Fearless crusader. Super-sleuth. Bestselling author. Angry old man. Popular Sify columnist. Former Intelligence Bureau joint director Maloy Krishna Dhar is all that, and much much more.
Dhar, who joined the IPS after a brief stint with journalism in Kolkata, was seconded to the Intelligence Bureau in 1964, retiring as joint director in 1996 after many years in the northeast, Kashmir, Punjab, and of course New Delhi. Subsequently, renouncing his political aspirations in disgust after a year with the Congress Party, he took up his pen with a vengeance.
Probably privy to more national secrets than many Prime Ministers ever were or are, Dhar’s latest offering, We the People of India-A Story of Gangland Democracy, (Excerpts) is a very thinly veiled –and shocking--expose of how our politicians are using democracy to gangrape our nation.
Published despite terrible threats and plaintive pleas from powerful people, the book is a scathing indictment of the Indian political system, with skeletons tumbling out of each page.
In an exclusive interview with Ramananda Sengupta, he explains how the book was conceived, and how ‘Our combined will to enforce change can send the mafia, dynastic and corporate political leaders to the dungeon they deserve.’
You have earlier written some bestsellers on the state of India's intelligence and other related issues. But what was the driving force behind your writing this particular book?
The driving force was the same that pushed me to write-Open Secrets-India’s Intelligence Unveiled. In Open Secrets I did not have the scope, space and legal shield to write about the Great Indian Fraud called Electoral Democracy, which is made and unmade by money, muscle and mafia. There were problems about opening secrets about personalities in power. You often get run over by a tanker or get shot.
I was pasted with four contempt notices and two direct “feelers” from Agencies after Open Secrets was published. I spent six months in courts to overcome the petitions and deflect the “feelers” to withdraw the book.
Therefore, to present the people of India a mirror to have a deep look into the system they are living in and the personalities who govern them, I wrote We the People of India-A Story of Gangland Democracy, as a thinly veiled novel. One should read it in continuation of Open Secrets. That will give a complete picture what our political and bureaucratic class are doing to our beloved country.
You have reportedly used some rather obvious 'fig leafs’ while describing some home truths about the Indian political system. Were you nervous about the fallout?
No, I was not nervous. I was aware of the legal issues when writing about “happening history”, existing “constitutional institutions”, and “reigning personalities.” If a discerning reader has any sense of current history he/she can have a clear glimpse into the personal lives, their political meanness and siphoning of national wealth to foreign accounts. Besides the criminal cases I was more scared about the bullets-which killed the hero of the story at the end of the new Mahabharat, that is We the People of India…
Could you recount some interesting anecdotes or feedback in response to this book post its publication?
It is a problem question. Before the book was released by George Fernandes (Congress, BJP, Left leaders declined) two officers of an Agency accosted my publisher and obtained two copies. I was later contacted by a former colleague to say that the reigning deities were very unhappy with the book as it contained direct personal attacks against them. My answer was: “They are welcome to move the courts. They did not and adopted a policy of ‘conspiracy of silence.” However, a Bihar stalwart had conveyed that all sins are rewarded with punishment. I am waiting for that.
Without violating your Oath of Secrecy and the Officials Secrets Act, could you tell us what you consider your most memorable achievement during your tenure as Joint Director of our Intelligence Bureau?
The most memorable incident happened at a remote village Soraphung on Manipur (Ukhrul) and Nagaland border (Jessami). Travelling with my wife and son (1971) in a jeep we were stranded as the vehicle had broke down. Some Naga Army (underground) unit wanted to attack and take us as prisoners. A Christian village belle and her teacher husband mobilsed the entire village, gave us shelter for the night and saw us off to the safety of Assam Rifles camp at Jessami, in Chakesang country. We developed lasting relationship with that noble lady. Incidentally the Gaonbura of Soraphung had adopted me as his son. Officially I can claim to be a Naga.
Your association with the bureau must have exposed you to a lot of political and other national secrets. Would you subscribe to the US system which insists on declassifying such secrets after a certain period, say 50 years? Or should some secrets be buried forever?
Yes. I would opt for the US system, minus names, details and operational secrets of the Intelligence Agencies. Revelation of any secret that jeopardise internal security and relationship with geopolitically connected countries should not be disclosed without proper editing. These are matter of tradecraft trust and war and peace.
Your former colleagues in the bureau insist that you were never scared of anything. What gave/gives you that kind of courage?
I migrated through bloodbath; I have struggled immensely after my father’s premature death. I have seen my father, a kind of revolutionary, not being afraid of anything, but dishonour from his own people. He had taught me to look into the eyes of death and say: you are not the end of life. Even at this age my secret wish is to become a Naxal and fight for change.
One of your enduring themes in your books-- like Open Secrets and others --has been accountability. Do you seriously believe that we, the people of India, are ready for that kind of accountability?
Dear friend. If our people do not know the meaning of “accountability, “conflict of interest” and “constitutional systems operations” they deserve living under Mugabe or Musaharraf. Why do they need a democracy? The people should forget the legacies of thousands of years of indigenous feudalism, 800 years of Muslim tyranny and 190 years of British exploitation. If they have to enjoy the fruits of liberty, equality and fraternity they should demand and rise in peaceful revolt for enforcement of “accountability at all levels” and “implementation of the concept of conflict of interest” in every sphere of national activity. It is time, our countrymen, to wake up from Rip Van Winkle’s dream journey.
On a personal note, how did the constant transfers and movement during your long stint with the bureau affect your family life?
I would have been ruined if I did not have a wonderful wife of excellent understanding, who was my life-long love, my children’s mother, my secretary, and my companion even to the most dangerous areas in the North East, Punjab and Kashmir. She was the anchor. I know very little how our children grew up and did so well in life.
Coming back to your book, do you think dynastic rule is here to stay?
Regretfully, Yes. It is for the people of India to opt for a System Change. My book is all about that-in a rather revolutionary way; written under the philosophic context of the Gita and the Mahabharata.
If you had the power, what would be the first thing you would change in the political system as it exists in India? Something practical and doable, as opposed to just idealistic?
The first and foremost thing is: total overhauling of the “electoral practices.” It is the mother of most corrupt practices and resultant rot in the entire System. It is possible, if the mandate to run the country by the present breed of political class is handed over to a person—say of the honest colour of APJ Abdul Kalam and he is backed by the Higher judiciary and the strongest spine of the nation—the armed forces and the “People”. I cannot imagine ever walking into the shoes of Mr Kalam. But I have the courage and vision. I can be the small squirrel that also threw pebbles to make the Ram Setu to materialse. All of us count with our small stature and intense will. Our combined will to enforce change can send the mafia, dynastic and corporate political leaders to the dungeon they deserve. I wait for the day when this Windsor Democracy turned to Dynastic Democracy would be challenged by the People- by whichever means possible.