Calling upon feudal custodians of Indian morality


A bunch of self-styled guardians force themselves in a posh city pub and thrash women in the name of upholding our much-maligned and much-abused traditional Indian moral values. The incident portends the ominous truth that these are grave times indeed.

A frenzied media went haywire in the aftermath of the ugly attack as social activists and ministers alike ranted against what they described as the ‘Talibanisation of India’. But amid all this vociferous rallying and senseless rhetoric the real issue got lost somewhere.

The idea of women’s independence and ‘western influence’ has irked orthodox religious groups for a long time now. And as if scouring the town for Valentine’s Day posters weren’t enough, they have now got down to preaching their version of moral righteousness in the worst imaginable way possible.

What does Karnataka CM Yedyurrappa mean when he says that he will make sure to not encourage pub culture? Who decides what is in keeping with the Indian traditions? Is what is prescribed in religious texts the last word on societal-cultural norms?

A distorted, medieval interpretation of religion is what propels these groups to partake in dastardly acts like the Mangalore incident. This is the same ideology that helped extremists propound and  successfully execute a Taliban.

Are we really on the same path? Or was this a one-off incident, which the media blew out of proportion, thereby catapulting the previously obscure Sri Ram Sena to fame?

A little of both I think. I have said this before and reiterate it again, Indian media needs to get over the operatic scheme of functioning it so loves to follow. We need to strike a balance when it comes to coverage of events and incidents. We are the tool of dissemination and thus directing the public opinion rests upon us.

As far as the issue at heart here goes, Indian society boasts of an immensely rich cultural lineage but is nevertheless left struggling in a continuous stream of internal flux.

This owes to its incapability of easily coming to terms with rapidly changing ways of modern lifestyle. And until that happens it will do all of us good to remember that hostility to change is a bane to development – cultural and financial.

(Megha Sharma is a guest blogger with Canary Trap. She works as an Assistant News Producer – Internet with

The choice we make…


That we are in the midst of a crisis is not well understood, is how I would phrase the Indian condition, borrowing much of the words from Barack Obama’s inaugural address.

This is not a lament against the system neither is it a prosaic call to arms that urges a new battle against tangible and intangible ills plaguing India. It is a humble introspection about the choices that lie before this generation of Indians – a somber reminder from the ghosts of our past and the spirit of our future.

Over the past two months, none of us has remained insulated from the public discourse that has ranged from faint-hearted defeatism accepting a rotting order to boisterous and repetitive calls seeking “action” and “change.”

These words, however, are deceptive devices; they invoke the images of a euphoric, bright destiny but fail to vanquish the darkness along the road that has to be endured.

Yet ever so often each one of us has the good fortune of this dichotomy materializing before him/her and there can be little more poetic than that being the day your nation consecrates its belief in its core ideals.

On the one hand was a ‘civilized’ debate on an English network about the state of the nation and on the other was the state of the nation and the need of the hour displayed in a microscopic example as Kiran Bedi adjudicated an ugly domestic dispute on a Hindi channel.

The language of the first appealed to my senses and the second ensured that the creases on my face portrayed a disgustful grimace.

As I digested the combination, the words spoken in English sounded hollow – another debate on another network, yet again identifying the well-known symptoms (systemic corruption, religious and caste divides, political ineptitude, public apathy) and calling for change and action.

In stark contrast stood the former cop whose effort lent meaning to some of those expressions and shed light on what was being asked of the young and old, the fortunate and not-so-fortunate and the interested and not-so-interested people of this country today.

The only analogy that can be drawn with regard to our task ahead is of that worker who without fanfare draws his cart at the edge of the tarmac, rolls up his ripped trouser and launches himself in the gutter outside our homes and offices to rid it of the gunk and unclog it.

The predicament of this generation is not new – many others in the past have faced similar if not the same challenge – but unique it is.

India today is in a state where Adam Smith’s invisible hand, if not ineffective, seems to have lost direction – pursuit of individual interests is unfortunately not maximizing the socio-political revenue of the community at large.

