By M.V. Kamath
Open Secrets: India'sIntelligence Unveiled by Maloy Krishna Dhar, Manas Publications, 519 pp, Rs 795.00
Maloy Krishna Dhar is a former Joint Director, Intelligence Bureau, Government of India and as such can speak with authority on intelligence operations carried out at many levels by Indian agents, both in India and broad. His surname is misleading. It sounds like a Kashmiri name, but he is actually a Bengali, though that is of no consequence so far as his activities are concerned.
An intelligence agent is first and foremost an intelligence agent and everything else afterwards. But intelligence gathering is not a comforting job for a man of conscience. It involves spying, betraying, double-dealing, stealing?. indeed, the whole works. This has gone on for centuries as part of the game. Chanakya speaks of saama, daana, bheda, danda and chatura as means of ruling a people. All intelligence gathering is done in the name of national security. That is the cloak or mask behind which many good people work as spies. They consider spying as the highest form of patriotism. Some take to intelligence gathering as fish to water. Some have doubts and a pricking conscience (?two squirrels quarrelling within the stomach?, as Dhar likes to describe it) and are best advised to look for other avenues of employment.
Dhar, in the first place, should not have joined the Intelligence Bureau. He would have been better off selling chana on Kolkata'spavements. Having joined it, he should have had the courage to quit when asked to do unlawful acts. He didn?t. He obviously liked the thrill of doing illegal things for his masters to gain their approbation. The man is shameless and may one add, totally unscrupulous. His excuse is that such revelations as he has made?and he has made scores almost all titillating??are aplenty in ?free democracies? in the Western world, where the intelligence establishment is regularly brought under the public scanner, through legal and constitutional means?. Does he think that publishing a book comes within the rubric of ?legal and constitutional means?? Who does he think he is fooling?
All intelligence gathering is done in the name of national security. That is the cloak or mask behind which many good people work as spies. They consider spying as the highest form of patriotism.
When a State authority?whether it be a Prime Minister, a minister or a departmental head?commands an agent to do certain things to gather material in the routine task of establishing law and order, it is not always easy to draw the line on what constitutes ?right?. Dhar, for instance, was asked to commit theft on a certain individual'seditorial office to get a copy of a damning manuscript by Nehru'ssecretary that placed Indira Gandhi in a bad light. That theft was committed. No national security was involved. What was involved, one might say, was the personel reputation of the Prime Minister. The act has a close resemblance to Watergate. President Nixon, it will be remembered, finally was forced to resign in disgrace, because the Watergate theft was found out and the American media went after Nixon with no holds barred. Nothing of the kind happened in Delhi.
Dhar, may it be said, is impartial in revealing the evil deeds of politicians, starting with Jawaharlal Nehru. Politicians are named with generous regularity and none is spared. Names tumble out of these pages with a frequency that is not surprising considering Dhar'sown character. He has no respect for anybody, high or low. And his services were availed of by practically everyone in power, be it Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh or some BJP leaders for whom Dhar claims to have some respect. Dhar claims that at one time he was ?resourced??what a charming word!?by Rajiv Gandhi to transfer funds to a BJP candidate, Kailash Meghwal, to ensure defeat of Buta Singh who had shifted to a safer seat in Rajasthan from his dear home turf, Punjab. ?Meghwal?, writes Dhar, ?was more than surprised to be financed from an unknown and unexpected quarter?. No wonder he was.
Of V.P. Singh, Dhar writes: ?V. P. Singh never inspired me. He was a myopic avenger, not a visionary. He was driven by supposed honesty which was not matched by political skill?.? Dhar has nasty things to say about Murli Manohar Joshi as of practically everyone else. Of Bal Thackeray, he says that he was impressed with Thackeray's?sway over sizeable sections of the underworld and organised groups of criminals?.
Dhar did things he shouldn'thave done but claims that ?my infatuation with national politics definitely violated the service rules and the rules framed by the government for the Department/Bureau of Intelligence?. But, then, Dhar is impartial. Of Sanjay Gandhi he writes: ?Sanjay Gandhi had seemingly established a stranglehold not only on her (Indira?s) style of functioning but also on her cerebral properties. The backseat driver had assumed that India was there to be plundered and treated as a bonded chattel maid. They were blatantly wrong. They had initiated the process of destroying the finer grains of democratic process and introduced the elements of muscle, money and street violence as the new weapons that degenerated to plain and simple criminality. Sanjay was the first irresponsible Indian politician, if he was a politician at all, to put crime and politics on the high pedestal of social and political acceptability:?
Such statements are not revelations, and are merely opinions. But what Dhar did abroad as an intelligence officer attached to Indian embassies should have been totally left out. In this instance, Dhar has betrayed his country. The trouble is that Dhar does not know where to draw the line. It is one thing to betray Indian politicians but quite another to reveal how our intelligence system works in foreign countries. That is not playing cricket. In the latter instance, he is betraying his country and that just cannot be allowed. He should be charged with betrayal, something that the government has so far failed to do for reasons best known to itself.
This is not an easy book to read. The early chapters about his rise in status and his work in north-east are self-adulatory and boring. There surely are many in the country happily smacking their lips at all the unsavoury things Dhar has said about the high and mighty. He should have had a good editor with the courage to cut out anti-national material so blatantly presented in this volume as an exercise in cleansing the Intelligence Bureau. On the whole, it might be said that whatever his excuses, Dhar has done a distinct disservice to the nation. True, checks and balances need to be part of the make-up of intelligence gathering. Nobody questions that.
The system should not devour the people. Quite true. The sad part of it all is that Dhar does not know how to go about to prevent it. In trying to follow a noble aim, he has merely succeeded in sensationalising a sensitive subject to the detriment of the nation'ssecurity.
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