Samba Spy Scandal

The Death of a Democracy

October 02, 1978. It was a fine morning before dawn. The cool breeze was soothing and pleasant befoore the approaching scorching heat of the day. The dim street lights were showing last glimpse of their pale glow and the people were enjoying their last snatches of slumber.

It was calm and pleasant, disturbed occasionally by the barking of stray dogs. But the police patrolmen, were pounding their beats with heavy thuds due to the night's tiresome job while returning to their respective police stations.

It was then that one of the two patrolmen of Sadar Police Station of Delhi Cantt, stumbled over someone lying by the road side. `Who's there at this time,' The patrolman enquired while abusing. However there was no response. He touched the lying person in an enraged temper. But alas! the person was ice cold and stiff, it was a corpse.

The patrolman examined and it was found that the person was a victim of some gruesome crime. Leaving the other to guard the corpse, the patrolman rushed tothe Police Station and informed the Senior Officer.

The police officer reached the spot and conducted the procedural investigations. An examination of the body revealed that it had multiple injury marks. The person was beaten mercilessly and thrown on the road side as if it were the body of a stray dog.

The police officer in an endeavour to fix the identity searched and found a chit in the pocket of the deceased. It revealed that the man was number 576833 Havildar Ram Sarup of Field Security Section, at Red Fort Delhi and was the resident of village Udaka, Tehsil Nuh in Gurgaon district of Haryana state.

The police officer after having completed the initial formalities required for the inquest, sent the dead body for post mortem.

The information was sent to the army authorities and a constable despatched to the deceased's village to convey the news of his demise to his near and dear ones.

How did the body of an army personnel come on the road and who had kept the chit in his pocket?

Havildar Ram Sarup was the only son of his aged parents. He had a wife and two small children. He had joined the Indian Army Supply Corps in late fifty's and later, had got himself transferred to the Intelligence Corps. In the Intelligence Corps Ram Sarup had acquitted himself well and in the last year of his service, had obtained a home posting in Delhi, with the aim to straighting out his domestic affairs before retirement.

Ram Sarup had gone on casual leave, when on "Janamashtmi" Nain Subedar Om Parkash of his unit, went to the village to recall him. It was over a month since he had been recalled. His wife, children and parents were eagerly waiting for him to come on leave.

Instead the unfortunate family received a police constable from Sadar Police Station Delhi Cantt, who gave the news of the sad demise of Ram Sarup and asked them to collect his body from the police mortuary.

The news was the biggest blow to the parents of a lone child. It was also the end of the world for the young widow of the deceased.

The news was a fact, but none were prepared to accept it as the truth. How could a young and healthy person like Ram Sarup die without any cause? And of course the real cause of the death was suppressed in connivance which was a result of ignorance and short sightedness of a person, at the helm of affairs of India.

The father, along with a few elderly persons of the village left for Delhi to collect the dead body.

A few days after he was recalled from leave Ram Sarup was taken to interrogation centre and was confronted with me.

Subsequently when I was tortured to implicate him, he was arrested and attached with an Arty unit and from there, was brought to the interrogation centre on 26 September. He was fated never to return and see the light of the world.

It was too much for Ram Sarup to sustain the brutal torture so as a result he succembed to the cruel atrocities on 01 October 1978. Not knowing what to do, the tyrants, in a bid to escape responsibility, in consultation with the DMI or possibily the Chief, threw the body of Havildar Ram Sarup on the road under the cover of darkness. It was presumed that some vehicle would run over the body and thus the heinous crime of the interrogators would never be known.

However, the plan failed. The body was found by the police and they conducted a postmortem. There were 39 injury marks including electric burns on the body.

The authorities were puzzled and scared too, their cover was about to blow away. But was it?

The body was taken over by the army authorities for obvious reasons. They wanted to and were successful in keeping the abnormal circumstances of the death in the dark.

After having taken over from the police the body was kept in Army Base Hospital's mortuary. The Intelligence authorities wanted to destroy all evidence by cremating the body. As a rule the body should have been handed over to the next of kin for the last rites. But Ram Sarup's next of kin were not lucky enough.