It is therefore a time to reassess the nature of these interests and sacrifice some of the individual glories and ambitions that we desire; only to hope that those who walk this land in our name, 40 or 50 years from now, can achieve their personal and national goals on the platform that we built – just as we have cherished the fruits of our forefathers’ endeavors.

At first thought, it feels almost criminal to ask ourselves to make that choice – it’s ludicrous to not end up paying a bribe when the system frustrates you to do so; it’s impossible to not look elsewhere when the government fails to offer basic facilities; and it is hopeless to seek justice in a structure that pushes you in all directions to ensure that you not only suffer for raising your hand but also pay for that suffering.

Yet in a larger sense, it seems simple enough as the choice between death and amputating a limb.

The real question is are you and I willing to do so?

(Manoj Kewalramani is a guest writer with Canary Trap. He has worked with top media houses like NDTV before becoming an Independent Blogger and Writer.)

Remembering the legendary Kao


Rameshwar Nath Kao was born in a Kashmiri Pandit family on 10th May, 1918 at Baroda. His father died at the age of five after which he was brought up by his uncle under the strict discipline of his mother. After completion of his Master’s degree in English from Lucknow University, he qualified in the Federal Public Commission in 1940 for the Indian Police and was allotted UP Cadre. Far a short stint in between Kao served as Lecturer of English.

After independence, Intelligence Bureau was set up with some police officers taken on deputation from various states and he joined IB in 1948 as Assistant Director in charge of Security and posted as the Security Officer of Pandit Nehru.

In the early phase of his career, in April, 1955, he was assigned a very ticklish intelligence operation. The Chinese government chartered an Air India Super Constellation plane – The Kashmir Princess – from Hong Kong for Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia where the first ever conference of Non Aligned countries was to be held in a city called Bandung. It was believed that Chou En Lai, the Prime Minister of China was to travel to Indonesia in this plane but due to health problem he abandoned his visit temporarily.

On 11th April, 1955, this plane took off from the Hong Kong airport with Chinese delegates and some press correspondents and crashed in the Indonesian sea as a result of a sabotage which was engineered by Taiwan Intelligence (Formosa at that time). The Chinese government raised a big hue and cry over this crash and Chou En Lai insisted Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at Bandung conference that Indian Intelligence should be a party to the investigation in Hong Kong as he neither had faith in Hong Kong nor in the British authorities. Nehru directed B N Mullick, the then Director of Intelligence Bureau, to depute a capable officer to participate in the investigation at Hong Kong. Mullick assigned this arduous and sensitive assignment to the young R N Kao. He performed this assignment to the full satisfaction of Chou En Lai and briefed him in Beijing personally. Chou En Lai presented Kao his personal seal as souvenir when Kao met him in his office.

Kwame Nkrumah, Prime Minister of Ghana was very friendly with Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru. Nkrumah sought help from Nehru to set up his security organization in Ghana since it became independent from the colonial rule and was facing serious internal and external problems. Kao was selected for this job and in a span of one year he not only formed the security structure of Ghana but also groomed two officers of that country to head it in the coming future. Nkrumah wanted him to continue in the job for another year but Kao declined and returned to India and promised to send another suitable replacement. Subsequently, K Sankaran Nair, another very capable officer, was sent to Ghana to complete the remaining work of Kao.

