Samba Spy Scandal

An Approver

It was probably 15 October 1978. Major Jolly and Mr. Chaudhary made a dramatic appearance in the cell where I was confined. Jolly forcing his voice to appear tender and sympathetic which reflected concern for me asked, `How are you my son?.... Damnit whatever you underwent, it was all because of your foolishness. Why did you act so adamantly? Why did you want to save others, that too at your own cost?... When you had already accepted your mistakes...'

`Jolly sahib', interrupted Mr. Chaudhary, `You don't know, he was chasing a false hope of getting help from Major Khan through his, what should I say, pals?'. Then looking at me, he asked, `weren't you?'

I remained silent.

`It's no use Rathaur, trading in dead horses,' said Jolly, `You were once a friend of mine, and I still have the same regard for you. With this relationship in mind, listen to my advice. Will you or will you not?'

`Of course Jolly sahib he will. Why shouldn't he?' Chaudhary affirmed on my behalf.

`... Well then remember, whenever a person suffers from an illness, he always goes to a doctor for its cure. So I don't have to remind you that you are a sufferer and we are the doctors.. Don't worry even if you have raped the army. I'll make sure nothing happens to you.... but we will talk about that later on,' He then produced a letter from his pocket and said, `My friend we are not your enemies. Though I know that is how you're thinking about us. This letter is from your wife. She had come to meet you in the Raj Rifle Centre, and left the letter alongwith some items of clothing.'

`What did you say, my wife? My wife had come to meet me?' I asked with surprise and relief. `I thought, you told me she was also under arrest?'

Chaudhary and Jolly looked at each other with crooked smiles. Then Jolly said, `Well that was almost correct. She would have been arrested, had I not intervened and left that to KSS.'

`You should be grateful to Major Jolly for that.' Chaudhary interrupted to complete the sentence. He apprised me that they did not know about her arrival otherwise she would have been allowed to meet me. And if not that, at least she could have talked to me on the telephone. And now she had gone to Dehradun to stay with her brother, who had come to receive her at Delhi.

So the arrest of Captain Parkash was also a farce, I thought to myself and felt relieved at least on that score.

I took the letter and read through it avidly in a single breath. I kept reading it over and over again, till the letter was completely drenched in tears, and the tears smudged the ink. At that Jolly handed over a cheque slip to me to fill in and sign whatever amount I wanted to. The slip was given by my wife, who was in dire need of money. I had left only rupees one hundred with her when I had left for Delhi. Then a small sheet of paper and a pen was given to me and I was asked to write a letter to my wife, with instructions not to write anything about my arrest or the interrogation. `Simply write that you have received the letter and the clothing sent by her, and that you are perfectly fine. Okay?'

I quickly filled in the cheque slip and scribbled a few lines, while the interrogators stood, supervising the writing. Then a receipt was obtained from me and they left. They did not allow me to keep the letter of my wife. `What'll you do with the letter that you have just read,' Jolly had said. Probably thinking the letter might give me an emotional strength, and that they did not want.

I marvelled how Jolly had become sympathetic all at once. It was not without purpose I knew that. Did they expect me to give more names? Or what else was that a veil of decency all about? Why should Jolly think of helping me, when he is the one responsible for reducing me to this state of paralysis, I thought. And to say that they did not know about my wife's arrival is nothing but another farce. And at least this time I was right. How could the interrogators have allowed her to see her husband who was almost on his death bed, with his mutilated body? People who were responsible had deftly and surreptitiously engineered, directed and executed the spy operation, were not fools, to have endangered their own lives, by permitting my wife to meet me in my present state. Or to have given an opportunity to me to talk to her on telephone least the information of their barbarism leaked out from the sound proof walls of the human slaughter house. I knew everything, their each and every move, and yet I was unable to do anything except feign ignorance. Atleast I had to do so till such a time I found an opportunity for an escape from the sword which hung on me, ready to chop my head at any wrong move.

I found it simple to deduce from the letter, the miseries and the nightmarish time my wife had to undergo in Kamptee, without any communication from me, or from anyone else, who could inform my whereabouts to her. I had left on temporary duty for just two days, and even after two months she had no information official or otherwise to which she was entitled to by law immediately after my arrest. My own Commanding Officer, who knew everything about my arrest, had not botherred to inform the hapless lady. It was not difficult to imagine the agony and mental torture she was made to undergo, alongside my physical one. It was not only Colonel Harbhajan Singh who failed in his duties, but my own Commanding officer too. The Commanding Officer whom I had served with complete devotion; my own head of the family, my own Regimental Officer, not only failed me, but went a step further by contriving against me, dubiously, I recalled bitterly. Wasn't it the duty of the CO's to find out where the officer, whom he had sent on temporary duty, had disappeared? And to assume that the CO was informed about my having confessed the crimes then was he not duty bound to tell the same to my wife? Why couldn't he have met me personally, if not for other reasons, at least to admonish me, for having put the name of the finest Regiment into a stinking morass of spying!

It indeed was the duty of my CO, Lieut Colonel KM Nanda to have asserted his rights and found out for himself, the truth. Thus the CO not only failed his officer to protect him from becoming a prey to the hungry wolves, but also, as I had to learn later with remorse, had harassed my wife by asking all sorts of stupid questions, let alone looking after her husband's absence. It would go and remain in the history of the unit as a BLOT, to have discarded one of its loyal and innocent members to be disgraced and to disappear into obscurity.

I felt aggrieved to miss the opportunity, fate had almost brought to my door and then snatched away, even before I could look at it. Yet this was nothing compared to disappointments, fate still had in store for me.

