Samba Spy Scandal

Background - The Posting

On December 23, 1973, I was posted to 527 Int and Field Security Company. Soon after joining the new unit, I proceeded on a part of annual leave. And when I rejoined my duties, I was directed to report to HQ 168 Infantry Brigade. The task : to command the Intelligence detachment at Samba and cultivate as well as operate sources.

It was 13 February, 1974 when I reached my new location. The day after my arrival, I presented my credentials to the Brigade Commander and acquainted myself with the other staff officers.

With a view to taking stock of intellligence before my arrival. From JCO who had commanded the detachment before my arrival. From the briefing of the JCO, I learnt that there were only a few Intelligence personnel who all stayed in the Brigade Hqs. There was no task assigned to them, and, in the absence of any work, they stayed in the Brigade Hqs. The only job they performed was occasional and purposeless visits to the Border Outposts (BOP).

There was no transport except a motor cycle which generally remained off the road. The Detachment Commander did not even have a map of the area. When I asked the JCO whether the Brigade Staff ever assigned any task to them, I was told that the staff were happy to leave them without any work. Rather, I learnt that the staff personnel were suspicious and apprehensive of their presence. It was because of the belief that the Ìnt. Personnel' were deputed by the higher authorities to spy over their functioning. So, the staff were justified in viewing them with suspicion. This, I learnt later on, was a bitter fact.

The task, for which the Intelligence and Security cell was created in the Indian Army, has never been understood even by the top echelons. And the misconceived functions of these personnel, in the absence of clear direction, over the times, have boiled down to serving as personal spies of the formation commanders over their subordinates.

When I checked about the sources, to my surprise I found there were none. in fact there had been no source on the roster of that Company since its inception. The JCO showed his ignorance when he was asked about the Intelligence funds. I was disheartened to find the affairs highly disorganised. For me that meant starting from scratch. It appeared to me an insurmountable task. The effect multiplied when I learnt that every possible effort had already been made by different officers, including the Officer Commanding the Company. All had failed to contact a single person even on this side of the border. I marvelled over the responsibility given to me. `What to do?' I thought. I had no practical knowledge of the strange task entrusted to me, except some theoretical knowledge acquired in one of the Intelligence Courses, I had done a couple of years back.

Thought disappointed, disheartening as the situation was, I did not give up. I had not learnt to make turn- abouts when faced with a difficult situation, even if it were the most hopeless one. I had this motivation from King Bruce and the Spider.

I dismissed the JCO, went to the Brigade Major (BM) and asked him to give specific directions in regard to my work. I also asked for accommodation in order to establish my own office, for smooth functioning. Then, I enquired about the details of intelligence funds.

`We've no directions for you - accommodation is not available,' the BM replied and after checking from the records he said, `there are five rupees in all in the MI fund.'

I looked at the BM and saw his eyes impregnated with distrust. Paying no attention to the hostile attitude of the BM, I took the records and was astounded to find the entry of Rs. 5/- that was carried forward from the first page of the Fund register. At the first page also they entry read : B.F. (Brought Forward) from old register. When I asked the BM, I was told that the old register may not be traceable, for the register, from the records of entry, was found to have been closed sometime in the year 1970.

Seeing that, I mused and speculated at nothing in particular. For sometime, I kept staring into space and then left the office.

As I came out from the BM's office, I concluded, Ìf I am to succeed in this task for which I'm totally unprepared, having neither training nor experience in such work, the first thing I must do is to establish rapport with the brigade staff. That will be possible only ifI'm able to quell the inherent distrust which seems deeply rooted in the hearts of these staff officers.'

I came to the GSO 3 (Int) office and requested the officer to give me a complete set of maps pertaining to the entire divisional sector, within the limits of which, I was to function. After collecting the maps, I again called my JCO and said, `Sahib, there is no office for me, therefore, I'll convert my living room into one, till such time as I get a proper office.' Then I asked for the files. He went to his residential quarter and brought the only file in which there were a couple of interrogation reports of persons who in the past had crossed over the border, inadvertently. And that was of no help at all.

I made a mental plan to start afresh. I studied the map for about an hour and marked the BOPs. I decided to man the important one's pairing my men. For that I required additional manpower. I decided to get it from the Company Hqs at YOL, where there was practically no work. Then to go on the ground and familiarise myself with the terrain. I checked if the motor cycle was alright. It was not. Finding it off-road, in the workshop, I made a personal liaison with the officer commanding workshop and got the machine on road by about lunch time.

