Escape to Nowhere, Amar Bhushan, Konark Publishers, Pp 332, Rs 299.00
HERE is a fiction based on real-life events, presenting the state of our counter-intelligence.
Actually the story is a mixture of facts and fiction based on the Ravinder Singh incident and in the words of the publisher, a spy fiction “loosely inspired by a true incident that took place in 2004 when a senior intelligence officer, suspected of being a spy for decades, vanished.” In other words, it is clearly the story of a traitor, his spying career, how he is held under suspicion, how he is put under surveillance by RAW’s counter-espionage unit, how the civilian brass at the highest level wants the surveillance ended so as not to spoil Indo-US relations and how the committed ones in RAW continue to keep a watch on the spy and how he gets away via Nepal, despite a couple of eleventh hour mistakes that he and his handler make.
It is too late when the Indians realise that the man has flown to the US in a Bhutan Airways flight under the protection of the CIA station chief in Kathmandu, whose agent he had been. Ravinder Singh was dismissed from service under Article 311 (2)-C of the Constitution of India on 5 June 2004, which enables the dismissal of a public servant on grounds of national security without holding a formal departmental enquiry.
The story has to be read for the details but what is interesting is as to who is the ‘Authority’ who issues Ravi and his wife’s US passports. “Ravi Mohan and Vijita landed at Dulles International airport (Washington) at 3.40 a.m. As they came out of the aircraft, they were received by a man who introduced himself as Patrick Burns. He whisked them away, bypassing immigration and Customs and took them to a secluded house in the heart of Maryland woods…the fugitives stayed incognito, while documents were being arranged to permanently wipe out their real identity. Three weeks later, Ravi and Vijita were set free to live their American dream as fake individuals, burdened to carry the sin of betraying their nation for the rest of their lives…” says the author.
Six weeks after Ravi’s escape, while the issue is being taken up by the RAW chief with his American counterpart, a certain Roben Singh applies for asylum in the US, but his plea is turned down by an immigration judge.
In the Epilogue, the author writes how Ravi “left behind misfortune for his operatives and reprieve for his collaborators.” How ironical it is that the “agent’s collaborators”, according to the author, or 57 employees, who shared information regularly with Ravi Mohan, “continue to serve in the Agency. Twenty-six of them, viewed in an internal assessment as unconscious providers of intelligence, were never asked to explain their conduct. Thirty-one others, who actively colluded with Ravi and shared extensive operational details, were quietly posted abroad to Asian, European, and American stations. The remaining two retired on completion of their tenure. Comically, the bonanza was reserved for those who had nothing to do with the investigation…”
Here is an absorbing but sad story.
(Konark Publishers Pvt Ltd, 206 Peacock Lane, Shahpur Jat, New Delhi-110049; www.konarkpublishers.com)