence, oral, documentary and expert-based evidence. The investigator is answerable to the court of law. The court examines whether a prima facie case is made out before even framing charges, and then goes to record statements of witnesses, including experts. Thus, the work of the investigator is subject to judicial scrutiny. Some would say it is messy, and we should focus only on operations. But it is only a ‘rule of law’-based investigation that unravels all the contours of a conspiracy, bringing out the role of all the participants, including the fringe players who provide local support. It is only such an investigation that would carry the necessary credibility, not only within but also outside India. The importance of investigation in counter-terrorism therefore cannot be over emphasised.
(The writer recently retired as the first chief of NIA. Earlier he was the additional director general of police, Jammu and Kashmir)