Monday, January 5, 2009

Cabinet Secretariat won't release 1971 spy related records

The Cabinet Secretariat has refused to release records and information having a bearing on the allegations that a minister of Indira Gandhi's Cabinet supplied vital national security information to the CIA during the Bangladesh war. But why? "Disclosure of information sought would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India for which reason, access to the information is denied," says K S Achar, Director & CPIO, Cabinet Secretariat, Rashtrapati Bhavan.

And what were the records/information sought by yours truly under the RTI?

1. Did the Prime Minister call any meetings of the Union Cabinet or Cabinet Committees from 3 December 1971 to 7 December 1971 on the subject of the ongoing war with Pakistan?

2. If yes, please provide photocopies of the complete minutes/record of all such meetings. Also provide the names of ministers and officials who attended these meetings.

3. Photocopies of all records, if any, to the effect that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi received inputs from the Research and Analysis Wing about the identity of the minister who leaked out information to the CIA during the 1971 war. For your information, in 1988 a Mumbai newspaper Independent had alleged that as per a R&AW communication to the PMO, former Deputy Prime Minister Yashwant Rao Chavan, and not Shri Desai, was the alleged spy.

What possibly could we understand from these records, if disclosed?

A study of the declassified US records shows that a "reliable" agent, whose name has been withheld by the Central Intelligence Agency, kept on leaking the deliberations of the Cabinet throughout first half of December 1971. For instance, India's strategy as delivered by Indira Gandhi to her Cabinet at 11:00pm on 3 December 1971 was conveyed to Washington through a still classified CIA cable. Much more damaging was the leak of 6 December, when Gandhi told her ministers that India's "war objectives" were "quick liberation of Bangladesh," "incorporation into India of the southern part" of the Pakistan occupied Kashmir and "destruction of Pakistani military striking power so that it never attempts to challenge India in the future."

Now the idea behind the questions 1 and 2 above was to figure out whether or not the information contained in the US records is true, and get closer towards identifying the name of the man who relayed it to the Agency. There must have been a very few top people present at such sensitive meetings.

Query 3, as you can clearly see, aims at verifying a startling piece of information published in a newspaper after being cleared by its editor Vinod Mehta -- currently the editor of the Outlook magazine. If such a piece of information is available with the Government, it must be brought in public domain to clear the air.

In response to all the queries, the Cabinet Secretariat has tersely cited a clause the RTI act which forbids release of the information, "disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India."

But wasn't the national interest severely compromised when a Minister betrayed the nation during wartime? So what purpose would be served by blocking efforts to zero in on his name? Certainly, the US is not going to defend anything done during the Tricky Dick's time. And indeed it is the US government who we should thank for telling us that India's greatest victory was dented by a modern day Mir Jafar.

I have, of course, filed an appeal against the Cabinet Secretariat's response.


swarup pandit said...

Dear Anuj Da,
It is really nice to read your book "Back from Death". Also, i came to know about you from one of my friend Mr. Vishvesh from Maharashtra. I am really schoked to read about the 1971 blunder.i would like to read more about it. also i would love to meet you. Do you come to mumbai ? if possible will you please convey me your email address ? mine is
as a journalist i will stay in your touch.
- swarup pandit

Anonymous said...

Dear Anuj,
Welldone. Hope the nation gets the answers and the black sheep is/are exposed. Kudos to yo. Keep up the good work