Formation of RAW

After the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri, Mrs Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister of India in early 1966. In 1968, she decided to form a separate external intelligence department based on CIA of the United States of America and MI6 of Britain. She selected Kao, who was then the Joint Director in the Intelligence Bureau (IB), for this job. She wanted a loyal man of known integrity. Kao had served as the personal security officer of Pandit Nehru and accompanied Queen Elizabeth and Chou En Lai as Security Officer when they visited India for the first time during Nehru’s rule. Many eyebrows were raised on the selection of Kao – he too was a Kashmiri Pandit like Mrs Gandhi – but she was firm in her decision. Indira Gandhi gave Kao free hand, except for two conditions; that the new organization should be a multi-disciplined one and should not draw its senior personnel exclusively from the IPS and secondly the top two posts could be filled on the discretion of the Prime Minister from within the organization or from outside. Kao prepared a blue print of new intelligence set-up based on detailed studies of CIA, MI6, French intelligence, Mossad and Japanese intelligence. It was accepted by the Cabinet and the new external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), was created on September 21, 1968 with a skeleton staff of 250, which was taken from the IB. K Sankaran Nair, another able officer from IB, was selected as his deputy. The then Director of IB, M M Hooja, fought tooth and nail to deny the new agency the chattels of office, like buildings, furniture, accounts staff and food personnel but with the help of another capable army officer, I S Hassanwalia, RAW started firing on all cylinders within one year.

In the new outfit, Kao, introduced many new divisions based on his studies of various intelligence agencies of the world. Economic intelligence was a distant idea of that era because there was no such concept in the erstwhile IB. This division was then created to monitor various economic developments in the neighboring countries which could affect the Indian interests, particularly in the field of defence, security and science and technology. Similarly, Information Division, Science and Technology Division, code-breaking branch, Satellite Monitoring Division, were also the new chapters opened in RAW. Prior to this, Aviation Research Centre (ARC) and Special Security Bureau (SSB) were his brainchild in the IB after the 1962 war with China. Later on, in the early 1980s, terrorism in Punjab reached its peak and the government needed a guerrilla outfit. Kao created National Security Guards (NSG) in 1982 to address the needs of the government.

When Pakistan army started its brutality in East Pakistan in March, 1971, millions of refugees thronged to India and caused several major problems for the country. Mrs Indira Gandhi could not find a political solution to sort out this grievous situation and asked then Army Chief General Manekshaw to prepare the Indian army for the liberation of Bangladesh. General Manekshaw sought six months time for the preparations. Kao was asked by Mrs Gandhi to prepare ground work for the army before the final assault and use RAW to its optimum capacity in this operation. Kao, with the help of his able colleagues, build up a formidable guerilla force – Mukti Bahini – of more than one lakh Bangladesh refugees. Mukti Bahini created havoc for the Pakistani army in East Pakistan. Besides that, RAW penetrated deep into all the establishments of East and West Pakistan and when Indian army went for the final war on December 3, 1971, 95000 soldiers of Pakistan army were hauled up in Dacca and were made to surrender to the Indian Army before Lt General J S Aurora on December 16, 1971, i.e. within two weeks of the start of army action. This was the biggest and historical achievement for RAW under Kao in the intelligence history of India.

In the North East of India, Sikkim was a strategic state between India and China. There were some internal problems between the ruler of Sikkim and the local population which went beyond the control of the ruler. Kao advised Mrs. Indira Gandhi to annex Sikkim to which she agreed. Kao provided all sort of help to the local politicians of Sikkim who subsequently won the local elections and passed a resolution for accession by India, which was accepted by Indian Parliament. In this bloodless operation of RAW, Sikkim became a part of India as the 22nd State without the intervention of defence forces. This was another feather in the cap of R N Kao.

Nuclear explosion

In May, 1974, India exploded its first nuclear blast at Pokeran in Rajasthan to the utter surprise of many countries, particularly the US. CIA had received 26 reports in 1972 that India was on the verge of exploding a nuclear device or was capable of doing so. Kao was coordinating with the scientists on the operation of security matters. It must be to his credit that he kept the entire programme under wrap and did not allow other nations to penetrate it. Only after the explosion, Pakistan radio made a broadcast at 1 pm on that day and the rest of the world started probing the truth about it. This was another major achievement of this elite intelligence officer of India.