In the afternoon I called the JCO and both of us went to see the border. Systematically, I started from one end. After about two days, we had finished the entire sector. But that was not enough. In order to be fully conversant, I must walk the entire distance, I thought. But I left the exercise of walking for a later date. There were plenty of other things which I was required to attend to immediately.

I spoke to my Officer Commanding on telephone and asked him to send a minimum of ten more persons. The request was turned down : not even one man would be sent, I was informed. However, if I'm to function, things will have to move as required, I thought. That I could do only if I was able to satisfy the staff concerned in the Divisional Hqs.

I pondered over the proposition of cultivating sources. Which type of persons cross over the border, I thought. Such type had got to be thieves, cattle lifters or smugglers. That was okay. How to contact them, was the problem. `Well, for that one requires a middleman,' I appreciated. But how? To some extent the problem could be solved, if I got extra men and posted them at the BOPs. Those personnel could then maintain a list of suspected persons, by mixing up and developing friendly contacts with the respective village headmen. I expected the plan to be successful, more so when I had personal knowledge of the local language to give me the desired advantage. Then there was the problem of money!

Having decided my course of action I went around and established contacts with the sister agencies viz. Intelligence Bureau and RAW. I was successful in establishing personal rapport not only with intelligence agencies but also with the police as well the civil administration, particularly the revenue department. I also received practical tips from Shri A.K. Chabra, the Deputy Central Intelligence Officer of the Int Bureau, who was reverentially known as `James Bond of North India' - a very fine person who instantly made his personalty felt by anyone he met. Thorough in his profession, he was widely known and respected in every branch of the Intelligence.

Thus having made a basae, the next step I thought was to overcome the problems of men, money and transport. I apprised the GSO 2 (Int) of the Divisional Hqs, Major G.S. Oberoi about my problems and was assured by him that he would look into them within a few days.

Luckily for me the new GOC (General Officer Commanding) major General G.s. Rawat, who had taken over the command of the division a couple of weeks back, dropped in the brigade officer's mess, en route Nagrota where the General was going to attend a conference.

The General, called me and enquired about the progress in the task given to me. The General was showing his keenness. I observed that and apprised him about the immediate problems I was facing. The General, besides conceding my requirements, gave me encouragement by extending practical advice on the operation of sources. This gave me an added impetus.

In the next few days, after the informal interview with the General, the required number of men reported to me, though money and transport were nowhere in sight.

After having brought the shabby and disorganised affairs on an even keel, I activated the detachment with full heart. Through my persistent and untiring efforts, I knitted the otherwise unmanageable, educated but disgruntled men of the Intelligence Corps into one of the finest functional teams of the entire command over the next two years. I extracted willing loyalty of every man in the detachment, by not only looking into their personal domestic problems but also by improving their finaicial lot. I obtained for them the clothing, detachment and travel allowances and provided them witht he civilian clothing required in the functioning of, which had not been done in the past. Thus I had completely won over my men. I became so popular that everyone in the Company Hqs was very keen and volunteered to join the detachment at Samba.

The next thing I realised was, I've got to forget that I'm an officer. In that only lies the crux of my success.'

And I did, that.

In order to do my job, I had to mix with the locals and move about with them and do things the way they did; i.e. cultivate their habits - a really difficult task for any army officer who is exclusively trained in the art of arms, who takes pride in commanding his men, to go down to the lowest levels of life. If I wished I could keep the work rolled up like my predecessors and devote my time for professional studies or just while it away. There was none to challenge me. But, sincere and loyal, I upheld whatever the nature of work, as worship for me and plunged into the difficult life which ultimately cost me dearly.

By mid-March, I found a person willing to cross the border and bring someone from across. But to my exasperation, there was no money, in either currency. So I asked the divisional Hqs for the money. But they also did not have the required currency, although I received a meagre amount in Indian currency, which was of little use. Without the money it was not possible for my new and highly coveted contact to go. I saw my untiring efforts of running around at times on my own scooter, in the absence of any requisite transport, spending money for entertaining various people from my own pocket, going waste. I felt very bitter, while wondering at the professional slovenliness of the intelligence staff at the divisional Hqs, who I thought, failed me and my efforts. How then do they expect me to function?, I wondered. Still the passionate innerman bent on making his valuable efforts a success, did not give up. I pressed my mind hard to find any alternative. I thought of Army Hqs Liaison Officer (ALO), Lieut Colonel Bhandari, with whom I had established contacts through several liaison visits.

I went to Colonel Bhandari in Jammu and requested him for some Pakistan currency as a loan. The latter conceded only after making some conditions which I did not welcome. But then, I thought, `beggars cannot be choosers'; considered the situation and accepted the conditions; with a mind to resile as and when I was no longer at the mercy of others.

