Kolkata Consulate cited human rights violations

One of West Bengal's top policemen failed a background check for counter-terrorism training in the U.S. owing to perceived human rights violations on his record, a leaked U.S. Embassy cable has revealed.

Inspector General Raj Kanojia, an Indian Police Service officer, was nominated in 2008 for the National Defence University's International Counterterrorism Fellowship, which also involved working alongside U.S. Department of Defence staff and counterparts in the military services.

But a June 16, 2008 cable (158305: confidential) from U.S. Ambassador David C. Mulford put the brakes on Mr. Kanojia's departure after the New Delhi Embassy discovered “possible derogatory information” about his role in the 2007 police action in Nandigram. “Kanojia was in charge of the West Bengal state police at the time of the March 2007 shooting, as the usual Director General of the police was away on leave,” Mr. Mulford wrote.

“Consulate Kolkata believes that Kanojia's role in Nandigram involved planning the police takeover and advocating this plan to the West Bengal leadership… One of Kolkata's police contacts divulged that Kanojia was strongly in favor of police action at Nandigram, told CPM leadership that the police could take Nandigram, assert control without much resistance, and easily diffuse [defuse?] the situation,” he reported.

Although, Mr. Mulford said, Mr. Kanojia was not present and “probably” did not order the police to shoot, “given that Kanojia played some role in the incident — even if Post cannot substantiate the full extent of his involvement — Post believes that Kanojia is not an appropriate candidate.”

U.S. law prohibits military assistance to foreign units that violate human rights with impunity. The cable requests further advice from Washington on how to proceed. It is not clear what decision was finally issued.

Background checks on Indian security forces did not appear to have been an uncommon occurrence in India-U.S. relations.

A May 26, 2005 cable (33320: confidential) showed that checks were carried out on India's 10th Para (SF) Battalion, 50 Independent Parachute Brigade which participated with the U.S. Army 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) in a Combined Exchange Training programme focussing on small unit tactical and leadership development skills. The U.S. Embassy had no “derogatory” information on this unit at that time. ”

(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.)