R N Kao had excellent rapport with his various counterparts in other countries. He was a good friend of George Bush Senior, who was Director of CIA in the mid-seventies. Likewise, Sir Maurice Old-field, head of MI6 during this period, was a personal friend of Kao and shared views with him on various art and culture matters besides the routine intelligence sharing. He was the model for ‘M’, James Bond’s secret service chief in the 007 novels of Ian Fleming.  He used to come on long vacations in India as personal guest of Kao in the mid-seventies and visited important towns like Jaipur and Jaisalmer on the verge of the desert for relaxation. Mossad chief and French Intelligence also had very excellent rapport with Kao during this period. When Sewsagar Ramgoolam, the Prime Minister of Mauritius visited India in the early seventies, he requested Mrs Gandhi to help his ruling party fight the movement of Militant Mauritian of Paul Beranger. Ramgoolam’s party was largely ethnic Indian in composition while Beranger’s was the party of the Ceroles, the Africans of the island who spoke “patoix”, a mixture of French and African languages. K Sankaran Nair, the number two in RAW, was deputed by Kao to provide all sort of help to Ramgoolam and he won the next elections.

Wali Khan, son of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi and a stalwart in the independence movement, was living in exile in London in the early-seventies. He was bitter opponent of Bhutto, the new Prime Minister of Pakistan because the North West Frontier Pathans were demanding autonomy which was oppressed by the central government of Pakistan. Wali Khan wanted moral, political and other support from Mrs Indira Gandhi. Kao sent his deputy Sankaran Nair to negotiate as the Indian representative. Since Pakistani Embassy in London was keeping watch on the movements of Wali Khan, the rendezvous was shifted to Copenhagen in Sweden where Nair and another RAW man of Indian mission, I S Hassanwalia, met Wali Khan. Subsequently all sort of support was given to Wali Khan by the Indian government till 1977 when Indira Gandhi lost election and Janta Party came to power.

Unsung hero

Mrs Indira Gandhi imposed emergency in India in June, 1975 and arrested most of the opposition leaders all over the country. There were charges of brutality and torture against these leaders. Ultimately, when in March, 1977, she lifted emergency and was routed in the subsequent parliamentary election. Morarji Desai of Janta Party became the new Prime Minister of India. Since, most of these leaders were recently released from jail they apprehended that RAW was misused by Mrs Indira Gandhi during emergency against these leaders. Kao, who was on an extension as RAW chief was unceremoniously asked by Mroraji Desai to proceed on leave because he suspected him as the prime accused for internal interference during Emergency. Charan Singh, the then Home Minister of India, appointed a one men committee headed by S P Singh to find out the involvement of RAW in the internal affairs of the country during Emergency in 1975-77. This committee gave clean chit to RAW in this regard and Kao was honourably exonerated for his involvement in Emergency.

When Mrs Indira Gandhi again became Prime Minister in 1980, she recalled Kao from his retirement and appointed him as her senior advisor on internal and external developments. She used to consult him on political and intelligence matters. His professional guidance was of general nature. In one major development, when Mrs Gandhi wanted to go USA she was not getting her choice of appointment date with the US President through External Affairs Ministry channels. Kao through his friend George Bush Senior – who was then US Ambassador in China – arranged her meeting with the US President.

When Mrs Gandhi was assassinated, he was upset over her death and resigned on moral grounds. There were charges against Kao that he did not guide Mrs Gandhi against a possible assassination attack from her security guards which were not substantiated in the Judicial Commission which was appointed subsequently to probe the assassination.

Kao was very affectionately and emotionally linked to his younger brother. His brother had a heart attack and Kao went to see him in the hospital. He could not tolerate the condition of his brother and had a heart attack there. Kao died along with his brother on January 20, 2002.

This unsung hero was forgotten by the Indian Government for his big achievements for the country which had no parallel in this hidden society of Intelligence community. He gave lot to the country but got nothing from the government, though he got decorated so many of his juniors with various awards and rewards of the government.

(R K Yadav, Former General Secretary of RAW Employees Association, is a guest writer with Canary Trap)

Did a CIA mole compromise India’s 1971 war plans?

