Amar Bhushan has blown the lid off Rabindar Singh fiasco

A book by a former official of India’s premier spy agency about an embarrassing episode in its history has challenged the secrecy that shrouds the organisation in an unprecedented way.

Using the veil of fiction, Amar Bhushan, who retired in 2005 as special secretary in the Research & Analysis Wing, has blown the lid off the Rabindar Singh fiasco, which left a lot of red faces in the government, including his own.

Inspired by ‘true story’

Escape to Nowhere is described on the jacket as a novel “inspired by a true story”, but appears to be a blow-by-blow account of the in-house surveillance mounted on Singh, an alleged CIA mole in the intelligence organisation who managed to evade the watch on him and escaped to the United States in 2004.

Not many retired Indian spies have written books about the organisation they served.

Maze of rules

Those who dream about penning it all have to negotiate a maze of rules and regulations relating not just to the Official Secrets Act but also to the Intelligence Organisations (Rules of Restriction) Act, 1985 and a new set of rules issued in 2008.

For the first time though, the rules were circumvented by pitching the memoir as a work of fiction.

Many elements of the story are already in the public domain.

But the account by Mr. Bhushan, who led the real-life investigations into Singh’s activities, gives a deeper glimpse into the secret inner workings of the organisation, especially its counter-intelligence unit.

No other operations or sources figure in the book, published by Konark Publishers, except in fascinating detail, the different kinds of surveillance mounted on the suspect — in his office, in his car, at his home.

Although full of possibilities for transparency and free flow of information, the method of presenting fact as fiction, if taken up by other spooks eager to tell their stories, could present a new challenge for the keepers of the nation’s secrets.

“It is a problem, because we cannot say it is true, and we cannot say it is false,” said one recently retired official who did not wish to be named.

A former head of an intelligence agency said: “It is extremely sad. But the cold-hearted guy I am, I am going to ask what’s the basis for saying that Bhusan is presenting the real picture. That’s the fig-leaf we have to fall back on.”

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