It was thus, through my persistent efforts, that I was able to embark on my subsequently successful journey.

When the information started pouring in, to my chagrin, I had to part with most of the vital pieces so acquired in return for the money I received. The only consolation I derived was, whoever forwarded the information, it served the organisation and the nation. It didn't matter even if the information represented someone else. I at least had the job satisfaction. So I continued to send the leftover information, such as topographical.

Finally as a result of my mounting pressure, I was successful in obtaining the currency. I bade a sincere farewell to Colonel Bhandari. Colonel Bhandari tried his level best to sidetrack me saying, `Some information given by your sources are of strategic value and hence beyond the scope of your formation'.

`No sir, I'll send the reports as a whole, irrespective of the quality of information' I told Colonel Bhandari, who left very disappointed to lose the hen that probably laid silver eggs.

Inspite of this I always remained grateful to the colonel who'd helped me to make a start. I was overjoyed when the then Brigade Commander, Brigadier S.L. Malhotra, one day called me to his office and said, `Rathaur congratulations... Your work has been highly appreciated by the Command Hqs. There is an appreciation letter for you, a copy of which you shall be getting soon. I've been asked to convey this to you in advance. And a pat from me! Well-done and keep it up.'

I felt exuberant and said with all humility, `Thank you, sir. But the entire credit goes to you and your staff. Without their cooperation, nothing was possible for me.'

I feel proud of you my son. I've been watching you since your arrival and the hard work you have put in. I've been also told by my staff about your decent behaviour towards everyone. You have earned a good reputation, which generally is not the case with security men,' the Commander said and added, `Whenever you find any problem come to me straight, so long I'm here.'

`So, finally I'm successful not only in the task given to me but in sucking out the distrust and replacing it with love in the hearts of the staff here,' I thought and heaved a sigh of great relief.

I called the senior NCO of the detachment, Havildar Raghubir Singh, and gave him the happy tidings. He said, `Since day after tomorrow is the pay day, I suggest we get all the men together; here in the Hqs. They will be able to collect their pay personally and I shall be able to convey them the happy news apart from finding out if anyone's got any problem. Will you be able to call them?'

I'll do that, sir.' Saying that, the NCO left.

Slowly but steadly I continued expanding my sphere of operations, and gaining popularity with the help of my devout staff. By then, I had been equipped with one jeep and two additional motor cycles, and there was also no problem of money either.

By October, 1974, I had received two more appreciation letters from my formation Hqs.

It was September 1974. Seeing the acquisition of information as valuable, the Corps Hqs put their foot down. They wanted that the informations acquired by me should be sent to the Corps Hqs directly. This meant direct interference with the Division's Command.

The army command structure is similar to a ladder : the steps representing various levels of command. There's always a danger of falling for a person who takes two steps at a time while climbing up or down. Therefore, probably, taking two steps in either direction in the army, is not permitted. A Corps Hqs cannot interfere directly with a unit in any matter, nor can a unit approach or pass any communications to Hqs which is a step higher to the one to which the unit belongs, except in certain policy matters for which the rulings are always laid down.

Since there were no rulings in regards to the source reports, the divisional Hqs raised strong protest. But the protest was overruled by the Corps Hqs. The reasons : The reports were of a strategic value. It took considerable time for the reports to reach the Corps Hqs through the normal channels. If the information is delayed the same is denied, so the Corps Hqs were justified in their action.

I had no JCO. The one who served earlier with the detachment was posted out and had not been replaced, as there was no requirement for a JCO. But the Corps Hqs, felt the necessity and Naib Subedar JS Malhi from the Corps Field Security Section was attached with the detachment at Samba, to assist in the smooth functioning of the sources operation. I found him capable and outstanding, one who in fact, proved to be of great help.

And then Major S.C. Jolly the GSO 2 (Int) of Corps Hqs, took over from me, the briefing and debriefing of sources, against all rules of source operation. I strongly objected to this interference, but I'd to concede when I was told that Major Jolly being at the Corps Hqs had more insight to the nature of information needed. I realised that was true to an extent.

I remained oblivious to earning recognition and strove hard to widen the sphere of my activities. To an extent my work-load was lightened by Major Jolly and later by Major Madan in regard to briefing and debriefing of the sources. Thus I was able to cover a wide stretch of area across the border; from Okara in the South to Gilgit in the North.

I also procured the details of the Pak forces deployed in the Chamb sector, which till then were not known to the Indian intelligence after the 1971 war with Pakistan.

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 |