Major Midha the officer commanding the unit of the deceased was approached and pressurised to collect and cremate the body, but he refused.

Ram Sarup was no longer under Major Midha's command, following his arrest in September. Ram Sarup was attached to 76 Medium Regiment. The Regiment detailed a JCO to collect the body of the deceased but the authorities at the mortuary refused to hand over the body to any one except the relatives of the deceased.

The matter was then taken up with Brig. T.s. Grewal (who had been promoted) of the MI Directorate. The relatives of the Ram Sarup had already arrived at the mortuary to collect the body. Major Midha informed the MI Directorate accordingly. Soon after Major Midha received a message that the body had to be handed over to the Military Base Hospital to ensure that it was cremated; and he was asked to confirm by telephone even if it was late at night. The order was duly complied with. And thus the family of the Havildar was denied even the last glimpse and the right to cremate his body. In this case three postmortem were conducted - one by Delhi Police and the two by Army Authorities of Base Hospital Delhi Cantt. The report by Delhi Police and Major (Mrs.) Indira Pahnani showed 39 injury marks antemortem. But the one by Major Mathur of Base Hospital falsified these reports. He observed the death was due to drug addiction!

Later, to complete for paper formalities a court of inquiry was instituted by the army authorities, inspite of the fact that the case was registered by the Delhi Police after their inquiries against some officers. The Army did not want any investigation but the police insisted. The matter went up to the Home Minister who wanted the case to be handed over to the police for investigation. The Prime Minister agreed with the Home Minister and directed the Army Hqs to hand over the case to the police.

The Prime Minister's instructions caused considerable worry to the MI Directorate which, feared that the police investigation would bring to light what the others would call a skeleton in its cupboard. The handling of the security suspects in the Samba spying case would also be exposed to the public which might provoke strong criticism of the Directorate. A top level meeting of senior army officers was held and a decision was taken to tell the Prime Minister about the hazards, the security of the country would face if the police investigation was not stopped. The Prime Minister was accordingly informed and misled by exaggerated accounts of the dangers of spies to the security of the state. How did it matter if one of the numerous spies had died at the hands of interrogators, while they were trying to flush out the spies and purge the army!

Instead of charging the interrogators with murder they were awarded in the form of promotion and for exceptional courage!!

The Prime Minister, Mr. Morarji Desai a great servant of the poor, as it is claimed to be, and a great humanist had given amnesty of prosecution to the interrogators for their excellent job of killing a spy, Havildar Ram Sarup.

At the court of inquiry, Major Midha was called as a witness and was pressurised by the Presiding Officer to depose that the Havildar was an addict of hashish and heroin. Those responsible for the death wanted to prove it was a natural death, probably due to an overdose of these drugs, and the injuries, were probably the puncture marks. The Major did not give in the pressure. He deposed what the truth was.

His evidence was not recorded in the proceedings. The death was declared as natural and the matter was hushed up. Major Midha of course had to pay for his arrogance of defying the authorities. He was arrested for spying and taken to Udhampur.

At Udhampur while in the solitary confinement of the staging camp he was pressurised by Brigadier (Later Major General) PM Pasricha to implicate major General K Gauri Shanker and a number of other senior officers. As the reward, charges of espionage against him were to be dropped but the Major preferred the charges instead.

Later when the wives of affected officers made the matter public, a second court of inquiry to ascertain the cause of the death of the Havildar wa conducted. It was done at the direction of the Defence Minister, Mr. Jagjiwan Ram. However, that too was a mere eyewash.

Army authorities have no jurisdiction to conduct any court of inquest. Nor is any person of anybranch of the army qualified for the job. The responsibility is solely that of the civil police.

If any person subject to the army act dies except in war or in field area, the death is reported to the police immediately for further action. It is then the responsibility of the police to conduct the postmortem and complete the investigation under section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in case the death is natural. If, however, there is an evidence in the form of abrasions or injuries on the body to suggest that there was violence, a case of murder under section 302 of the indian Penal Code is registered. And if the death of such a person is caused due to a rash or negligent act, a case under section 304-A of the IPC is registered and further investigation is made. The case is then handed over to the court for a trial. The police did their job but the army prevailed even when it had no jurisdiction. And thus in this democratic state legal safe guards provided to a citizen under the Constitution were allowed to be violated openly from the TOP, in a manner which probably does not happen even under a dictatorship!

