An interview with Ram Pradhan, former Union Home Secretary
Former Union Home Secretary Ram Pradhan had led the two-man inquiry into the administration’s response to the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai. Five years after the attack, he spoke to Priyanka Kakodkar and made a new revelation. He said that the R.D. Pradhan Committee had informed the then Home Minister P. Chidambaram about the possibility of a mole in Mumbai who had assisted in the terror attack. However, he does not know what action was taken on it. He also said the central intelligence agencies did not cooperate with the committee. Excerpts:
The Siege, a new book on 26/11 by two British journalists, made the claim that there was local support to the attack in the form of a mole in the Indian security establishment. Your comments on this.
There was no doubt in our mind when we prepared our report that Kasab and the other terrorists could not have executed this assault without local support. I have mentioned it in my communication with the State government. But more than that — and now I can say this for the first time — I had also brought it to the notice of the then Union Home Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram. I had given him a note on the reasons why we had come to the conclusion that there was a mole in Mumbai who was assisting the terrorists. We had given sufficient information and suggested this matter be pursued and the mole identified as soon as possible. I do not know what happened to that. But the fact is, now, it has come up in several publications including the evidence given by Headley. Headley himself was one of the moles, depending on other moles who were already there. This information is now available to everyone through newspapers and media channels. My question is why have we been tardy in identifying who was or who were the people who acted as moles? We had given this information within three months of the attack.
Did you give any details on what kind of mole this was?
We had given certain information which could have helped to identify the mole. I would not say more than that because after five years, I cannot claim that I have all the information in my head. But I had given a note on this point. A short note of 15-20 lines, where all the information we had was handed over.
Are you satisfied with the State government’s response to the recommendations in your report?
I am told that the Home Minister of Maharashtra has said our report has been implemented fully. My comment would be that it’s not a correct statement. What has or has not been implemented should be placed in front of the people.
Did you get the cooperation you asked for while compiling the report?
Ours was not a commission of inquiry but an administrative one. We had no right to enforce attendance of officers to tender evidence. Despite that, all the officers from Maharashtra cooperated with us. But I must say with regret that the Central agencies did not cooperate for their own reasons. We had no input from the Central agencies despite our repeated requests. Also, we were given restrictive terms of reference. We could not really go beyond the State agencies. The IB and RAW and others were kept out of the purview possibly at the behest of the Central government. We were given three months’ time and wanted to complete the inquiry within that time. We didn’t want to bring out an academic report but we wanted to have a report which could be operational and quickly studied and implemented.
You had recommended that CCTV footage from public locations should be accessed by the police to improve security. Are you satisfied with the response?
Our recommendation came from our study on what was done in the United States after 9/11. They installed CCTVs in public places and there was a sense of participation. We know we do not have the resources they do, so we had suggested installing CCTVs in places like railway stations and department stores. So, if an incident takes place, there is at least something to see. From what I read in the papers, what they have done is really not adequate. There are reasons like government procedures and the tendering system. But in a situation like this, it is up to seniors especially ministers to make sure public interest is given priority.
Your report had been critical of the lack of ammunition and equipment provided to the Mumbai police. Do you feel this has improved?
We had pointed out that constables were getting to practise firing only once a year because of the lack of ammunition. They were carrying guns more like lathis. Bulletproof jackets were not really bulletproof. Even today, I read in the media that the situation is the same. If this is correct, then there has been negligence in these matters.