Netaji Files: Government Spooked By Spying Scandal?
While the MHA did not provide the adequate answers to Anuj Dhar’s RTI query on the Netaji snooping issue, it curiously marked his query as “secret” before despatching it to the Intelligence Bureau (IB).
Put on the back foot by public outrage over charges of spying on the members of the family of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, a reluctant Ministry of Home Affairs has forwarded this writer’s RTI request concerning Jawaharlal Nehru government’s spying charges to the Intelligence Bureau.
While the RTI Act exempts IB from giving any information, under the clause 24(1) of the Act, the exemption given is not applied in case of the “allegations of corruption and human rights violations”
“Intrusion into the privacy of those posing no threat to national security, misuse of intelligence agencies, snooping on freedom fighters, their kin, journalists and passing on illegally gathered information about Indian citizens to former colonial bosses all make up for that,”
I wrote in my application on 18th February 2015, to Mukesh Mangal, CPIO and Director, IS-I.
The application was filed after I located, at the National Archives in New Delhi, two files documenting elaborate illegal surveillance on the Bose family members mounted by the West Bengal Intelligence Branch under the auspices of Intelligence Bureau.
The contents of the files, I wrote in the application, “read like a chapter from Watergate scandal-era America”. I even attached copies of some documents with the application in support of my contentions.
“The IB was routinely informed of the intelligence gathered using this illegal activity, which seems to have been inspired by political considerations rather than any national security need,”
“Who authorized the snooping on the Netaji family members and for what purpose; how long did it continue,” was one of my straight questions.
I sought “all records connected to Netaji Research Bureau, Emilie Schenkl, Anita Pfaff, Sarat Bose, Suresh Bose, Amiya Nath Bose, Subrata Bose, Dwijendra Nath Bose, Sisir Bose, Krishna Bose, Prof Sugata Bose and other members of the Bose family”.
Also sought was the entire correspondence between SB Shetty of IB and KM Bourne of MI5 in view of clinching documentary evidence coming from a declassified MI5 file that IB had passed on intelligence concerning Bose to the British intelligence after Independence.
Going further, I provided precise details of five secret IB files whose contents,
“prima facie show that people/institutions spied upon posed no threat to national security”.
One such file (No 17/DG/83) is about journalist Hemandra Nath Pandit, who was making some inquiry about the missing INA treasure. Two more files are about “Aims and objectives of Netaji Research Bureau” and views of different political parties on the issue “Whether Netaji Subhas Bose is still alive or not”. The latter was created in the year 1970.
Responding to my application, Mangal sent me a terse, evasive reply on 10 March stating that the IS-I Division “has no information to furnish in this regard”.
I then submitted to MA Ganapathy, Joint Secretary, IS-I and Appellate authority in the ministry, that my,
“application was meant for the IB and it is for IB to respond to it”
“It was never my contention that the IS-I Division is the repository of old IB files. I do not seek any information from the division. I made this application to them only after not been (sic) able to find the name and address of the IB CPIO, whether this CPIO sits at 35 Sardar Patel Marg, or North Block, or elsewhere.”
On 13 April 2015, Ganapathy informed me that my application was being forward to the Intelligence Bureau.
And now I have received a letter carrying “Most Immediate” stamp.
Upon opening it, I found inside another envelope, sealed and marked “Secret”.
The envelope inside read that it could only be opened by an official of the rank of under secretary and above.
Since the main letter was addressed to me, I opened it.
And inside the second envelope I found copy of a “Secret” official memo signed by Mukesh Mangal saying that my RTI request was being forwarded to the CPIO, Intelligence Bureau on the instructions of Appellate authority for appropriate action.
The instance goes on to show how cagey even the NDA government is about anything related to Subhas Chandra Bose. And since the Narendra Modi government is not going to have an inquiry into the spying matter, as was brazenly stated by Minister of State for Home, Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary, in Parliament on Tuesday, the least it can do is to declassify all documents related to it in the name of transparency it claims to believe in.
The IB must supply me the information and documents sought. There is no point sitting on them in this age and time. More so, because the cat is out of the bag.
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