Subsequent representation by the aggrieved family fell on the government's deaf ears.

Havildar Ram Sarup's case was not unique. Such rights were violated and people tortured almost to death in most of the cases.

The interrogation Centre at Delhi had only six cells. Therefore, not more than six persons could be interrogated at one time. Whereas the number of spies were increasing in geometrical progression.

In order to accommodate larger number of spies, special cells were constructed in a record time of one month in Jammu, Nagrota, Udhampur and Janglot.

These camps had a special touch of the Nazi Concentration Camps. The treatment of the confined persons in these cells was a harrowing tale. The cells were fully enclosed and measured 8 feet by 6 feet. They were painted black and were without basic amenities. Not a ray of sunshine was permitted inside the cells.

No books, not even religious books were allowed, despite several requests to the authorities. The cells were infested with all kinds of insects, mosquitoes and bugs. All sorts of atrocities were committed in these camps.

These were obviously the staging camps. As and when a cell in Delhi was vacated, an unfortunate victim from the camp was moved to the slaughter house, wehre he was tortured physically till he either died or admitted to being a spy.

No one, not even the General Officer Commanding, under whom the officer and other ranks were confined in the camps, and by whom the investigations of their cases were supposed to be conducted, knew what the case was. Forwarding an application, of one of the arrested officers to the Army Commander, the letter from the Hqs of the GOC read :

"1. An application dated 28 Feb 1979, in respect of IC 23451N Rank : Captain, Name : N.D. Sharma at Hqs 26 Inf Div addressed to GOC-in-C Northern Comd is fwd herewith in duplicate for furhter action please.

2. No comments are offered as the case is not known to this...."

A Divisional Commander convenes and confirms the punishment passed by the GCM. But here was an example that the GOC of a division of Indian Army did not know even the case of persons arrested and detained under him for spying!

Probably the only persons who knew were the DMI and the Chief of the Army Staff, General OP Malhotra, PVSM.

In reply to another request of one of the other arrested officers the GOC wrote :

"1. I am in receipt of your letter dated 06 Feb 1979. You will appreciate that the nature of investigation in which you are concerned is outside my jurisdiction and consequently there is little that I can do at the moment.

2. When investigations are complete, I assure you justice will be done."

Surely, the GOC was aware that once the investigations, as they were being conducted, were allowed to be completed there was no question of any justice!

4 It was very clear how the investigations as per the AA and AR were conducted. Yet here was a GOC, let alone the Commanding Officers, who felt the conduct of investigations was outside his jurisdiction. How did he then assure "justice will be done"? Was it not a fact that nothing was under the jurisdiction of any one except the CHIEF and the DMI?

The persons in the slaughter house were deprived of all rights and remedies after being inflicted the most horrendous tortures, as if the Constitution and the Jurisprudence had become obsolete. Such atrocities were committed upon the victims that anyone could challenge any claim to India being a civilised nation, with due regards to human dignity and decency, the treatment meted out to these unfortunate officers and men, was a testament to the animals that even civilised beings can fall!!

The whole affair brought the memories afresh of the atrocities committed by HEINRICH HIMMLER of the SS and Chief of the Nazi State Police, who was an incarnation of Satan in the guise of a human. And why only he, I thought. Were there not others in our nation, among us, wolves in a sheep's skin?

It was shocking, how loyal and sincere people were eliminated namely the generals of Hitlers' army under false charges of treason. Their torture was horrendous. Were those tortures anymore severe than the ones by the Gestapo of the Indian Army Intelligence? Here too attempts were made to falsely implicate generals and other senior officers. Then what was the difference I analysed, between the two? Surely one was inhuman in case of those who suffered in their fatherland, but barbaric in the case of those who are suffering in their motherland. There is a marked difference between the two: That was under DICTATORSHIP and this under DEMOCRACY! It was a death of the democracy, I concluded.

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 |