Every time I have a conversation with friends and colleagues about India-Pakistan, most of them complain about what they think as India’s failure to teach Pakistan a lasting lesson during the 1971 war.

I often wondered as to why did Indira Gandhi’s government let Pakistan off despite being in a dominant position during the war, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. Available archival material suggest international pressure on India was one of the reasons why Prime Minister Gandhi could not take any decisive action against West Pakistan (today’s Pakistan).

A recent blog post by Anuj Dhar revealed damning details of India’s war objectives during the 1971 war. Anuj’s new book, CIA’s eye on South Asia, has a detailed account of what happened in 1971 and why India did not (or could not) take decisive action against West Pakistan. The book compiles declassified CIA records regarding South Asia and also reveals the reason behind the abrupt end of the Bangladesh war. I had downloaded these declassified documents last year but never read them entirely. But after reading Anuj’s blog, I decided to dig into the old records.

The declassification of vital CIA and US State Department documents relating to South Asia reveals that the American spy agency (CIA) had a vital source in Mrs Gandhi’s cabinet. CIA’s ‘reliable source’ leaked India’s war objectives to the US, thereby compromising India’s plan to teach Pakistan a lasting lesson.

The details of Mrs Gandhi’s Cabinet briefings were also known to the CIA within hours. The minutes of the National Security Council meeting in Washington on December 6, 1971 (See page 672 of the document) sheds some light on this. The CIA director Richard Helms informed the meeting that: “We have a report which covers Madam Gandhi’s strategy as delivered to her Cabinet at 11 pm on December 3, 1971……The objectives in the west (Pakistan) are to destroy Pakistan’s armour and in the east to totally liberate the area.”

An information cable of the CIA dated December 7, 1971 (See page 686 of the document) reveals details of Mrs Gandhi’s briefing to her Cabinet on the India-Pakistan war. The information, attributed to a reliable source, includes India’s war objectives as reiterated by Mrs Gandhi. They were:

  1. The quick liberation of Bangladesh
  2. The incorporation into India of the southern part of Azad Kashmir for strategic rather than territorial reasons (because India has no desire to occupy any West Pakistan territory)
  3. To destroy Pakistani military striking power so that it never attempts to challenge India in the future

The CIA report also added that the Indian Prime Minister had informed her Cabinet that India would not accept any ceasefire till Bangladesh was liberated.

Shuja Nawaz, a Pakistani political and strategic analyst, in his book Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within, says: “Mrs Gandhi asked her defence chiefs to be ready to drive into Sialkot and then proceed as deep as possible even upto Rawalpindi with the aim of destroying Pakistan. The CIA managed to get actual minutes of the meeting and passed them to Washington urgently.”

The author, however, does not mention the source of the information he has revealed in his book.

In another disclosure, the CIA director informed the Washington Special Actions Group in a meeting on December 8, 1971 (See page 694 of the document) that Mrs Gandhi had told her Cabinet that “she had expected a more balanced view from the Chinese. She expressed the hope that the Chinese would not intervene physically in the north, but said that the Soviets had said the Chinese would be able to ‘rattle the sword.’ She also said that the Soviets have promised to counterbalance any such action.”

The disclosure of India’s war objectives by the mole resulted in an aggressive policy by the US to save West Pakistan from the Indian assault.

In a meeting with the Chinese Permanent Representative to the UN (Ambassador Huang Hua) on December 10, 1971 (See page 757 of the document), Henry Kissinger (President Nixons’s NSA) said, “we have an intelligence report according to which Mrs Gandhi told her cabinet that she wants to destroy the Pakistani army and air force and to annex this part of Kashmir, Azad Kashmir, and then to offer a ceasefire. This is what we believe must be prevented and this is why I have taken the liberty to ask for this meeting with the Ambassador.”

A memorandum (dated December 11, 1971) for President Nixon by Henry Kissinger (See page 765 of the document) states: “According to a reliable source Mrs Gandhi’s staff as of Thursday was still saying that, as soon as the situation in the East is settled, India will launch a major offensive against West Pakistan and hope that all major fighting will be over by the end of the month.”

