The full title of this absorbing book by veteran sleuth, the late Mr Maloy Krishna Dhar IPS, is ” Open Secrets: The Explosive Memoirs of An Indian Intelligence Officer”. It was published in 2012 and I read the Kindle version recently. Mr Dhar was a senior intelligence operative and civil servant of the 1964 batch of the prestigious Indian Police Service (IPS). This version has been published after his demise on May 19, 2012 thanks, I believe, to the efforts of his son, Mainak Dhar, an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad; a senior executive in an international firm and an acclaimed writer himself.
Not many of my generation would have expected a senior Intelligence Bureau (IB) officer to write his memoirs in as open and dramatic a manner as Mr Dhar has done. During his service of nearly 30 years he had close access to the powers that be over that period, such as Prime Minister Indira Gandhi; Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi; his successor, V P Singh, and politicians of different parties in different states. He retired as Joint Director of the powerful IB, India’s internal intelligence agency.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that Mr Dhar did not hold back in his writing. He is candid and this leads you to discover in his book all kinds of stories involving some of the most famous/controversial figures of those decades. They include, to name a few , Indira Gandhi; her assistant R K Dhawan; her son Sanjay Gandhi who briefly ruled the country in her name; Zail Singh ( who figured with Sanjay Gandhi in bolstering Bhindranwale to help the Congress in Punjab, not realizing that he had created a monster they could not later control); Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and many others.
Mr Dhar writes in great detail about his early years in the IB which were spent in the North East, then (more than now) considered the back of beyond for Civil Servants and a pretty much neglected area. It was full of professional challenges for him being a hot bed of dirty internal politics apart from cross border problems created in what then was East Pakistan ( current Bangla Desh) and Burma (now Myanmar).
Over the decades he had to deal with issues relating to trouble spots like Punjab when it was at its worst; and Jammu & Kashmir, where the politics of the Congress led to a vacuum filled in by Islamist separatist fanatics in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He later became responsible for counter Intelligence matters relating to Pakistan, India’s perennial enemy since the bitter Partition of 1947.
The book reveals the extent to which our politicians wield power, the extent to which they would go to cling on to high office, and how civil servants ( not to speak of the common masses) were but pawns to be used to meet their ends. It was really astonishing to see the depth to which the ruling Governments went to build factions in Punjab. Also, as common people we are shocked to read that scoundrels associated with terror groups were given a long rope or even spared on occasion by some of our top politicians!
Much of what Mr Dhar has written has come true. He wrote of how Pakistan’s ISI would target the Southern States like Kerala, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh of India using local organizations to create unrest, develop sleeper cells etc. He however ran into a lot of flak in the ISRO Spying Case. This book gives out his version of what transpired.
A very interesting book but I do wish it had been subjected to better proof reading and editing. Mr Dhar wrote self-depreciatingly on his ” Bengali English” but even he would have been shocked at the many errors of names being misspelt , blatantly wrong grammar and the like. The next edition and his memory certainly deserve this!
Highly recommended for anyone interested in politics in independent India.