After a couple of days the "duo", the oppressors, the masters of my destiny appeared in the cell. Of course the master of tyrants, KSS was spared the efforts to see me following my own request, to avoid the nervous breakdown which I would have experienced on seeing him. I was given another letter from my wife; which she had written care of Colonel Harbhajan Singh; after reaching Dehradun.

`So what have you decided?' asked Jolly.

`Decided?' I asked expressing surprise, `decided what? What is there to decide, sir.'

`Look Rathaur, in a way yes, there is nothing to decide. Yet there is whole range of things to decide. I have thought of making you an approver. This is the only course open for you. In a few days we intend to start with the recording of Summary of Evidence (S of E) of those persons who stand cleared. Now I want you to stand up against them boldly. As a reward for doing so, we will do everything within our powers to get you the least amount of punishment..." And after a pause he said, `but that is only possible if you side with us.'

I remained silent.

`From our side you stand cleared. If you wish you can be shifted to the Mess.' Jolly said.

I felt my blood pumped with the force of happiness. But alas! It was not even momentary. For I heard Chaudhary say at the same time, `but this is my sincere advice, you better stay here. In the mess you may have to bear the numerous eyes full of hatred prying at you. In any case think it over.'

I took the advice as a sufficient warning to desist from the thought of getting shifted. If I showed any enthusiasm, they might as well put me through another round of dreaded tortures. And if they did that, I would not pull through it, this time. It did not matter, if I died. The only thing that mattered for me, was to save the innocent persons. I had pulled into the morass. That I could only achieve by surviving. Then also, there was a consideration not to die as a traitor. I may even be shifted without showing any interest, I thought.

The same day, an hour after they had left, Chaudhary returned with a clip board, handed it over to me and said, `Rathaur your CO wants that you be shifted to the mess. But as you desire we have told him that you do not want to be shifted?'

`But, sir, I want to be shifted,' I insisted desperately and said, `I never told you that I did not want?'

`Well... Well, even if you don't want, we desire that you should be here. After all you're our approver and naturally we don't want that someone should kill you.'

`But, sir I never said that I want to be your approver. I don't want to be anything please, sir kindly shiftme', I said, thrilled with the idea that the CO wanted me to be shifted, as revealed by Chaudhary.

`So Rathaur, there you! Anyway we will tell your CO that you have yet not been cleared from us; that you are still keeping some names up your sleeve.' Saying this Chaudhary laughed wickedly and added, `You can forget it if you're still nursing the idea of taking us for a ride Eh? So tell me what do you want, an easy life or back to square one? Well it's upto you to select what way you want us to treat you.'

Whatever it was, I certainly did not want to undergo another round of torture. The very thought of it sent a cold shiver through my spine. So I relented in the face of this threat. I wrote, as dictated.

"Respected, sir,

I am ashamed of my unpatriotic and anti-national activities. Because of these I am also ashamed to face people. Then there is an acute danger to my life from my accomplices. Therefore, I request that I may not be shifted.

Thanking you,

Yours faithfully,


R.S. Rathaur

31 Aug 78."

After signing and dating it as 31 August 78, I nervously handed over the letter to Chaudhary.

There might have been other options, but under the circumstances I found none except to act as an approver. It was an irrefutable fact, that they would not allow me to go in this present state, and let others see the fruits of their labour! The glass house which was being prepared would have been broken for sure if I was shifted.

If I was helpless, was Colonel Harbhajan Singh also helpless? Could he not or did he not find time to see, if I, whom the Colonel was responsible for having got arrested, was alive or dead? Was it not his duty to come and enquire personally from the officer? Or was the Colonel merely acting as the figurative head, stripped of all powers and functions? Whatever it was, the Colonel proved himself to be unworthy of his rank. He showed his cowardly self, and irresponsibility towards me, an unfortunate officer. It's left to wonder with what face Colonel Harbhajan Singh told my wife, `I don't know where your husband is, though I have put him under arrest,' and adding, `but your husband is very fine and healthy.' When on 09 Oct 78 my wife had met him regarding information about me, how did the Colonel know, that I was fine and healthy, when he did not even know where I was? One can do nothing but spit at people like Colonel Harbhajan Singh. They are responsible for the precious lives of persons under their Commands! They are the guardians of national security!!

Finding myself pushed into a cornor I could do nothing but weep. Then I realised that weeping would not help. I had to think of someting even if my earlier plans had not worked out,' I thought. However my plans were stripped piece by piece, I tried to find out the reasons, the weak points, which had led to the neutralisation of my appreciations, and the plans. But no logic can ever work where might prevails. There was nothing wrong otherwise in my thinking. At times I started suspecting the act of interrogators and was reluctant to view it as the result of biased minds. No one, I thought, could be biased to that extent. I decided to cope with the danger once again by remaining close to it. The only way I could do that was to play in the hands of my masters.

I had understood that the interrogators were trying to devise a suitable ruse to further their plans. And sensing that, I enacted a counter ploy to foil their schemes, performing an act to deceive them at their own game. I must win over their confidence I thought, while leading them away from my real intentions.

However, I failed to realise that the people with whom I dealt, were, more clever than me. I was not sure whether I ever was successful in winning over their confidence but they did behave with me in a slightly relaxed atmosphere; though still holding the key to the temporarily locked sword, the torture!

Preface | Temporary Duty | The Move Order | The Train Journey | The Reception | The Army HQ | Close Arrest | The Interrogation | Background | The Intelligence | The Security | The Devil | The Confession | The Foundation Stone | The Great Detectives | The Corroborations | An Approver | Confrontaions | Hibernations | Leading to the Trails | Fairy Tales | Into the Fire | Army Procedure | As a Winess | Meeting with Family | Habeas Corpus | Death of Democracy | The Trial | Prosecution Case | The Defence | The Press | Rebuttal | Aftermath | Mystery | Postscript | Annexure I | Home |