It also goes on to say that D P Dhar (See page 765-766 of the document), a close confidante of Indira Gandhi and former Ambassador to then USSR, was in Moscow to sound out the Soviets on India’s intentions towards West Pakistan.

The United States administration was absolutely convinced – thanks to the reliable source they had in Prime Minister Gandhi’s Cabinet – that India had offensive plans for West Pakistan. President Nixon, in a telephonic conversation with his National Security Assistant Henry Kissinger on December 8, 1971, said that China could be a decisive factor in restraining the Indian advance.

“The Chinese thing I still think is a card in the hole there. I tell you a movement of even some Chinese toward that border could scare those goddamn Indians to death,” he told Kissinger (See page 706 of the document).

The US even threatened the Soviet Union with a major confrontation if they did not convince India to stop the offensive. In a back channel message to then US Ambassador in Pakistan on December 10, 1971 (See page 749-750 of the document), Kissinger asks him to tell Pak President Yahya Khan that the US has issued a strong demarche to the Soviets and warned them that the US will not permit any aggression against West Pakistan.

“President added that should Indian offensive be launched in the West, with Soviet acquiescence, a US/Soviet confrontation would ensue,” Kissinger’s message further adds.

There are numerous such details in the declassified documents which clearly point towards the US concern regarding the future of West Pakistan. It would not be too far fetched to say that had the crucial details of India’s war plans remained a secret, the history of South Asia would have been totally different. The US did everything (even supplied arms to Pakistan via Iran, Jordan) to save West Pakistan and they succeeded in the end.

This brings us to the most important question. Who leaked India’s war plans?

Interestingly, India was aware of the presence of a CIA mole who leaked the war plans. This was revealed in a meeting between then Foreign Minister Swaran Singh and top US officials in 1972. In the meeting,  which took place on October 5, 1972, Singh told the US officials (See page 2, point 4 of the document) that Government of India (GOI) had its own sources and knew that CIA has been in contact with people in India in “abnormal ways”.

“GOI had information that proceedings of the Congress Working Committee were known to the US officials within two hours of meetings,” Singh told the US Secretary of State William Rogers.

Various accounts in the media have speculated about different names in the former PM’s Cabinet who might have worked for the CIA.

Jack Anderson, an American investigative journalist, reported about the existence of a CIA mole in the Indira Gandhi cabinet. Anderson got the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1972 for his reports on US’ tilt away from India towards Pakistan during Bangladesh’s war for independence. Details regarding the mole and the information he passed on to the CIA can also be found in The Anderson Papers and The Man who kept the secrets (based on the life of CIA Director Richard Helms – Written by Thomas Powers).

Noted Indian lawyer A G Noorani, in his essay titled The CIA papers, published in the August 11-24, 2007 issue of fortnightly Frontline, states, “the mole in Mrs Gandhi’s Cabinet performed freely for the CIA all through 1971 till he was compromised. She did not sack him, however, ever forgiving of ‘human’ weakness. He survived.”

While referring to the declassified material and the above mentioned books, Noorani further says that the CIA had penetrated the Indian Government at every level. The agency received reports on “troops movements, logistics, strategy, and even some of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s secret conversations.”

“Was it not a matter of concern that her anxious queries to the Soviet Ambassador and his replies reached Henry Kissinger’s table while the war was on,” Noorani inquires.

While all the available information points towards a possible mole in Mrs Gandhi’s Cabinet during the 1971 war, we still don’t know his identity. I won’t speculate on the names here but the Indian Government should learn from the US and declassify old records.

Anuj, meanwhile, had filed an RTI application with the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of External Affairs to seek information about the alleged mole in Mrs Gandhi’s Cabinet. But as always, the request has been turned down.

Withholding all the information since independence by giving lame excuses that declassifying it might affect India’s foreign relations with other countries is not acceptable. The nation has a right to know the information surrounding such an important episode.