SK Dutta retired as Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in 1993 after holding many key posts in his 15 year long career in the organisation. His recollections of his days as a top cop make fascinating reading. We get to know as much about the CBI as of the many cases he had to deal with, not the least being the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. In the process we also come to know our own land and our own people and it is not a pretty picture Datta doesn’t spare anybody, not even his own CBI.
It thus comes as a shock to learn that there is corruption among CBI officers on whom rests the responsibility of upholding standards of integrity of every citizen. It is difficult to believe that at one time, officers of the Central Fingerprint Bureau (CFPB) went on an unofficial strike. Again Datta reminds us there are “officers who, by temperament, take sadistic pleasure in spoiling the character roll of their subordinate officers”. To be more explicit he narrates instances of the vindictive attitude of some officers. He himself was soon to be promoted as DIG, Kolkata and not long after to learn how the Left Front managed to win elections. He had once casually asked a rickshaw puller which party he had voted for and why. The man replied that he had voted for the Left Front. But why? If he did not vote for the Front, said the rickshaw man, he would be deprived of his rickshaw, his earnings and even of his ration and kerosene.
Comments Datta, “The manner of mass management of diverse elements by the Left Front by a combination of threats, inducements and obligation were so fine-tuned that the Front continued to rule West Bengal for three decades”. Communists, by definition had to be atheists but Datta was soon to learn that Jyoti Basu’s wife was very religious and frequently offered him prasad, which he willingly accepted. Another communist leader, Prof Hiren Mukherjee, had his jap mala and was often seen counting the beads. When he was upbraided he would claim that he was an ‘Indian’ communist much to his friends’ amusement.
When all is said and done, the most fascinating chapter is the one on Rajiv Gandhi’s murder. At that time, Datta was Additional Director of CBI and was to handle the case. We learn from Datta that there were frequent messages between Jaffna and Chennai which were closely followed and which showed how the assassination of Rajiv was “meticulously planned and executed”. Apparently, an ‘Indian girl’ was also being mentioned in the secret talks that were tapped. What is not clear is how come, then, that the security of Rajiv was so poor. Datta says that the conspirators had even organised a ‘dry run’ to cover VP Singh’s public address on March 7, 1991, which included garlanding by Dhanu, the very girl who was given the ‘privilege’ to kill Rajiv.
Most shocking is Datta’s charge that London has been the place of hide-out for terrorist groups, including Khalistanis and the UK Government has been “non-cooperative in putting a stop to terrorist groups”. The UK Government, in the circumstances has a great deal of explanation to give. Thus, Datta wanted the LTTE man in London, someone called Kittu, to be questioned about the assassination of Rajiv. The UK police had not searched the LTTE’s office, but when Datta sought to meet Kittu, he was missing.
Asks Datta: “How did Kittu know about the scheme of Indian investigatiors? Someone must have alerted him in advance”. Can’t anyone guess who it is? What kind of help does Britain give to one of its Commonwealth members? London, according to Datta, was the magnet that drew terrorists from all countries to operate freely “on the unwritten condition that no crime should be committed in the UK.”
Datta has plenty to say about how efforts were made by the US to drive out the Soviet forces from Afghanistan. According to him “the decade long jihad in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989 was the result of US-led unofficial coalition which provided arms, training and financial aid” to the jihadists. For the US according to Datta “the game was to disintegrate the Soviet Union”. The ISI was used to fight the proxy war on behalf of the US-alliance.
Towards the end of the book Datta speaks about his search for spiritual bliss. Interesting, coming from a top level police officer but shows that even a police officer can have spiritual leanings! But his true contribution rests in the many revelations that he makes of the international crime world. And it is that which makes the book compulsory reading. Still, do give a thought to what Datta has to say about Satya Sai Baba and many others. That should give the reader a comfortable evening.
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