Date: 10 Dec 2010


THE WEEK\\\\\\\\\\\ DECEMBER 12, 2010\\\\\\\\\ Loud whistle: Major General (retd) V.K. \\\\\\\\\\\ INTERVIEW/MAJ. GEN. (RETD) V.K. SINGH, FORMER JOINT SECRETARY, R&AW \\\\\\\\\\\ No government likes it when its spies talk about their jobs. In fact, under the Official Secrets Act, employees of security services are not allowed to disclose anything to anyone about any aspect of their work. Even after retirement, these officers are discouraged to write and speak on intelligence matters. When Major General (retd) V.K. Singh published his book, India’s External Intelligence—Secrets of the Research & Analysis Wing, he was charged with the crime of violating the OSA. His house was ransacked and his passport seized. In an interview with THE WEEK, he speaks about the legal struggle, holes in the case against him and how he became a victim of personal vendetta. \\\\\\\ Had you ever thought that your book would bring you such trouble? I had no idea that the book would invite such a reaction from the authorities. While I was in R&AW, I noticed several aberrations such as indiscipline, lack of accountability and corruption. The professionalism and pride that one associates with a premier organisation were absent. I felt that these anomalies should be corrected and this would only happen if they were brought to the notice of the public. In fact, the most important issue that I wanted to raise was corruption. During my stay, I noticed a few cases in R&AW as well as the SPG, where equipment appeared to have been procured from foreign vendors at exorbitant prices or without the mandatory security checks. \\\\\\\\\\ What are the charges that have been levelled against you? The main charges against me are that I have given the charter of R&AW recommended by the Group of Ministers on National Security in 2001; that I revealed the names of officers and locations of R&AW stations; and that I gave details about certain projects in R&AW. Firstly, the contents of the GoM report were the subject of several articles in 2001, some of which I have referred to in my book. At the time of its formal release on May 23, 2001, the chapter on intelligence was deleted. The report, minus the deleted portions, is still available on the web site of the ministry of defence. The names of all the officers are available on the Department of Personnel and Training web site. In August 2009, the CBI held its biennial conference at Vigyan Bhavan, in Delhi. The list of attendees was circulated to all departments of the government. It had the names and appointments of about 30 officers of R&AW. In a recent decision, the Central Information Commission has ordered the DoPT to give the names of all officers above the rank of joint secretary posted to R&AW from 2001 to 2008. So, the anonymity of R&AW officers is a myth. It is common knowledge that R&AW officers are posted in foreign countries. The location of R&AW stations in India is also known to vendors who are given turn-key projects for installation of equipment, such as VSAT terminals. \\\\\\\\\\\\ Many say that if no action was taken against you, it would have encouraged other disaffected officers to write about intelligence agencies?\\\\\\\\\\ Not all officers who write books are disaffected. People like Sankaran Nair [former R&AW chief], T.S.R. Subramanian [former cabinet secretary] and General (retd) V.P. Malik [former Army chief] had reached the top of their professions. They can hardly be considered disaffected. Recently, an official history of MI-6, the British intelligence agency, was published. There are several books written by officers who have served in the CIA. Such books form a part of history. As you are aware, in 2008 a gag order was issued through a gazette, according to which all officers serving in such agencies will have to give an undertaking that they will not write anything after retirement. If they do, the officer will forfeit his pension. I believe the DoPT has asked the defence minister also to publish a similar gazette for armed forces personnel. If that happens, soon there will be no Indian military history.\\\\\\\\\\\ There are a couple of books written by former intelligence officials, including one by B. Raman [former head of the counter-terrorism division of R&AW ] that accuses [former Prime Minister] Rajiv Gandhi of influencing the Bofors probe. The authors were never harassed. The other authors, such as Raman, Sankaran Nair and [former IB joint director] Maloy Dhar, were insiders, who know much more than what they have written. If they are prosecuted, they will reveal many things which would be even more embarrassing. I was an outsider, and thus no threat to them. I became the victim of a personal vendetta. In my book, I had mentioned the names of many officers in R&AW who were inefficient and involved in corruption. I had also mentioned a senior officer who did not attend office for eight months after being overlooked for promotion. Though I have not mentioned his name in the book, it was common knowledge that the man was Ashok Chaturvedi, who later became the R&AW chief. I am told he was furious at the mention of this incident in the book. He and his number two, Sanjiv Tripathi, were instrumental in launching the case against me. \\\\\\\\\\\ Are you saying that there were many attempts to harass and implicate you? Yes, there were. While I was in R&AW, I had been given a Maruti car, without a driver, to commute. I was then staying at RK Puram. One night the car was stolen from outside my flat. I lodged an FIR next morning but the car was never found. A few months after the case against me was initiated, I came to know that some people in R&AW were trying to locate the person who had been my orderly at that time. They planned to pay him a large sum, and get him to state that the car was not stolen but had been sold by me.\\\\\\\\\\\\ They also tried to plant documents on me. I remember a few weeks before my home was raided on September 21, 2007, a person by the name of Shakti Prakash called me up. He said that he had read my book and that he was being harassed by R&AW as he was being forced to become an agent. I told him that I had retired and had nothing to do with R&AW now, but he pleaded for a meeting. I along with an Army colleague, who had also been with me in R&AW, met him at USI Library in Delhi. He handed over to me a bunch of papers and asked me to go through them and advise him what to do. The folder had letters addressed to the President, Prime Minister and many others, complaining of harassment by R&AW. I brought the folder home and forgot all about it. Later, when the CBI raided my house they took away the folder and produced it in court when they opposed my plea for anticipatory bail. I still don’t know whether Shakti Prakash was a plant, or a genuine sufferer at the hands of R&AW.\\\\\\\\\\\\ How easy is it for intelligence agencies to wrongly implicate a person? Very easy. The Samba spy case is a ?perfect example. Innocent people spent 14 years in jail on charges trumped up by military intelligence. More recently, Captain B.K. Subbarao and Iftikar Geelani were similarly prosecuted and later acquitted. Unlike the famous Dreyfus case in France, where the persons who had falsely implicated him were punished, in India this never happens. On the other hand, they get out-of-turn promotions and monetary awards.\\\\\\\\\\\ -------------- THE END 000000000